Equinix’s John Shorten: ‘Enterprise data volumes are rocketing’

3 May 2019

John Shorten, Equinix. Image: John Ohle

Equinix senior director of operations John Shorten envisages that in the next three years, private connectivity will see 10 times the growth of internet traffic.

John Shorten is senior director of operations for Ireland and emerging markets at Equinix. With more than 15 years of experience in Ireland’s data centre industry, he is responsible for bringing operational and technical excellence to Equinix’s data centres in Ireland, Poland, Turkey and Bulgaria.

Through his strategic acumen and his team’s dedication to the highest standards, he ensures that customer data is in safe hands.

‘We seem to be on the cusp of a second machine age, driven by connected devices’

Shorten has a BSc in materials science and a diploma in lean and quality systems from the University of Limerick.

Tell me about your own role and responsibilities in driving tech strategy.

I’m the senior director of operations for Ireland and emerging markets. Day to day in Ireland, that means looking after the operation of four Dublin IBX (international business exchange) data centres. This is broken up into four main areas: technical facilities management, customer operations, services and compliance. It involves everything from delivering high availability for customers by ensuring we have the critical power and cooling infrastructure to run seamlessly, to optimising network connectivity, data management and the security of customer IT infrastructure.

I’m also in charge of the everyday customer management and installation services needed to ensure client requirements are met.

Finally, I need to make sure industry standards such as quality, security and regulatory governance are wrapped around all of these main areas. Together, this ensures we deliver on our tech strategy, which is always the same: supporting and driving customers’ digital journeys. In the emerging markets – Poland, Turkey and Bulgaria – I support the technical teams in those countries as well. There’s quite a lot to cover!

Are you spearheading any major product/IT initiatives you can tell us about?

Everything we do revolves around helping customers navigate the next step of their digital journey and we are always looking for new ways to do that.

Most data centre providers have well-run colocation facilities – that’s the hosting element where you have computer cabinets in a controlled environment with power, cooling and redundancy. But enterprises today want more than that; they want access to multiple cloud and network service providers, and the ability to connect and collaborate with other customers as well – all under one roof.

What they want is interconnection, and one of our biggest focuses at the moment is offering that through Platform Equinix. We are helping customers manage multiple private connections to different cloud service providers through our Equinix Cloud Exchange (ECX) Fabric, both locally and globally, which is essential if they are looking to scale. And, by enabling customers to collaborate with each other as well, ECX Fabric supports digital creativity and exploration. This can all be done on a consumption basis, whereby customers pay by the day or hour, so they can quickly respond to their ever-changing IT requirements.

How big is your team? Do you outsource where possible?

It’s a combination. We have 65 staff in the Irish operations team. While we outsource a good deal of support work, we tend towards more of an insourcing model where possible. For some activities like hardware maintenance and contracts, we use external providers. But when it gets to critical mass, we try to get our own people trained up because this means we can build local knowledge and expertise. This further enables us to predict resourcing and availability, and there is a cross-pollination of skills, which we have found works very well for us.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation and how are you addressing it?

Most medium- to large-scale organisations have at least started on their digital transformation journeys. As those journeys mature, connectivity and end-user experience are playing massive and growing roles because CIOs and CTOs need to be absolutely certain that they can respond to customers’ evolving needs and demands immediately.

Our Global Interconnection Index showed that one way IT leaders are achieving this is by bypassing the public internet and instead opting to directly and privately exchange traffic with other businesses. Our research shows that the growth of private connectivity between businesses will be 10 times the growth in volume of internet traffic in the next three years, which is mind-blowing when you think about it.

We have a number of solutions to support and complement this movement. For example, our Interconnection-Oriented Architecture helps enterprises transition their workloads to the digital edge, which is vital for the age of IoT, connected devices, AI etc. On top of that, there is ECX Fabric for connecting to the myriad cloud providers, Equinix Connect for highly available internet access (IP Transit), SmartKey for digital encryption … I could go on! There are many options we can provide, and helping customers choose the best fit for their organisation is key because digital transformation is complex and constant.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?

We seem to be on the cusp of a second machine age, driven by connected devices. Industries like automotive, entertainment and healthcare have become so competitive that they are producing a constant stream of new devices. All of these services are delivered on apps and platforms and, as a result, enterprises’ data volumes are rocketing. It’s a big headache and businesses need to ensure they have a firm grasp of it, and that their end users have a very fast and secure connection no matter where they are. If you’re a business and you want to achieve this on a global level, you need a data centre provider with vast global reach.

There’s also a big move towards globally accessible platform services (Netflix, for example), which demand high-speed, low-latency connections and high definition. The concept of network edges is really driving this trend and identifying the necessity of bringing that edge as close to the consumer as possible. We are strongly focused on these trends at Equinix.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years