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Digital Realty’s Hybrid Cloud Strategy Rests On Connectivity, Partnerships

The company’s focus is on making connectivity easier for customers, while partners enable hybrid architecture solutions.

As more and more businesses pivot to hybrid cloud architectures, colocation providers are working to make sure their data centers jive with hybrid models. But they are doing so in different ways. To assess the state of hybrid cloud within the colocation market, Data Center Knowledge is interviewing a series of colocation providers about their hybrid strategies. This article looks at Digital Realty.

Other articles in the series look at EquinixQTSFlexentialCyrusOneCologixCyxteraEvoque, and DataBank.

When it comes to hybrid cloud architectures, connectivity is the foundation on which all else is built. The more colocation providers secure the networks that connect data centers and public clouds, and the easier they make it for customers to deploy the networking solutions they need, the better positioned they will be to thrive in a hybrid world.

That sums up Digital Realty’s approach to the hybrid cloud market. The company, which operates more than 100 colocation facilities and counts 4,300 customers, is taking a connectivity-first approach to enabling hybrid cloud use cases. At the same time, however, the provider is working closely with partners to address other facets of hybrid, such as security, data storage, and even AI-intensive hybrid workloads.

A ‘Fabric of Fabrics’ as Key to Hybrid Cloud in Colocation

Hybrid is a broad term that can mean different things to different businesses, Chris Sharp, Digital Realty CTO, told Data Center Knowledge.

However, what all colocation customers share in common when they talk about hybrid cloud is that they are looking for ways to “gain control and have optionality to utilize the best infrastructure for their workloads,” Sharp said. “The underpinning of interconnection is foundational to do that.”

To that end, Digital Realty is “thinking beyond the cross-connect” in the traditional sense by building connectivity solutions that offer better security, performance, and deployment than conventional interconnect services, Sharp said.

That is part of the reason behind Digital Realty’s recently announced partnership with the network operator Zayo to help build what Digital calls an “open fabric of fabrics.”

While the two companies have not yet released extensive technical details about this solution, they say it will expand Digital Realty’s existing interconnect options. In discussing it, Sharp emphasized ease of deployment of connectivity services, as well as special security and network isolation features.

The goal is to let customers “click to procure and have near-real-time access to all of the markets out there” by deploying connectivity rapidly, Sharp said.

“We're seeing that more and more customers don't want to use the internet" as part of hybrid cloud strategies. They want a "carrier-grade fabric to underpin hybrid aspirations."

Sharp emphasized that Digital Realty has no plans to offer managed connectivity services. Setting up and managing connectivity will remain its customers’ responsibility. But through its partnership with Zayo and similar deals he said could be announced soon, Digital aims to simplify access to advanced third-party connectivity services.

“We want to remove the friction between partners' services and ours,” Sharp said. “We're building on our heritage of click-to-procure.”

Beyond Connectivity

Although connectivity is at the center of Digital’s thrust into the hybrid cloud world, Sharp said the company is building partnerships with vendors in other verticals to provide a holistic set of solutions for hybrid workloads.

One is security. While connectivity solutions are a piece of this puzzle, in the sense that they can be used for hybrid environments that are segmented from the internet if desired, Digital is also focused on addressing needs related to data sovereignty and compliance for hybrid workloads.

Likewise, the company sees AI as being an important part of hybrid. Companies seeking to deploy AI workloads in a hybrid environment need an efficient means of analyzing large volumes of data that is distributed across multiple data centers or clouds. On this front, Sharp mentioned potential partnerships with vendors (such as Nvidia) that can place GPUs “in proximity to data” to help power AI workloads.

It’s also important to "address certain security nuances associated with AI,” he said, adding, “you'll see partners come online” in this area.

Even as Digital Realty seeks to address varying aspects of hybrid clodu workloads, the common thread that runs across its hybrid strategy is a focus on partnerships. “We feel we need a consortium of partners who can solve all customer demands,” Sharp said. "Connectivity is foundational, which is why we started with Zayo,” but Digital expects to make more partner announcements in the “coming quarters,” according to Sharp.

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