Pelé, Breaking the Internet and Crazy Cats

Tuesday, April 19 2016


Despite a valiant effort, it seems Kim Kardashian didn’t quite manage to (re)break the Internet recently. That said, there are plenty of Internet start-ups working feverishly to do so but unfortunately not all of them will go on to succeed. The playing field has widened, the rules have changed and in 2016, a garage, a great idea and guts alone are no longer enough to break the big time. At, the annual get-together for all things online hosting in March, data centers were on everyone’s lips.

Data centers are, of course, the longstanding stalwarts of the hosting industry and without them, the world would be a very different place. Things are happening though and we’re starting to see changes to some of the well-established principles of datacenter design, operation and more significantly, location.

Jorge L. Balcells (Director of Technical Services at Verne Global) said a few things in his keynote that struck a chord with me: ‘Datacenters are moving North’, ‘Content is going local’ and emerging IT architectural concerns are causing what he calls ‘The data disaggregation of datacenters’.

An exponential race towards ever more power, cooling and redundancy is obviously not sustainable. So until we see a paradigm shift in processor technology, we’ll need to manage our resources wisely. The issues of where the data should actually reside is also very much up for debate. Not only in a physical sense but also from the point of view of legal and geo-political considerations. The needs of different kinds of data should perhaps be re-considered according to Balcells – does all data really need Tier 3,4 (and beyond) datacenter infrastructure? Probably not and in any case, putting every server in costly, Armageddon-proof facilities doesn’t really make for a sound business case.

In the past, real estate and construction costs, combined with a thorough risk-assessment for potential natural disasters made building datacenters a fairly straight forward affair. But throw in Metcalfe’s law and an insatiable thirst for video, social media and anything to do with cats (they are still really popular it seems) and you start to get serious issues with power and cooling. It’s no longer a case of ‘is there power and cooling’ but ‘is there enough’ and increasingly, ‘is it green?’. It is no coincidence therefore, that data centers and northern latitudes have become natural bed-fellows.

It’s all well and good building football pitches worth of datacenter in some remote corner of the Arctic tundra but they aren’t any use without a reliable network to connect them to civilization. Datacenters and networks are, of course, mutually inclusive. Also, the data itself is creeping ever closer to end-users. As a consequence, we have seen a growing need for greater capillarity in our US backbone, not only to secure even more diversity and latency but also as a direct result of the changes in the way the network is used and services supplied. In the US, for example, we’ve been seeing an increased demand for high bandwidth backbone services in Tier 2 and even Tier 3 markets. This can be largely attributed to two main trends:

Angry cat1. Content is being cached closer and closer to the edge. This in turn is driving demand for the delivery of content to/from end-user networks in Tier 2 and 3 markets in addition to the need for a network that delivers the cache-fill to content networks in these regional edge facilities.

2. Cloud replication, edge storage and content distribution have created the need for a global network that can pick up a single file in one location in the world and distribute it to an ever increasing number of edge locations on the same network.

If you really want to break the Internet, your end-users will need to trust you implicitly. You’ll need to keep cool as things hot-up and you’ll have to move outside your comfort zone and move as close to them as possible. And all this has to be done with consistency.

Breaking the big time is of course not nothing new – the world’s greatest footballers, Marta and Pelé together with legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel have done it already and were coincidentally also at this year to support Symantec’s #Changethegame campaign.

After a thrashing from Marta in the penalty shoot-out and the repercussions from the infamous WHD ‘Bier Fest’, you might be tempted to heed the words emblazoned across Buzz Aldrin’s T-Shirt at his Q&A session and ‘Get your ass to Mars’. You will have to re-think your datacenter design strategy though. Oh, and make sure you find a reliable backbone provider as well.