According to Brady Rafuse, CEO at euNetworks, International business hubs such as London require good infrastructure to attract and retain the fast paced, high-tech businesses they need for economic growth.
A recent report by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that London would lose crucial jobs and growth if it fails to fix ‘the enormous number of buildings’ without fast broadband which in today’s world was, he suggested, ‘almost as important as water and electricity’.
High speed connectivity has become a critical component of London’s competitive advantage. As well as facilitating business, it also supports decentralised working, enables a healthier work/life balance, and offers a chance to reduce pressure on the capital’s transport infrastructure.
But, while larger organisations are able to access dedicated leased lines, a large proportion of the City is at a disadvantage due to the lack of affordable fast broadband connectivity, with 9,000 of the City’s residents and 13,000 SMEs restricted to slower, copper-based broadband.
This hasn’t gone ignored though. The City of London Corporation, for example, has drawn up its own strategy to implement cheaper, faster connectivity, and appeals have been made to Ofcom to allow greater competition in the broadband market.
Connecting the data centres
Connectivity between offices is only part of a wider story however.
The way we store data has changed dramatically recently, with organisations increasingly storing data in the cloud. The vast amount of data previously stored onsite is now being transferred to data centres, and its owners want to be able to access it just as quickly and reliably as they could when it was held in their office.
This shift has led to a rapid increase in demand for greater capacity from the data centres where all this cloud data is held. If this isn’t available, then it’s likely that their customers will stop using cloud services or switch to another provider, and those data centres that service cloud providers will lose business as result.
But, while the government and various trade bodies are calling for steps to address the issues around office broadband delivery, the issues around data centre connectivity are being largely overlooked, possibly due to a lack of understanding.
This lack of involvement from the public sector has meant that data centres are now left to the market, although this may not necessarily be a bad thing.
As the popularity of trends such as cloud services, big data and virtualisation has grown, so has the demand for data centres, and the bandwidth they require. To win business, data centres will now offer innovative connectivity services enabling prospects to meet the rapidly changing demands of their own customers.
These more cost-effective services mean fast, reliable and well managed connectivity, with the ability to turn bandwidth up or down as contracts are won, or as extra capacity is needed to deliver big projects.
The demand for such services, and the willingness to pay for them, has led to greater competition and more innovative services such as direct connectivity between data centres, rapid turn-up and increased scalability.
Such innovative approaches are rarely seen in infrastructure industries, where potential disruption from laying pipes, roads and rails means that they must be limited by government intervention.
But, whether it’s providing connectivity where it’s needed, or developing the services that utilise that connectivity, it’s innovation such as this that London needs if it’s to thrive.
Keeping London competitive
According to Bloomberg’s report, 143,000 new jobs were created in the technology industry between 2009 and 2013, representing 30 per cent of all new jobs in the capital.
As we’ve seen though, good bandwidth infrastructure lies at the heart of this, and will only become more important as information storage moves from office servers to data centres.
If London hopes to maintain its position as a global centre of business, then it’s important to provide the bandwidth it needs to continue attracting, growing and retaining the businesses it needs to do so.
While politicians and the public may not fully appreciate the strain that trends such as the cloud and big data put on London’s broadband infrastructure, it is being recognised by private bandwidth providers, who are more agile and better able to respond to changing demands.
There’s an urgent need for government, regulators and service providers to ensure fast and cheap connectivity for all. Data centres are starting to see their needs being addressed however, by private connectivity providers competing to provide them with innovative offers. In doing so, they offer an example of how the wider broadband infrastructure can evolve to meet the changing needs of the capital and other major cities.
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