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Skate to Where the Puck is Going: Position for the Future to Achieve a Competitive Edge

Don Schuett
August 29, 2023

Fans of hockey or readers of business magazines have no doubt heard a famous quote often attributed to hockey legend Wayne Gretzky:

"Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been."

The quote has long been used by business consultants, CEOs, and other visionaries to sum up the importance of looking toward the future at all times. Focus on the present or past—where the puck has been—and you’re sure to fall behind. Focus on the future—where the puck is going to be—and you’re setting yourself up to remain ahead of the curve.

There are some problems with this advice. For one, it seems that Wayne Gretzky himself didn't coin the phrase. Some 15 years ago, Fast Company determined that Wayne's father, Walter, was the one who came up with it. To make matters worse, according to Fast Company, Herb Brooks, who coached the U.S. hockey team to victory over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics, said that "you'd have to be a real idiot to skate to where the puck used to be." He went on to mention that "if everyone skated to where the puck is going, you'd have one big train wreck."

Okay, so maybe this isn’t the soundest piece of literal hockey advice. But the general premise—that you must always anticipate the next move of the puck and the players in the game—still holds. It seems that this advice rings especially true in information technology and technology as a whole, both of which are changing every day.

If an executive were to focus only on what’s happening in the present, building out business plans to adopt what’s new right now, it wouldn’t take long for him or her to be left in the dust. Thriving in today’s business climate takes the uncommon ability to be able to see and account for the past, present, and future all at once. The past and present are hard enough to account for— how is a leader supposed to plan for things that haven’t happened yet?

How to Future-Proof Your Business

Yes, it’s impossible to predict the future. But with a good eye and a lot of research, it’s absolutely possible to anticipate what’s on the horizon—to see where the proverbial puck is headed. With that in mind, we’re taking some time today to examine a few of the most important trends happening in our space right now to get our readers thinking about what’s ahead.

To start, let’s take a look at one of the most pervasive technologies around today: cloud computing.

The Future is Cloud

In the world of cloud computing, a few key trends are emerging: a tremendous increase in the number of users and volume of traffic on the cloud, and the shift towards hybrid cloud.

You needn’t look far for data supporting the tremendous growth of the cloud. In 2018, Cisco predicted that annual data center traffic, specifically in the cloud, would grow to 19.5 zettabytes (ZB) by 2021. According to Statista, the number ended up being closer to 20.6 ZB. To put that volume of traffic into perspective, a zettabyte is equivalent to about 250 billion DVDs. That’s over 5 trillion DVDs worth of data in cloud traffic (and growing every year)!

With that growth in volume of cloud traffic comes an explosion of unique users accessing cloud computing services as well. With almost 5 billion people onboard the cloud (and counting), it’s not hard to see that even more change is on the way heading into the future.

What’s also changing is how businesses themselves are using the cloud. Hybrid cloud solutions are becoming increasingly popular—and for good reason. Hybrid clouds, which utilize a mix of on-premise, colocated, and public and private cloud environments, are so desirable because they're flexible and enable businesses to utilize the best facets of each type of deployment. CIOs are taking notice. In 2021, the global hybrid cloud market was valued at 85 billion U.S. dollars and is expected to reach 262 billion U.S. dollars in 2027.

As most CIOs now know, cloud deployments offer many benefits over on-premise data and application storage. But joining the billions of other cloud users around the world and taking advantage of cloud’s benefits isn’t as simple as willing the change into existence.

It’s important to partner with an organization that offers a competitive cloud ecosystem that will benefit your business regardless of the type or size of deployment you’re looking for. What’s more, your partner must also be willing and able to help you navigate the challenges associated with cloud deployments, especially hybrid ones. Looking towards the future means finding a provider that has the connections, and also the knowledge, needed to get you fully up-and-running.

An Evolving Network

Behind the world’s growing cloud traffic, increased media consumption, and Internet of Things connections, is a network that must be continually upgraded in order to keep up. The “pipes” of yesteryear simply aren’t equipped to handle the nature or volume of today’s traffic. Accordingly, it’s essential to make sure your business is partnered with an organization that’s committed to improving the infrastructure that makes the Internet tick.

If your or your data center/interconnection partner’s infrastructure isn’t continuously evolving, it won’t be long before your competitors get an edge.

The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is a great example. There are a limited number of IPv4 addresses in the global pool—and those addresses are quickly drying up. It won't be long before organizations will need to begin paying for IPv4 addresses, and even then, that’s only a stopgap solution. The bigger problem is that there are simply not enough IPv4 addresses needed to keep up with the growing number of devices and Internet users.

So, what's the forward-looking solution? Internet Protocol version 6, or IPv6. IPv6 is going to be critical to the future of data centers; implemented correctly, it offers improved security and new services support. Telx currently offers IPv6 at no cost to our customers IP Bandwidth service, and we offer IPv4 at minimal cost, as well. We also allow you to run IPv4 and IPv6 concurrently in a dual stack configuration, enabling you to adopt IPv6 in transition before it's too late.

More broadly, interconnection is another critical element impacting the growth potential of the Internet. The "up-stream" side of the Internet will need to adapt and innovate if the Internet is to survive and thrive. Telx has relationships with CAPs, IP Transit providers, IEXs, CDNs, and ISPs, and we're continuously investing into interconnection infrastructure. Ongoing investment in interconnection is critical to the future of the Internet. Partnering with an organization focused on interconnection and its supporting infrastructure better positions your business for long-term success.

To keep up now and in the future, your business’ network must be in a position to continually evolve. Otherwise, you’re investing in an uncertain future.

Staying Online In the Face of Disruption

One final thing to think about in looking to where the puck is going is something most businesses don’t want to think about: downtime.

Recent IDC research shows that for the Fortune 1000, the average total cost of unplanned application downtime per year is $1.25 billion to $2.5 billion. The average hourly cost of an infrastructure failure is $100,000 per hour, and the average cost per hour of a critical application failure is $500,000 to $1 million. It doesn’t take long for these numbers to add up.

And of course, the biggest catch with these numbers is that they’re based off of the cost of downtime today. We’re more dependent on technology now than we were five years ago, and there’s no reason to think that trend won’t continue into the future—especially in light of the growth of cloud computing and the Internet of Things, as we’ve already mentioned. As that happens, the cost of downtime can go nowhere but up.

There's something else going on, too: in the face of climate change, there's an increasingly higher probability of disruptive natural events like flooding. These events have the potential to directly impact companies who use data centers to store information and interconnect with others. While building and managing your own data center that can withstand these types of disruptive natural events is difficult and time consuming, colocating in a third-party facility that offers redundant, reliable data centers can reduce your operational and financial risk.

You may not want to think about downtime now, but the risk of downtime is real—and it’s only going to get more expensive as time goes on. Preparing for a future where disruption is more likely than it’s ever been (and more expensive, too) means finding an organization that will help you mitigate the risk of downtime in the face of an uncertain future. By doing so, your business will more likely to be future-proofed.

Grow Your Business with Cloud and Data

Whether “skate to where the puck is going” is good hockey advice or not, we think that what it represents is, in fact, good business advice. If you aren’t constantly moving forward and anticipating your and your competitors’ next moves, you’re always going to be one step behind.

You’ve probably also noticed a common theme in our examination of trends that could affect your business moving forward: to skate to where the puck is going in your business, you absolutely must partner with organizations that will evolve with the times and keep an eye on the future. Sure, it’s great to be invested in today’s most current technology, but remember: it won’t take long until that technology and the methodologies that support it are out of date and you have to start all over again.

Here at Digital Realty, we've built our business around having the capacity to maintain lifecycle scalability throughout all stages of business growth. That means that as your business evolves, our solutions scale to meet your data center and connection needs. Whether you need one rack or tens of thousands of square feet of space, we have the capacity to give you what you need. It also means that we’re constantly looking towards the future as well to ensure that our solutions remain on the cutting-edge.

In this ongoing example, no one knows exactly where the puck is going to be five or ten years from now. We do, however, have a pretty good idea of where the most important trends and technologies are headed. With that in mind, we’re doing everything we can to anticipate and plan for the change that’s on the horizon.

We're committed to staying ahead of the curve and providing the data center and interconnection services your business needs in order to thrive. For questions about any of our services, connect with us through the contact page of our site, or by Facebook or Twitter.