Why A Data Centre Is Like An Airport

Getting non-technical types to understand the function and value of a hosted data centre can be tricky. If you're struggling to get management to comprehend the potential usefulness of data centre technology, consider the airport analogy.

Picture: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

I'm borrowing the details of this particular analogy from David Wilkinson, senior director for bus business development at data centre provider Equinix.

"When we talk to people who are not so au fait with the data centre industry, we try to take it out of technology and get it into words everyone can understand ," Wilkinson told Lifehacker. "The easiest way to talk about ecosystems and how we differentiate ourselves is to think of the analogy of an airport.

"The point of an airport is that the airport doesn't own the airlines, the ground transportation, the shops, the hotels, the restaurants or those other facilities. It provides a place where all those things come together. If Qantas owned an airport, Virgin Australia wouldn't land there.

"When you think about it as an airport user, what makes the airport more valuable? It comes down to choice. We want the best choice of schedules for work, and the best choice of budget airlines when you're on holiday. When you're at the airport, you also want freedom of choice of where you eat and different ground transportation choices. A airport is high value if it brings best of breed choice to select based on your criteria at the time."

That ability to deploy a wide range of technologies is what tends to distinguish different hosting options, Wilkinson suggested. "The analogy is: if you were traveling and you had transit via Singapore or Seoul, which would you choose? Most people would go with Singapore. That's the value proposition you're trying to communicate."

The analogy isn't perfect. While an airline serviced by multiple carriers is more flexible, limited flying slots mean that, for instance, getting into Heathrow would be a challenge for a new airline business. That's less of an issue with data centres (though power issues can be a constraint).

"Data is not really space constrained," Wilkinson said. "Once you're inside the ecosystem, we don't differentiate the amount of data you transmit and receive. You take one physical line, you connect, and you pump as much data as you want. That's a fundamental difference between sending data across town and sending it within the ecosystem."


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