The debate around the future of superfast broadband in the UK is focused too much on fibre optic networks and by ignoring the critical importance of the data centre, risks putting the cart before the horse, and creating demand before appropriate infrastructure is in place to cope.
Last week ex-BT CTO Peter Cochrane told the House of Lords that the UK will be ‘frozen out of the next industrial revolution’ due to slow broadband speeds to the premises.
It’s worrying that government and consumers seem to believe that broadband speeds are entirely reliant on the wire that delivers the service to the premises. The current debate is about fibre-to-the-cabinet or fibre-to-the-home. Unfortunately, this ignores what is happening in the data centre itself, which is integral to the success of any broadband strategy.
The traditional argument against building new roads is, that they create more traffic – exactly the same applies for data centres. Additional fibre means more traffic, more demand, more video etc – all amounting to greater pressure on data centres and corporate networks.
As a result of the ever-increasing use of virtualisation technologies, the storage environment has become more complicated. At least as important as fibre-to-the-home – arguably more important – is ensuring high speed, availability and bandwidth in these complicated data centre networks.
The government needs to wake up to the urgent need for technologies that do not slow connection speeds at source or we will risk creating the demand before having the infrastructure in place to cope.
Notably, Cochrane’s comments, focusing on homes and fibre, neglect a very real and present trend in mobile communications and BYOD, but more worryingly they completely ignore the long-term evolution of networks and 4G. If the government is to rise to these new challenges and meet them successfully – as the economy demands – we need a shift in focus from fibre, to the data centre, now.