Disruption Alert: Our Connected Future Changes How We Buy Infrastructure

By: Mike Nguyen

We live in a highly connected world, and most of us go through our days enjoying the benefits of connectivity without giving much thought to the infrastructure that enables us to communicate instantly, travel safely, shop effortlessly, manage our money, educate and entertain ourselves, secure our homes and our country—or to put it simply, live our lives with all the conveniences of the digital era.

The foundation of our digitally driven culture is internet infrastructure—that is, all the hardware, software and network connections that make the internet work. We may take it for granted, but the reality is, connectivity drives our world, and our future depends on it.

Back in 2005, in his book “Unraveling Internet Infrastructure,” J.P. van Best described the internet as “a complex array of telecommunication carriers and Internet service providers (ISPs) with an ever-growing number of hosts, networks, network types, and network exchange points….This has made it almost impossible to obtain a global overview of the entire Internet infrastructure.”

That was 12 years ago, long before enterprise digital transformation; the expansion of private, hybrid and multi-cloud environments; and IoT, industrial IoT and edge computing. New wireless technologies like 5G will provide the speed and access these technologies demand, and new infrastructure will have to be provisioned and configured to handle processing, storage, and transport for a new order of data magnitude. These are just a few of the burgeoning trends that are exponentially expanding the demand for network, colocation and other hosting services.

That growth is already happening. The market for internet infrastructure is big and getting bigger. The portion of the industry my company focuses on—procurement and contract management—is all by itself a $350 billion segment and growing.

An Industry Primed for Digital Disruption

The internet has made it possible for us to go online and book or buy real estate, hotel rooms, airline seats, insurance, mortgages, even used cars. Consider how much the internet has transformed those industries and the irony becomes clear: buying internet infrastructure on the internet—with the notable exception of public cloud services—is still nonexistent.

A technical professional (a CTO, director of engineering, VP of infrastructure, etc.) looking for infrastructure services has to use a tedious and ridiculously time-consuming manual process to find the colo, networking, and IP transit services he or she needs. 

We’ll examine why they need to buy these services in a moment, but for now, let’s look a bit more closely at the process they must follow in order to buy. They ask, "Which services do I need to solve my problem? Who offers those services? Is it available when I need it? What will it cost me? And, most importantly, where can I find the accurate, actionable data needed to make these crucial decisions?" Typically, this entails multiple calls to multiple service providers who each describe their services using different terminology—even within the same company. This leaves the buyer with apples-to-baseballs comparisons and a flood of return calls and emails from sales reps.


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