Your apps are like icebergs

your-apps-are-like-ice-bergs-headerIn just ten years, your smartphone has become the central technological device in your life. But do you really know how it works? See, your smartphone is like an iceberg. What you can see above the water is in fact just a tiny part of the whole structure. Every app and service requires a huge operating infrastructure that you’re probably not even aware of. Data centers like LCL play a crucial role in keeping your smartphone running.

When mobile phones broke through in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, they had three main functions: make calls, send text messages and play snake. That has changed profoundly. Our mobile phone became smart. Now we are so used to its functionality and user-friendliness that we don’t have a clue what it takes to make the phone smart.

There’s a massive infrastructure behind the operating system and behind every app you install on your phone. The main features of a smartphone are the connectivity and the ability to exchange data that’s on your phone with data that’s stored on other locations.

One small example: adding an event to your calendar. The data of your appointment needs to be stored, obviously. But your phone also needs to communicate with other synced devices like a laptop or tablet. And this data always needs to be shared, whether you are at home or on holiday in New Zealand.

Another example is Netflix. When you watch a movie on Netflix is that you get access to files and you stream them to your device. Obviously this requires constant data traffic. Furthermore, this isn’t a one-way trip. Netflix also needs to handle the feedback you give via your account. All this data trafic requires fast and powerful connections, trustworthy operators and, of course, data centers that assure data storage and communications.

Another factor that needs to be taken into account is all the energy this requires. Sending a signal halfway around the globe requires a lot of power. All of the infrastructure that is needed to power the apps on your smartphone uses energy and resources. In this day and age, with growing concerns about climate change and emissions, this will become an issue. Just like cheap flights and car emissions, the energy consumption by our digital infrastructure will be under the spotlight. That’s why at LCL, we are committed to ‘going green’ and conducting our operations as efficiently as possible.

Laurens van Reijen

Managing Director, LCL Data Centers

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The shift towards the edge

LCL Data Center

The data center world is evolving as the amount of data in the world is constantly increasing. New technologies like the Internet of Things, blockchain, 5G, Artificial Intelligence require a different approach. These technologies require rapid response and real time analysis. Extra data processing and storage capacity is thus needed very close to the source of the data. That’s what edge computing is about: storing, processing and analysing data as close as possible to the point where it is generated.

The shift towards the edge means a shift towards decentralised data centers. Data transfer to a centralised hyperscale cloud data center sometimes just takes up too much time. Pushing computation and analytical capabilities closer to the edge reduces traffic and can reduce round-trip delay in sending data for analysis to and from a centralised cloud platform. This results in better security, improved availability, more privacy and increased resiliency. Every city or region will need their own data center, so this will require a lot of extra data center space.

Edge processing can raise network speed, reduce latency and help with capacity issues. Failures or congestion in networks may cause serious problems for machines, devices or user experience. Think about Pokémon Go: people all over the world were walking around with their smartphones trying to catch ‘em all. Who would like it if the connection goes down at the exact moment they’re catching a rare Pokémon. The same goes for smart watches: the output is needed immediately, so there’s no time to send all the data to the cloud to be analysed.

Another example are autonomous cars. These self-driving vehicles will produce an enormous amount of data and will exchange information with each other. If one car detects a pothole in the road, it sends this information to the next car, which will adept the suspension at the exact location of the pothole. Processing data like this must happen within less than a microsecond or accidents will happen. That’s why the processing needs to happen very close to the point of usage. Availability is key here.

The data center world is evolving, but so is LCL. We are ready for the shift towards the edge. We’re connected in three cities in Belgium: Antwerp, Aalst and Brussels. Our data centers are scalable and flexible and have all the necessary components for security, cooling, energy … already in place. We’re striving for maximum availability and reliability.