On the Internet, there are a lot of “bake-offs.”
Multiple lists compare everything from average download and upload speed tests in different countries and on different networks to cloud and application performance, outage numbers and uptime levels.
These lists and rankings often provide strong clues to the existence of network expansion, optimization and investment efforts. This is particularly the case with outage numbers at a regional level, where increases typically indicate new infrastructure deployments.
As explained in past weekly reports, these outages may not be perceptible to users but instead are indicative of maintenance or other engineering efforts around the deployment and upkeep of these expanded network footprints.
North America historically dominates network disruption statistics, and this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. This is because many large service providers and their network controls are based out of North America. While decentralization has long been a core tenet of the Internet, North America’s overall influence and, in some ways, centrality continues today.
But disruption numbers in Asia Pacific are rising, on the back of strong digitization demand and data residency concerns, which—combined—have driven a sharp increase in the amount of investment into the region over the past year.
It’s worth analyzing why.
ISP outages tend to account for most of the outages we observe. This is due to a combination of the sheer number of providers, and the size and architecture of their infrastructure. And while outage numbers in total are influenced by different factors, such as increasing infrastructure, configuration errors, cable cuts and so on, we do tend to see seasonal trends, such as a reduction in numbers over and leading into holiday periods and rises adjacent to significant events, such as move to work-from-home at the start of the pandemic.
It is interesting to see how the regional balance of ISP outages has shifted over time, particularly the rise in Asia Pacific ISPs. This week on the Internet, the Asia Pacific region was home to more ISP outages than in North America or EMEA.
Asia Pacific’s growth in disruptions is also apparent in a year-on-year comparison. Between October 2020 and October 2021, the region experienced a couple of hundred more outages or disruptions, and is now at a point where little separates the major regions in terms of disruption numbers.
In some ways, Asia Pacific is simply fulfilling its destiny. It has long been considered the next major growth region for the Internet, and it is now home to around half of the world’s Internet users. The region is traditionally a major transit and interconnection hub, but it is fast becoming a hyperscale host in its own right, with more data center space coming online than other key regions.
More floor space means more cable plants, more servers, more cross-connects, interconnects, transit routes and redundant links—more things that need maintenance or could possibly go wrong and need to be fixed or temporarily routed around.
I’ve suggested two reasons why the amount of infrastructure in Asia Pacific is rising relative to other parts of the world.
The first is rapid uptake of digitalization. Obviously, this isn’t unique to Asia Pacific—all parts of the world are moving in similar directions to digitize systems and ways of working in the wake of the pandemic. However, in Asia Pacific at least, the market has traditionally been supplier-driven, putting in capacity and then trying to sell it. In the digital age, things are now much more demand-led. As businesses digitize, they are demanding better services, lower latency connections and stronger partnerships with platform and connectivity providers, and this is driving a huge amount of investment into infrastructure.
Data residency requirements are also driving regional infrastructure investment. Important data has to be held within-country, and more attention is also being paid to data transit routes. This has really only happened over the past year. Prior to that, few hyperscale providers had the decentralized infrastructure to be able to support a wide range of in-country requirements. As that changes, it is driving a tremendous amount of infrastructure investment outside of North America and EMEA—and this trend is likely to continue.