IBM SoftLayer Joins Equinix Cloud Exchange
Cable trays inside an Equinix data center. (Photo: Equinix)

IBM SoftLayer Joins Equinix Cloud Exchange

APIs replace manual cross-connects for hybrid enterprise cloud deployments

IBM SoftLayer’s cloud is now available on the Equinix Cloud Exchange, the companies announced today. IBM also announced addition of 12 data center locations to the SoftLayer cloud, nine of them at Equinix facilities.

Direct links to SoftLayer’s cloud have been previously available at Equinix data centers, but the cloud's addition to Cloud Exchange means Equinix customers using the exchange can now dynamically provision its cloud resources without setting up the physical cross-connect. SoftLayer’s full cloud portfolio will be available in nine Cloud Exchange markets.

The arrangement is an enterprise hybrid cloud play. Equinix has been going after the enterprise, and so has SoftLayer, especially following its acquisition by IBM.

Colo: Where Hybrid Clouds Happen

There is a symbiotic relationship between colo and cloud. Cloud growth has helped the colocation market, and colocation companies have been big enablers for cloud service providers in terms of infrastructure and access to customers.

Equinix’s Cloud Exchange has made it possible to dynamically and securely hook into a variety of Infrastructure-as-a-Service offerings. The company recently said private links to cloud providers were its fastest-growing business segment.

A Gartner report recently said nearly half of all enterprises will have a hybrid cloud deployed by 2017. “I actually see it happening a little bit quicker,” said Chris Sharp, vice president of cloud innovation at Equinix. “The majority of enterprise customers are not only worried about what they’re trying to do today, they’re trying to future-proof their deployments.”

Enterprises want to ensure they are in the position to take advantage of cloud economics and flexibility. A colo data center -- where an enterprise customer takes space to house their servers -- that gives them an easy way to privately connect their own infrastructure to a cloud of their choice is an ideal place for that.

Sharp said IBM SoftLayer was one of the more requested clouds among its customers.

Many enterprises that are new to colocation start with a Wide Area Network, and evolve as the WAN becomes a bottleneck. This is where the Cloud Exchange comes in, offering secure, dynamic Infrastructure-as-a-Service options as these businesses grow comfortable.

“Most of the customers we speak with are interested in this type of relationship," Steven Canale, senior vice president of global sales at SoftLayer, said. "They’re looking to marry tech, to have disaster recovery, and to burst into the cloud. In a colo facility, they want the flexibility to move into the cloud.”

New API Functionality Makes Hybrid Cloud Easier

Equinix also announced enhancements to its Cloud Exchange platform, including API functionality that make it easier for enterprises to deploy hybrid cloud applications. Equinix set up the API functionality using Apigee, one of the leading API management companies.

“Once you get provisioned into the Cloud Exchange, you can dynamically establish a virtual circuit," Sharp said. "It’s truly elastic. Before it was a traditional cross-connect. Now, once you get it in, it has real-time access. The API functionality integration means efficiently setting up secure, private links to cloud providers."

“It’s really bringing a cloud-like feel, whereas it was much more manual before,” Canale said.

Enterprises Want Control

While many enterprises use cloud services in one way or another, they still remain largely skittish of going “full cloud." One of the main reasons is that they don't trust the public Internet, which is largely how public cloud providers deliver their services to customers.

“It’s why we came up with Cloud Exchange," Sharp said. "Better visibility and control, the security they need with cloud accessible through portals and APIs.”

Equinix has continued to grow the ecosystem of cloud providers its data centers give users access to. The company recently partnered with Datapipe to provide managed cloud and started offering private links to Google’s cloud.

The rise of hybrid cloud has pushed an unparalleled rate of partnerships between service providers. Data center companies recognize that they need to be able to enable the cloud piece of hybrid infrastructure, and partnering with cloud providers is the fastest way to do it.

"Facilitating access to cloud infrastructure is a win-win for colocation providers,” said Jabez Tan, senior analyst at Structure Research. "Interconnection services are an additional source of revenue for providers and the reduced latency of a direct connection provides improved levels of performance that are increasingly crucial given the growing complexity of workloads."

Customers like the convenience of working with a single primary provider for a variety of infrastructure needs, he added. Providers like customer "stickiness" such arrangements create and "tangible demonstration of value-add."

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