This morning, colocation leader Equinix took another step in an ongoing effort to transform its service into what one 451 Research analyst called a “nexus of both cloud and enterprise IT.” Acutely aware that ever-denser storage devices are not having the impact on data center footprints that many expected, Equinix introduced Data Hub, a complement to its Performance hub technology introduced in 2014.
Its objective: Ease enterprises’ transition to SaaS services while making them comfortable with colocation. According to one Equinix executive, Data Hub will bring large data stores out of the trap of legacy data warehouses and closer to the edges of those connections between owned resources and the cloud.
“It gives me the ability to leverage the scale and elasticity of public cloud while still retaining control and management of my data,” said Lance Weaver, Equinix vice president for platform strategy, in an interview with Datacenter Knowledge.
Edges of the World
Equinix already has adjacency to hundreds of major cloud services, said Weaver, by virtue of their membership in the provider’s Cloud Exchange program. These services and cloud providers typically expect to connect to Amazon’s Elastic storage, to gain access to customer data.
During a keynote address to the Open Networking Conference in Santa Clara a few weeks ago, Equinix CTO Ihab Tarazi explained how Cloud Exchange works, and how participating cloud providers contribute to it.
“The way these cloud providers design their networks, they have massive data centers where they have cheap power, and they can optimize it efficiently,” said Tarazi. “But to get to their customers and connect, they come to our data centers and put an edge part of their cloud deployments. So within these 145 (Equinix) data centers, you’ll find just about every logo of cloud, every logo of network, and hundreds of enterprise customers’ financial services are coming in.
“These are the core nodes of the world,” the CTO continued, “where the whole world’s connections and communications take place.”
The new service acts as a kind of integration play for Equinix, moving these connections into its customers’ zones of sovereignty. This way, Weaver told us, customers would gain the same elasticity they expect from a public cloud storage service, without having to relocate that data into a public cloud.
Freedom from Choice
Data Hub could open up a world of possibilities for classes of institutions, including financial, healthcare, and the public sector, where due to compliance constraints, public cloud data storage is not an option.
“The architecture is changing,” Weaver remarked. “If my applications are being leveraged off SaaS or public cloud resources, then I’m in a hub-and-spoke model, trying to reach back for the data sitting within these data warehouses. In a better system, I can get the performance that I desire as an enterprise, and I can also choose the cloud-agnostic nature of it.”
Relocating data within Data Hub, he explained, would give a customer the means to reach over 500 services across 145 data centers in 21 metros worldwide, while freeing the customer from being tied to a single provider.
“If you’re an enterprise customer, and you want to deploy your platform globally across the world, you really have two choices,” explained Equinix CTO Tarazi. “If you go in a virtualized manner, you go to AWS, Microsoft, or Google. If you decide that you want to own your infrastructure and virtual servers, to be able to deploy globally and have consistent performance and get to all of your customers and to thousands of networks, Equinix would be your number one choice.”
“Customers want simplicity,” as Jabez Tan, senior analyst with Structure Research, reminded us. “If I can go with one provider for all my needs — a single SLA, a single contract agreement — the fewer vendors I have to juggle, the better.”
Tan believes Equinix may be doing what competition demands of it — taking steps to maintain, and strengthen relationships with, existing customers. Roughly 60 to 80 percent of revenue growth for a colo provider, his research tells him, comes from the existing base.
Equinix will make Data Hub available as a supplement to Performance Hub, which provides the connectivity between Cloud Exchange resources and customer assets. With Performance Hub, said Equinix’ Weaver, customers can spin up connections with SaaS providers on-demand, and back down when no longer necessary. Up until now, high-volume, latency-sensitive customer data stores have not played a part in these connections.
Structure Research’s Tan sees this as a potential benefit for Equinix: the ability to plug in a new service without disturbing the customer base. “I think it’s going to be less of an education-type message; with their previous products, they had to educate the market on what they mean by ‘interconnection’ and ‘Performance Hub’ and ‘edge.’ I think with the storage piece, it’s kind of a natural pivot for them.”
Tan also noted that Equinix may be uniquely positioned to provide a service at this level on a global scale. While Digital Realty (now in tandem with Telx) may be able to achieve similar scale, Tan feels Equinix’ bundling of colocation with interconnection with scale, justifies its position as a premium service provider.
That said, the fact that Equinix is indeed perceived as premium, Tan also believes, it will mean customers may refrain from migrating their entire data warehouses — lock, stock, and barrel — into Equinix’ space. “While customers may not put all of their data with Equinix,” he told Datacenter Knowledge, “they’ll probably put their performance-sensitive data there, and then they can have a secondary site at a much more cost-effective co-location provider (than Equinix) that catches the bulk of the non-core, non-critical data.
“I think Equinix is going after that performance-sensitive, critical data, with obviously a security angle,” said Tan.