Equinix Cloud Chief Chris Sharp Leaves to Join Digital Realty as CTO

Founding CTO Jim Smith to leave company, along with design and construction lead David Schirmacher

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

August 11, 2015

3 Min Read
Equinix Cloud Chief Chris Sharp Leaves to Join Digital Realty as CTO
Digital Realty data center in Chessington, U.K. (Photo: Digital Realty)

The shakeup at the top of Digital Realty’s executive management team continued Tuesday, when the company announced the appointment of Chris Sharp to the role of CTO. For the past two years, Sharp ran the cloud strategy of Digital’s biggest rival Equinix. Jim Smith, who has been the data center provider’s CTO since its founding more than a decade ago, is leaving the company, a Digital spokesman said.

The company has also appointed Philip Lin, who until now has led strategy and development for the Chinese data center services giant 21Vianet, to the newly created role of senior VP of strategy.

Both appointments are a strategic fit for San Francisco-based Digital. The company has put a lot of emphasis on growing the pool of cloud service provider partners its data center tenants can buy services from, and Sharp has led the development of what may easily be the world’s largest ecosystem of cloud providers that interconnect with customers and partners within Equinix data centers around the world.

Equinix execs have said that providing private network connectivity to cloud service providers is its fastest-growing business segment. The Redwood City, California-based company has been growing this ecosystem to include providers beyond Infrastructure-as-a-Service, focusing recently on Software-as-a-Service partnerships with the likes of Salesforce, Microsoft Office 365, and Google for Work.

Digital also recently acquired Telx, a major Equinix rival in the US, dramatically increasing the size of its retail colocation and interconnection business. The company’s primary business has always been wholesale data center leasing, but it has changed its model to include more services beyound selling large chunks of data center space and power capacity.

The appointment of Lin, who has led development at one of China’s biggest data center providers, signals a sharper focus on China and Asia Pacific in general. China is one of the world’s fastest-growing data center markets. While it has data centers in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Melbourne, and Sydney, Digital doesn’t have presence in China, which is known to be a difficult place to do business for foreign companies without local partners. That may change following Lin’s appointment.

Both Lin and Sharp will report to COO Jarrett Appleby, who himself came on board earlier this year. He is a former COO of another Digital rival CoreSite. Prior to CoreSite, Appleby spent more than three years as chief marketing officer at Equinix.

Another major departure from Digital announced Tuesday was David Schirmacher’s. After more than 3.5 years as senior VP of operations, Schirmacher was appointed to lead design and construction in January of this year.

Digital’s executive team has been going through a major transformation, starting with the sudden departure of its founding CEO Mike Foust in March 2014. Foust was replaced by Digital’s former CFO William Stein. Digital hired career investment banker Andrew Power to replace Stein in the CFO seat.

In addition to changing the chief executive, the company created the role of CIO and hired Michael Henry, former CIO at Rovi, to fill it.

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