As more and more businesses pivot to hybrid cloud architectures, colocation providers are working to make sure their data centers jive with hybrid models. But they are doing so in different ways. To assess the state of hybrid cloud within the colocation market, Data Center Knowledge is interviewing a series of colocation providers about their hybrid strategies. This article focuses on Cyxtera.
Can colocation providers deliver a data center experience that feels just like public cloud, yet still offers the cost, security and compliance benefits of colocation facilities? Cyxtera, which operates more than 60 data centers worldwide, says not only that offering such an experience is possible, but that it’s critical for colo companies to thrive in a world where customers don’t want colocation facilities to be the weak link in their hybrid IT strategies.
Toward that end, Cyxtera aims to provide an “API-first” approach that “changes the dynamic of how customers think about colocation” and its relationship to hybrid architectures, according to Russell Cozart, senior vice president for marketing and product strategy at Cyxtera.
Here’s how Cozart says the company is enabling a unique approach to hybrid IT.
The Demand for Multiplatform Strategies
According to Cozart, Cyxtera takes it as a given that most customers will operate hybrid architectures that integrate disparate clouds and data centers.
"There is no one platform to solve them all,” he said. “Not all workloads are a fit for public cloud," while at the same time colocation centers lack the “rapid deployment model” that some workloads require.
Based on this assessment of the market, Cozart explained, Cyxtera, which was founded in 2017, has focused for the past several years on solving both the infrastructure and the management parts of the hybrid IT question. It has done this largely by developing custom APIs for its data centers that customers can integrate into data center management tools of their choosing.
The result is the ability to manage workloads in Cyxtera facilities, as well as those running on external platforms, through a single set of tools. “Whatever tool set they're using to manage their non-Cyxtera environments today, we built the API so they could integrate it into existing tools,” Cozart said.
In addition, Cozart said that customers can use Cyxtera’s custom-built APIs to deploy workloads rapidly within Cyxtera data centers if they choose. That, he said, is key to delivering what he called a “cloudlike” experience within colocation facilities.
“Customers used to have to make the choice between speed, agility and flexibility that you would get from things like public cloud, or the cost, control and compliance of colocation,” Cozart said. An API-first data center means that “customers no longer have to choose between them anymore.”
Cozart was careful to emphasize that Cyxtera is not trying to integrate its APIs with any specific third-party management tools. “We are a carrier-neutral data center company,” he said, adding that the company’s customers use a range of external platforms – such as AWS Outposts, Azure Stack and VMware environments – to build out hybrid architectures that incorporate Cyxtera data centers. Like public cloud providers, Cyxtera focuses on building the APIs and letting customers use them as they wish.
Cozart also said that Cyxtera takes a carrier-neutral approach to connectivity by supporting a range of interconnect providers.
The Goldilocks of Data Center Providers?
Beyond its API-first approach to data center management, Cyxtera benefits from an overall size that makes it a good fit for businesses building hybrid environments, according to Cozart.
“We are large enough to provide the trusted advisor, the reliability, the predictability that customers are looking for,” he said. “But we are not so large that we have lost a customer-centric philosophy.”
Because of Cxytera’s smaller size relative to the largest global colo providers, he said, the company is able to offer management services that are more hands-on than those that larger data center companies can deliver. “We are a retail colocation provider, which means we offer various types of remote hands for our data centers. If customers need boots on the ground, those are services we offer.”
Yet Cozart was careful to emphasize that Cyxtera is not trying to invest heavily in management services. There is a “nuanced line between managed service and what we do,” he said. “We're a quasi-managed service” provider.
To be sure, delivering an end-user experience within colocation facilities that is virtually indistinguishable from the public cloud is a tall order – so tall that most colo providers have not gone down the path of investing in custom APIs, as Cyxtera has by building a considerable in-house software development operation.
But in a world where customers increasingly want the flexibility of using multiple clouds and private data centers at once, without the management headache that such an approach has traditionally entailed, Cyxtera’s investment may pay off.