Equinix has hired former Digital Realty CTO Jim Smith to lead its new effort to sign large data center leases with the world’s biggest cloud platform operators such as Amazon and Microsoft.
Smith, who left Digital in 2015 after 11 years with the San Francisco-based giant, later joined Microsoft for a 14-month-long stint as its general manager of site selection and network acquisition but left last November, according to his LinkedIn profile. He now joins Equinix as managing director, hyperscale.
"Jim Smith is now on board as a full-time employee," Charles Meyers, Equinix's president of strategy, services, and innovation, said on the company's first-quarter earnings call Wednesday. "We're really energized about that he's bringing an exceptional experience and skill set to the table."
Equinix interim CEO Peter van Camp said on the call that the company continued “to see progress building our Hyperscale Infrastructure Team, also known as HIT, that will focus on developing facilities turned to hyperscale requirements as we discussed last quarter.”
Redwood City, California-based Equinix and Digital Realty are the world’s two largest data center providers. These days, after more than a decade of steering mostly clear of each other’s markets, they are increasingly in direct competition.
Equinix has traditionally focused on retail colocation and interconnection, while Digital’s focus through most of its history has been on large, wholesale data center deals – a market where Smith cut his teeth. Three years ago, however, Digital made a big move onto Equinix’s turf, acquiring US interconnection leader Telx.
Later, European antitrust regulators forced Equinix to sell several key interconnection facilities on the continent to Digital in exchange for approving a merger with the London-based giant TelecityGroup, giving Digital substantial presence in the European interconnection market. Digital has been laser-focused on growing its interconnection play ever since the Telx deal.
While all the major hyperscale platforms have presence in Equinix facilities around the world to take advantage of the rich network interconnection ecosystem it’s developed over the years, the cloud expansion rush of the last few years created a boom for wholesale providers, as cloud giants dumped billions of dollars each quarter into infrastructure expansion.
Last year, Equinix unveiled a plan to get in on the action. At an investor conference this January, its then CEO Steve Smith (who resigned abruptly later that month after reportedly mishandling an “employee matter”) fleshed out the strategy, saying the company would soon start building facilities that would include 1MW to 2MW “nodes” aimed at hyperscale clients.
On the earnings call this week, interim CEO van Camp said its first dedicated build for the hyperscale initiative was in early stages of construction in the Paris market (Paris 8), expected to open at the end of the year.
“We are also progressing well with financing structures that will allow us to pursue this important market with limited balance-sheet exposure,” he said. “We expect to add a handful of strategic builds across key markets over the next year, and we have a healthy pipeline of attractive hyperscale opportunities.”