Digital Realty, Zayo Promise Carrier-Grade Enterprise Backbone in a Few Clicks

The backbone capability is the first of several the companies will collaborate on to simplify data center and network procurement for enterprises.

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

July 27, 2021

3 Min Read
Network cables

Digital Realty and Zayo Group have teamed up to provide companies with the ability to buy and provision a global carrier-grade enterprise backbone to interconnect all their data centers, offices, edge computing sites, and so on with a few clicks, much like users provision public cloud services.

Digital’s current SDN fabric provides low-capacity virtual cross-connects. There are several other vendors with SDN fabrics that provide similar services. Unlike those “shared backbones,” the service Digital and Zayo are working on will provide enterprise backbones with “true reserved capacity,” Digital Realty CTO Chris Sharp told DCK.

This will be the first in a series of capabilities the two companies will work on as part of a partnership announced Tuesday. It will advance Digital’s pursuit of its stated goal of eventually operating less like an owner of data center real estate assets around the world and more like a infrastructure platform that others can build, procure, and consume higher-level services on.

They expect to launch the software-enabled “click-to-procure” enterprise backbone capability in the first quarter of next year, Sharp said.

Their revenue growth threatened by hyperscale cloud platforms, data center providers and large IT vendors have been rushing to find ways to make the experience of consuming their services feel more like the experience of consuming cloud services, emphasizing procurement, provisioning, and management via software dashboards and APIs, pay-as-you-go charging, and overall simplification and ease of use by abstracting complexity.

Digital’s thesis in recent years has been that enterprises should keep their massive data stores in place – ideally inside Digital’s data centers – but have a way to connect them to cloud services that can put the data to use. It’s invested in data center campuses where large cloud platform nodes live near facilities where lots of tenants interconnect their networks and can get buy direct private links to those cloud nodes.

A New Way to Procure an Enterprise Backbone

Zayo can use its high-capacity network to connect cloud services with those data stores as well as enterprises’ other locations, such as their office buildings.

Digital’s customers have been able to deal directly with Zayo or other network providers to do all that and stand up private network backbones. But it’s usually a lengthy process that includes meetings, engineering work, and manual provisioning of the network. Zayo and Digital now want to replace that process with a quick and simple cloud-like experience.

Zayo says it operates a 126,000-mile network in North America and Europe, connecting “thousands of buildings and data centers.” The software-enabled connectivity product it’s building with Digital would give Digital’s customers an easy way to provide high-capacity network links between any locations on that network, be they data centers, offices, or cell sites.

Zayo’s focus traditionally has been on serving telcos, cloud service providers, and the largest enterprises, Brian Daniels, head of strategic accounts at Zayo, told DCK. This partnership is one way for the company to expand its reach among companies that are smaller in size.

“We have an amazing set of physical assets … that frankly I think we could do a lot of good for the community with,” said Brian Lillie, Zayo’s chief product and technology officer.

Abstracting and automating high-capacity connectivity is the first step in a broader agenda for Digital, Sharp said. Eventually, the data center provider wants to be able to provide a customer with a “blueprint” for their specific use case that includes all the third-party vendors and services needed to enable it. Those services would already be connected to Digital’s ecosystem, making the task of setting up a complex, distributed technical infrastructure simpler and faster.

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