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Inside QTS's data center in Richmond, Virginia QTS Realty
Inside QTS's data center in Richmond, Virginia

How Colocation Providers are Positioning for Hybrid Cloud: QTS

The colocation heavyweight chooses to focus on optimizing its network for hybrid cloud use cases, leaving the rest of the hybrid architecture up to its customers.

As more and more businesses pivot to hybrid cloud architectures, data center colocation providers are working to make sure their platforms 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 data center providers about their strategies for positioning their colocation platforms to enable customers’ hybrid cloud strategies.

The first article in the series looked at Equinix’s hybrid cloud strategy. This one looks at QTS's.

An optimal network is key to success for enterprises’ hybrid cloud architectures.

That’s the thesis QTS is betting its investments in hybrid-cloud enablement on. The colocation provider’s investment in solutions for hybrid cloud centers on making networks faster, more reliable, and in a stronger position to keep up with growth.

QTS, which operates 28 data centers in the US and Europe, has a "large number of customers who are interested in a hybrid scenario," Sean Baillie, executive VP for connectivity at QTS, told DCK.

That's especially true of its enterprise customers, who in many cases "have a relationship with one or more cloud vendors" and need an efficient and reliable way to connect workloads running in colocation centers with those hosted on one or more external clouds, Baillie said.

Robust Network Key to Hybrid Cloud in Colocation

QTS is investing in multiple network-related initiatives that help enable hybrid cloud architectures for its colocation customers.

One of them is Switchboard, a software-defined interconnection platform that integrates workloads running in QTS data centers with cloud environments running in AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and IBM Cloud. Those four cloud providers cover "98 percent" of QTS customers' interconnection needs, Baillie said, but QTS is investing in expanding Switchboard to support other public clouds as well.

At the same time, he said, QTS is working to address the "concentration risk" that businesses face due to the limited number and distribution of carrier hotels available to serve the networking needs of enterprise workloads. "These networks are reaching a limit on what they can do in their current buildings, and those buildings are a risk point themselves, because each one is a single address," he said. "We have to spread these core pieces of equipment out" to deliver more reliable and more scalable networks.

QTS is currently working with fiber providers and cloud providers on plans to address these issues. The company has not yet announced specifics, but Baillie said that "we'll be more vocal" as plans develop. He hinted that the initiative may involve bringing carrier equipment to QTS’s colocation data centers.

An investment like this would cater to a range of use cases that extend beyond hybrid cloud, of course. But it's easy to see how expanded network reliability and performance would benefit enterprises whose workloads span multiple colocation facilities and clouds and who need optimal performance for network traffic that flows between those locations.

QTS Steers Clear of Services Beyond Network

Beyond initiatives on the network front, QTS leaves it to customers to build their hybrid cloud architectures.

“We enable the connectivity and let our customers do what they like with it,” Baillie said.

“Anyone who wants to drop Outposts in a QTS data center is more than welcome to do so,” he added, referring to AWS Outposts, Amazon’s hybrid cloud framework. But QTS plans no special partnerships with AWS or any other cloud provider related to the providers’ hybrid platforms, he said.

QTS is also not interested in getting into the managed services market in order to build hybrid cloud environments for its colocation customers. “We don't do managed services, and we're not going to,” Baillie said.

Conclusion: A Network-Centric Take On Hybrid

QTS’s strategy for supporting hybrid cloud workloads within its data centers is elegant in its simplicity: The colocation provider is focusing on the network layer, and leaving it up to customers to decide how to deploy and manage hybrid applications.

As Baillie put it, “we need to enable connections to all the clouds our customers have access to, and that’s what we're doing.”

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