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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Data Center Cheat Sheet - The Players in the space

If you're looking for a place to put your computer/s because you've determined that your office closet isn't the most conducive place to host your critical business apps, customer facing service platform, customer database, website, or whatever else you're responsible for, chances are you're talking to one or more companies which provide datacenter services. The major national and international players in this space are:

Equinix- pioneered carrier neutral model - risen to the top as the 800lb guerrilla. If you want you own private 'cage' and access to a boatload of carriers and ISPs, you may want to talk to them. North America, Asia Pac, Europe

Digital Realty Trust - best performing REIT in 06 if I recall correctly - customers of DRT typically pay for construction costs of their respective datacenter in DRT buildings. Customers include Equinix, Savvis, Internap, MSFT..basically everyone with the financial wherewithal and domain expertise it takes to make the leap of no return, ie spending the cash to build out core MEP infrastructure. If you want total control of EVERYTHING which mean running day to day operations of the datacenter infrastructure and your computing infrastructure, you may want to have a chat with them. Global reach

Savvis - includes some of the assets of Exodus, Digital Island, Cable and Wirelessą„¤ Smart and experienced management team. Seems to be focused on more that colo and is 'moving up the stack' so to speak. If you're a customer of IBM or EDS they will be similar in terms of their offerings. If you want a private cage and are planning on running every aspect of your business operations they probably won't be the best fit but what the heck, maybe they can run it better than you. In which case, you may want to have a chat. Global reach

365Main - Carrier neutral, expanding rapidly, solid facilities, find current customers and get their take on overall experience. US based

CRG West - Carrier hotel centric, moving into more of a colo model recently, if you need hundreds of racks of space they probably aren't the best fit but if you need a small physical footprint in terms of space and a leveraged network footprint, they may be worth talking to. Owned by Carlyle Group which could mean they have easy access to capital but who knows how committed Carlyle is to the space. Carlyle was an original investor in Equinix and that didn't turn out as well as it should have for them so they may have less of an appetite for this space than the CRG West sales guy is telling you. US reach.

Terremark - Equinix wannabe and making great strides in removing the 'wanna' piece of it. Expanding in VA and CA, bought DataReturn which was a decent sized hosting provider. Historically built smaller sites in tier two markets with the exception of VA and CA. US reach. Great customer list but pretty much everyone on that list is a customer of all of these vendors.

Switch and Data - Very similar to Terremark but built more facilities than any of the other players, in smaller markets, and with smaller facilities(10K to 15K sq ft). Bought PAIX from Abovenet and in that regard has a great customer list but same attributes as the Terremark list.

Internap - Hesitant to include them but my experience is that they are in most of the deals floating around and are a wholesale customer of Equinix, 365Main and others as well as they do run their own sites which they acquired over the years. Their domain expertise is on the networking side and not on running datacenters but then again if you're in an Internap cage in Equinix who cares?

AT&T - the former T had some decent facilities albeit ones which weren't built to support today's computing clusters and the associated power and cooling requirements. If you work at a small bank in the Midwest and are worried about getting fired for pushing the envelope as it relates to looking outside the box, you should talk to AT&T. You may never get through their onerous contract negotiations so you may get fired anyway. If you do manage to get through and become a customer of theirs, I have a feeling you won't have too much fun second guessing your decision. IBM and T are no longer job protectors to the decision makers they sell to.

Level3 - Was a player in the space 10 years ago which is why I felt compelled and obligated to include them but don't consider them to be a true player any more. Allot changes in 10 years and you can't upgrade datacenters once they peaked out their total design, especially if you have live customers in them.

Where there is smoke there is fire and the fire here is white hot. Fire being the demand for datacenter space. As such, there are a whole bunch of smaller players emerging into the scene to do their best to take down Equinix just as a very young Equinix was trying to do to Exodus. If you're talking to these types companies I would guess that you have really small requirements, really large requirements or aren't dealing with a mission critical application. I state those three reasons not because small regional guys don't know what they're doing(how in the world could I know that?) but because the cost differential between them and Equinix or 365Main is negligible if anything. In fact, it would be logical to believe that Equinix and 365Main would actually be lower priced than a small player due to the scale they're able to achieve in purchasing, operational efficiency and learning curve. "Too small" to me means hosting your code on someone else's servers so that may be a small webhost who runs their own physical datacenter. "Too big" to me means you consume too many resources on the 'Players' building for you to be a good fit with their overall objectives.

If you're scratching your head wondering how could that(too big of a customer for Equinix?) be the case I will explain it in my next post:

- Data Center Cheat Sheet - are we a good fit based on our requirements?

Following that post will be:

- Data Center Cheat Sheet - Power and Cooling Mathematics - you will be shocked! no pun intended :)

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Blogger John said...

Hi. Three years ago I did a systematic evaluation of the datacenter providers in the Boston area, and I have a few additional haphazard notes:

(1) Internap. While I have read occasionally of some major issues with Internap locations on the west coast, Boston-area customers seem to be quite please with what they get (the 3 P's: Power, ping, and pipe). Indeed, their sales guy said that all of his customers were reference-able, and I called around quite a bit and could find no one with any complaints (OK, one: someone had a shared rack, and the other rack-resident did something naughty once; but that wasn't Internap's fault). When I last checked, you could get a lockable half-rack, which can be a good way to start.

(2) Savvis. If you have the money to blow, you can get a full hardware virtualization "solution" from Savvis, which is built from components from EGenera, 3Par, and Inkra (Inkra provides full-blown network fabric virtualization, including the network, load-balancing, and hardware acceleration; Savvis bought the assets from Inkra, and is now switch everything over to Cisco). It can be a good way to get provisioned if you can't afford a network engineer or staff or leased equipment, etc. Getting set up with Savvis was rough, but once everything was working, it has been great.

(3) DataReturn is the BMW of hosting providers. They will work with you to provide deep monitoring of your application, essentially writing live tests that probe into the various tiers to make sure everything is OK. They also provide virtualization: Through software (VMWare). If you have a lot of money and want to be treated very well, you may find their approach amenable.

(4) Rackspace. Um, the VW GTI of hosting? Incredible service.

4:44 AM

Blogger tomo said...

Hi John,

Thanks for the note. Internap is solid and in my experience have been good to work with both on the sales side and ops. They are a great partner of Equinix and also one of their larger customers. Its still unclear whether their expanding scope (transit, CDN, datacenters, hosting, mgd services) is a good thing or bad. If history is any indication, it pays off to be myopically focused on one thing and be the best at that one thing. Equinix compared to Exodus.

If anyone can make Savvis successful it is Phil Koen. I'd bet on him rather than against him but your experience early on is similar to many. Maybe because it encompasses so many areas where things can go wrong and something always goes wrong in every install I've ever been a part of. Planning for those events is key.

DataReturn. I inadvertently said Terremark bought DataPipe when I meant DataReturn. Big win for Terremark. Questionable at this point if it was a good move for DataReturn.

Didn't include Rackspace only because they are more of a hosting provider than datacenter operator and I don't have much first hand experience with them. What I do know is they are in the top of the charts for hosting providers along with eV1/thePlanet, Net2EZ, GNI and Media Temple

11:07 AM

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