Since its formation nearly 20 years ago Equinix has been recognized as the unrivalled multinational leader specializing in global interconnection between organizations and their employees, customers, partners, data and clouds. The company is the premier international colocation data centre provider by market share and it operates 150 data centres around the world, including the Canadian operations based in downtown Toronto. Equinix currently has 5,900 international employees, 28 of whom are based in Canada with 2016 revenues exceeding $3.6 billion.
The Canadian Business Journal recently spoke with Equinix Canada Managing Director Andrew Eppich about how he and his team of experts are assisting Canadian companies in leveraging the maximum value of interconnectivity. Additionally, Equinix is able to provide practical guidance and proven technical solutions through decades of specialized data centre expertise and experience in assessing, enabling, migrating, optimizing, testing and deploying IT infrastructure and cloud networking.
Eppich began his professional career more than 20 years ago at Clearnet Communications, which at the time was an upstart mobile carrier and was eventually bought by Telus for $6 billion in 2000. From there he moved on to Hewlett Packard where he honed his skills for 14 years. At the time of his departure Eppich held the position of Vice President of their Enterprise Group, managing the partners and channels for the Canadian organization.
In December, 2014 through Eppich’s network of contacts he learned about Equinix and that the company would be launching a new data centre in downtown Toronto the following spring.
“What brought me here to Equinix was the idea that the contracting hardware market that I had been in at Hewlett Packard and the realization that cloud and hybrid cloud was the next generation that enterprises were always asking me about really started a compression in that infrastructure market that I was in,” begins Eppich. “The opportunity to work for a company like Equinix that is enabling cloud providers and providing interconnectivity and neutrality to the cloud providers that at that time I was losing against was just too good an offer to refuse.”
Equinix has been at the forefront of this technical revolution in the United States and in other international regions for nearly two decades. The Canadian arm launched its data centre in downtown Toronto in the first quarter of 2015 and since then there has been no looking back. It’s been a fun ride according to Eppich because Canada is really coming of age in the cloud landscape.
“It was a chance for me to use the enterprise, reseller and hardware contacts that I’ve established over the years and bring them to the next generation cloud locally in Canada,” he says.
Eppich leads a relatively small team of sales professionals but they also have responsibility for the northeastern U.S., down to the New England area.
“We’ve largely erased the border globally with Equinix and it makes for a much more natural, even route to market when you’ve got guys in the U.S. and Canada because ultimately with selling hardware it was very regionally based and focused on a particular postal code whereas in the global context the borders get blurred. It’s natural from our lens to the enterprise but it might not be as conventional to the Canadian organizations that have been doing it up to this point,” he explains.
Headquartered in Redwood City, California, the company was founded following a request for proposal from large regional telecoms in 1998 whereby network service providers were finding themselves pressed up against a ceiling as to how well they could scale the internet and wanted a solution to the conundrum.
“The origin of Equinix is based in the name: equality, neutrality, internet exchange. That’s how we arrived in the market. We became the interconnection point for these large network carriers that then allowed a neutral place that was reliable and most importantly neutral so that these carriers could then expand the internet,” explains Eppich.
Since those early years Equinix has evolved to provide co-locate floor space on top of the strategic buildings that are the intersection points to the internet, first in North America, then in Europe and now throughout Asia and the rest of the world.
“A vast majority of global internet traffic intersects through the Equinix building. There are 150 of these large IBXs – business exchanges or a data centre for comparison – that sits at these intersection points of about 1,400 network service providers, so a lot of the global internet traffic goes through these 150 buildings that we have around the world,” says Eppich.
IBX TR2 Data Centre
In March, 2015 Equinix Canada opened its IBX TR2 data centre of about 150,000 square feet with 50 network carriers that intersect into the building that services about 150 Canadian customers including network carriers, cloud providers and enterprises within Canadian borders. The TR2 services a wide array of companies including those in the financial, media and enterprise realms. The new facility offers premium colocation services and is designed to meet enterprises’ needs for larger footprints and data-intensive applications deployed closer to the edge.
“We’re an extension of a global platform that has 150 of these buildings around the world. We’re an intersection point for Canada but part of a much broader infrastructure that goes around the world,” says Eppich.
As opposed to being in direct competition with the likes of international giants such as Microsoft and IBM that have embraced cloud computing, Equinix is in a position of enabling those companies. It’s a premium spot from which to inhabit with an ability to remain neutral amongst the major carriers and the cloud providers. It’s for that primary reason why Canadian enterprises want to reside within the Equinix building because of the cost-effectiveness in reducing network costs. The Equinix peering model has managed to extend each carrier’s individual reach both regionally and globally. IBM bought a Texas-based company called SoftLayer in 2013, which is their cloud offering to the market.
“A point of presence for SoftLayer resides within TR2, so it sits within our building and it’s connected to something we call Cloud Exchange, which is basically some slick and easy to use networking infrastructure that allows enterprise customers to choose between any number of hundreds of cloud providers such as SoftLayer from IBM, Microsoft, Amazon and Google. We are the intersection, or the on-ramp for enterprises to access those clouds,” explains Eppich.
By the time Equinix becomes engaged in the process the vast majority of companies have already made the decision to become part of the cloud. They will have explored tier-one providers such as Microsoft, Amazon or Google and decided to move forward with their strategic technical communications plan. That’s when Equinix comes in – with its secure and reliable solutions.
Eppich and his team are able to provide maximized security and reliability and it’s all executed in a local building here in Canada. The idea of the data sovereignty issues that were a concern to enterprises in the past are now resolved because the brick and mortar buildings are located here in Canada with a direct on-ramp to these cloud providers that may be in Canada or outside the country’s borders. The broad geographic reach is a key differentiator for Equinix that allows its customers to place equipment in proximity to their end users worldwide, which results in superior connectivity.
Due to the massive unlimited scale that the cloud can offer it makes good business sense to want to be a part of it. Enterprise leaders should always be looking at having data as close as possible to its partners.
“It’s always optimal to have the data as close to the source as possible to maximize monetization and insight. There’s a decreasing value as that packet of ones and zeros travels a long distance,” notes Eppich.
Despite how impressive technological systems have become Eppich says there will always be an insatiable appetite from consumers to have more data made available to them. Users are also never satisfied with the speed at which they can do things so it’s apparent that the infrastructure will continue to evolve in order to accommodate that. There is a gap between where the architecture stands today and the limitation of how those IT models are set up and they don’t satisfy the immediacy and the latency requirements of that current environment.
“If you have data increasing exponentially and the speed of light only travels so fast eventually your current IT model breaks. The idea of distributing data out to the edge doesn’t necessarily require different types of infrastructure technology but rather just a different way of looking how it’s set up and located,” explains Eppich.
Additional challenges within the industry most often comes down to the culture and the people within the organizations and an ability to adapt.
“We’re living in a world of digital disruption. The largest impediment I see is having the courage to see a new architecture that will allow you to adapt and be infinitely flexible because it’s often impossible to determine what change will happen in the future,” says Eppich.
Success Breeds Success
The Equinix strategy allows enterprises to satisfy their current requirements while lowering costs but in order to be prepared for infinite flexibility it requires courage and a level of intestinal fortitude more so than anything technology-based.
A fundamental reason why Eppich believes Equinix has been so successful stems from the fact it has stayed true to its core objectives since inception. Many companies attempt to evolve and chase the next so-called ‘shiny thing’ but it rarely ends well. Equinix has taken a tactical and planned approach of staying within its lane and growing organically and through acquisitions as a means of expanding its global footprint.
“With 150 data centres around the world, and that intersect a vast majority of the internet traffic globally, it’s very difficult for a competitor to start and catch up,” remarks Eppich.
Encapsulated within Equinix’s network of buildings are short pieces of fibre optic cable that connect enterprises to each other or to cloud providers and networks. The company measures itself quarterly on how many cross-connects or how many unique connections are within the 8,500 customers within the building. Overall, there are 230,000 of these unique cross-connects that now reside in the 150 buildings. The value of the network effect that is happening within the buildings differentiates Equinix from the competition because any one enterprise can enter a facility and find everything they need.
“We’ve got an excellent track record in terms of what we do that others can’t claim,” states Eppich.
From a Canadian perspective it’s now a matter of demonstrating to enterprises in this country that they can be as fast and as nimble as anybody globally to bring their wares to market. It is Eppich’s hope and desire that the Canadian headquartered accounts find Equinix Canada as an opportunity to expand globally and put us on the map as innovators and forward looking. With regards to the overall business it becomes an ongoing process of enriching what goes on inside the building and making the real estate more valuable for the enterprises.
“We’ve got 150 data centres now; when I joined there were slightly more than 100, so we’ve grown significantly and I see that continuing,” reveals Eppich. “We’ve got an excellent group of people here, including technicians who have lived in a lot of the enterprises from a technology perspective. We’re all anxious to come of age in the cloud and be a catalyst for growth. There is a genuine energy and excitement about TR2 and what we can achieve with the enterprises in Canada.”