Equinix’s Charles Meyers: ‘Growth of cloud is unparalleled in history’

27 Jul 2018

Equinix president Charles Meyers. Image: Equinix

Equinix president Charles Meyers says that in a cloud-first world, interconnected and sustainable-energy data centres will be game-changers.

Charles Meyers is Equinix’s president of services, strategy and innovation.

The data centre giant acquired TelecityGroup in January 2016 for $3.8bn. It has increased its data centre footprint globally to more than 200 sites, including four in Dublin.

‘We are committed to 100pc sustainable energy for our data centres’

The company recently established a new internet exchange in Ireland that will connect businesses with infrastructure and digital ecosystems in 25 other markets.

Meyers joined Equinix in 2010 as president of the Americas region, delivering results for the company’s largest P&L segment at a time of significant growth in revenue and scaling of operations.

In 2013, he was promoted to the role of chief operating officer, in which he oversaw global sales, marketing, operations and client services. In this role, he was instrumental in enhancing operating disciplines globally, identifying and driving best practices while ensuring a more consistent global experience for customers.

What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?

My role was created in response to the structural shifts and the evolution of the data centre industry.

It was a reflection of the fact that we operate in a market that is rapidly changing. The priority that businesses are placing on digital transformation in their overall agenda is increasing. And I think the nature of technology infrastructure and how it is evolving is changing very rapidly.

We have been working with a number of top business advisers over the years and one asked recently: “Are you changing as fast as the world is changing around you?” On one hand, that is a tough bar to clear, but it really struck us that we need to continue to think about how our business needs to change and evolve to maintain relevance to customers and help them on their digital transformation journey.

So, we actually decided to make some shifts that would align the investments we had in the company that were more forward-looking. We decided to align those under common leadership and put all of our product capabilities into that team as well as our strategy business and business development resources.

I took on that role nine months ago. It really is an opportunity for us to continue to work with our customers to understand how a platform such as Equinix is supporting their digital transformation agenda and how we need to evolve that over time.

What is the difference between Equinix and the average data centre business?

We are very different than most traditional data centre operators or colocation-type companies. It is because our focus really revolves around a few things that have proven to be central in how people think about digital infrastructure going forward.

Primary among those is interconnection as a key value proposition. That’s a big differentiator – playing the role of helping to facilitate interconnection between companies and other members of the digital supply chain that are relevant for them.

The cloud has really accelerated that trend.

I recently presented to investors and analysts about Equinix becoming the trusted centre of a cloud-first world, and that positioning is really fundamental. As people embrace hybrid cloud and multi-cloud as the architecture of choice, Equinix has really become much more than just providing them with solid, reliable data centre services. It has really centred around helping them to access the multi-cloud and build hybrid cloud infrastructure in a world where things are really changing rapidly.

What role do Equinix’s data centres in Ireland play in the overall footprint?

We are very excited about Dublin and the role that it plays in the broader digital transformation agenda for our clients.

In fact, I would tell you that when we acquired Telecity, Dublin was one of the real crown jewels we were getting because it was a market that we were not in. With the Telecity acquisition, we realised we would now have a presence in that critical market and meet that need for our customers.

We have been very successful with it. It was one of the first markets in which we really became effective in cross-selling into existing customers and sales teams at Equinix.

As soon as the transaction closed, we got an immediate demand for business into Dublin from our existing customer base, and our sales teams have been very effective selling Dublin as a centre point to clients’ global strategy. Ireland has been tremendously successful in positioning itself as a centre point for people’s digital strategies in Europe and on a global basis.

We’ve invested behind that and continue to expand our facilities, and in fact recently acquired property to expand to an additional campus setting. We have closed the real-estate aspect and we are going through the process of zoning and planning that is necessary to expand our presence on to that property. So, stay tuned. We think it will be an opportunity to serve an even broader customer set in Dublin.

How do you ensure that the best practices for running data centres are applied across the globe?

Operational excellence and unmatched service reliability have always been a hallmark for Equinix. When we talk to our customers, of course they value our global footprint and interconnection excellence on the strength of our digital ecosystems. But one of the paramount things that they rely on is our operational excellence and track record for service reliability.

The way we did that was by investing in our people, especially in education and process training, to ensure they are always prepared to deliver on that level of service excellence.

It’s about really managing the facilities and the people in them with a level of care, commitment and excellence to ensure delivery on that track record of reliability.

It’s a lot of hard work on the process and training front, and ensuring that those people are prepared to do their job with excellence every day.

What does the future of cloud and data centres look like?

The growth of cloud, broadly speaking, is unparalleled in history.

Not only are businesses thinking about how to transition from traditional approaches to IT infrastructure to a cloud-based world, but, even more importantly, new workloads and opportunities in new ways of doing business in a digital-centric world are being created every day, and that is really the big long-term opportunity for the cloud.

What is really exciting, in our view, is that people are realising they still have a need to ensure that the private infrastructure they own and manage can be interconnected to the cloud effectively.

People still have needs for security, privacy or performance reasons associated with latency for certain elements of their own private infrastructure. But they want them to be immediately proximate to the public cloud, and that’s the opportunity that we present to them.

We continue to invest in our platform, not only in terms of its physical presence and reach around the world, but also in terms of our interconnection portfolio to make sure people can reach the cloud securely and in a very multi-cloud way.

The multi-cloud value proposition is one that is really compelling and continues to be a big driver for our success.

What are the challenges that threaten the vision for a cloud-centric world?

I do think there are challenges. At a time when innovation continues to be exceptional in a variety of areas, we will need to step up to those challenges over time, whether it is technology in the storage and data arena, or how we’re using AI to mine data and gain insights that are important to businesses, to storage technologies that allow us to store massive amounts of data in smaller footprints.

Even in energy, we are actively looking at how we need to evolve our data centres to be more sustainable over time and we are committed to 100pc sustainable energy for our data centres.

There are a number of technologies such as fuel cells and other ways to continue to improve our access to primary and secondary power resources to rise to the challenge.

The move to open hardware standards along with the same movement in data are allowing for this massive scaling of the cloud, and the interconnection of that cloud back to customers through facilities such as Equinix.

I think there are some challenges that leaders in market need to be cognisant of, such as sustainability. But I think we are up to those challenges.

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Updated, 12.02pm, 31 July 2018: This article was updated to correct figures on Equinix data centres and clarify that it has more than 200 sites globally (not 145) and there are four in Dublin (not three).

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years