While mergers and acquisitions have proliferated in the colocation industry - each positioned to increase geographic coverage or higher order capabilities – in the last 6 months, a new trend has emerged: strategic divestitures, most prominently observed in the telecommunications space. Following the complete cycle, in 2010 and 2011, Centurylink, Verizon and Windstream made strategic acquisitions to increase their data center services portfolios, acquiring Savvis, Terremark and Hosting Solutions respectively. 5 years later, each firm has announced its intent to sell of some or all of these assets.
So, what went wrong?
While telcos had arguably given birth to colocation, the fact remains that network and carrier providers have had troubling competing against pure play colocation and data center service providers like Equinix and Digital Realty. In the past, telecom providers described colocation and data center services as a way to enrich existing customer contracts. In an interesting twist, these new intended divestitures have been presented as a way to refinance core assets, focus on what drives their business, and move away from standardized services with high overhead and lower margins. While vendors may keep their skeletons in the closet, I had some speculation as to what might be fueling these decisions:
- Buyers want carrier density and diversity. Even though all of these facilities support multiple connections into other carriers, customers tend to evaluate facilities by connectivity options instead of looking for carriers to provide data center capacity on top of network services. Additionally, many geographically dispersed companies are considering blended IP solutions to improve latency and performance across the globe.
Forrester’s Infrastructure and Operations research team has been on the leading edge of infrastructure technology and its proper operational aspects for years. We pushed the industry on both the supply side (vendors) and the demand side (enterprises) toward new models and we pushed hard. I’m proud to say we’ve been instrumental in changing the world of infrastructure and we’re about to change it again!
As the entire technology management profession evolves into the Age of the Customer, the whole notion of infrastructure is morphing in dramatic ways. The long-criticized silos are finally collapsing, cloud computing quickly became mainstream, and you now face a dizzying variety of infrastructure options. Some are outside your traditional borders – like new outsourcing, hosting and colocation services as well as too many cloud forms to count. Some remain inside and will for years to come. More of these options will come from the outside though, and even those “legacy” technologies remaining inside will be created and managed differently.
Your future lies not in managing pockets of infrastructure, but in how you assemble the many options into the services your customers needs. Our profession has been locally brilliant, but globally stupid. We’re now helping you become globally brilliant. We call this service design, a much broader design philosophy rooted in systems thinking. The new approach packages technology into a finished “product” that is much more relevant and useful than any of the parts alone.
I'm at IDF, a major geekfest for the people interested in the guts of today’s computing infrastructure, and will be immersing myself in the flow for a couple of days. Before going completely off the deep end, I wanted to call out the announcement of the new Xeon E5. While I’ve discussed it in more depth in an accompanying Quick Take just published on our main website, I wanted to add some additional comments on its implications for data center operations, particularly in the areas of capacity planning and long-term capital budgeting.
For many years, each successive iteration of Intel’s and partners’ roadmaps has been quietly delivering a major benefit that seldom gets top billing – additional capacity within the same power and physical footprint, and the resulting ability for users from small enterprises to mega-scale service providers, to defer additional data spending capital expense.