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.
Data centers, like any other aspect of real estate, follow the age-old adage of “location, location, location,” and if you want to build one that is really efficient in terms of energy consumption as well as possessing all the basics of reliability, you have to be really picky about ambient temperatures, power availability and, if your business is hosting for others rather than just needing one for yourself, potential expansion. If you want to achieve a seeming impossibility – a zero carbon footprint to satisfy increasingly draconian regulatory pressures – you need to be even pickier. In the end, what you need is:
Low ambient temperature to reduce your power requirements for cooling.
Someplace where you can get cheap “green” energy, and lots of it.
A location with adequate network connectivity, both in terms of latency as well as bandwidth, for global business.
A cooperative regulatory environment in a politically stable venue.