Data Centers, Hedgehogs & Foxes.


Data Centers, Hedgehogs & Foxes.

You’ve probably heard the one about the fox and the hedgehog. How the fox may be good at many things but the hedgehog is great at just one: protecting what’s inside the spiny ball when it curls up.

So how does a data center stop being a hedgehog and become a fox? Usually by stepping outside it’s four walls.

It was easier to refrain from stepping out in simpler times, when data centers were these singular buildings; cut in the cloth of carrier hotels like Hong Kong’s Mega-I, or 60 Hudson & 1 Wilshire— the Grande Dames of the East and West coasts of America.

These facilities were dedicated to provide rack, power, climate control and cross connects. That was it and that was all. Their whole world was inside these buildings and they left it to telcos to connect them to the outside.

Fast forward to today when a data center operator recently approached its carrier partner with a proposition to white label the data center’s telecom services. Safe to say when a data center attempts to sell telco services to a telco, it’s officially a fox.

The turning point for all this could’ve been around when data center clusters became a thing. When institutions like 1 Wilshire in Los Angeles became just another facility in Coresite’s data center cluster. But data centers by and large resisted drawing their own connectivity to interconnect the geographically diverse cluster and left that to the telcos who were anyway a seriously large contributor to data center revenues.

Then a couple of things happened. Carrier growth flattened around the same time racks started moving to the cloud. Now, it’s a data center’s mission in life to cross connect customer racks. Does that mission extend to the cloud? We think it does.

We own the connectivity within our data centers. A customer can go to the BDx Single Pane to easily manage his hybrid ecosystem—the physical racks and his virtual infrastructure on the cloud. Except that, unlike within our data centers, the cloud connectivity is all through our carrier partners, all of whom show up on the single pane when the customer opts to set up his cloud connectivity.

Why this reticence to step outside our four walls while the competition tear up and down metro links and subsea cables? Two reasons. The first being the desire to be great at one thing not simply good at several. The second reason is that data centers depend excessively on channels. Customers typically don’t wake up and decide they need racks. More likely they wake up to a problem and then turn to IT providers, Systems Integrators or Telcos to solve it for them. This is why besides offering connectivity, a few data centers have double down on the fox thing and also offer cloud and IT services with a focus on migration.

We decided from the onset to be a part of the IT or connectivity solution rather than become the solution provider. Somehow this works for us while keeping us tight with IT and Telco partners—hedgehogs all.