Equinix at 15: DC Salesman Recalls Leap of Faith as Chance of Lifetime

 

ted-davis-equinix
Equinix 14-year veteran Ted Davis in 2003 and 2013.

 

“So,” friends would ask Ted Davis, “this start-up you’re thinking of working for, what does it do?”

“Will you be wearing jeans and a turtleneck to work?” one joked, referencing the fashion style of tech icon Steve Jobs.

Then, there was this question: “Are you nuts?”

Davis wondered that himself. He enjoyed his real estate job, and he was good at it. But this opportunity in sales with Equinix had appeal. The Internet bubble was still inflating in 1999, and he wanted in on the start-up excitement. Equinix’s central concept of network neutrality seemed novel and durable, too.

Davis agonized three weeks before deciding to join Equinix. He’s still here as Equinix turns 15.

The chance to work at Equinix was, he said, “one of those things that really turned out to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Davis is happy with his decision now, but business was tough the first months after he began in November 1999 at DC1 in Ashburn, Va.

Part of his job was giving potential customers tours of DC1, and there wasn’t much to see besides unsold space. Davis remembered his first holiday party at Equinix, when DC1 had yet to draw a fiber network tenant. The data center manager gathered employees around an unlit fiber Christmas tree in the customer care lobby, plugged it in and jokingly announced they now had lit fiber at DC1.

But the first network would come aboard soon afterward, the second followed, and things were rolling.

“Our thought was, ‘We had two networks. That makes us network neutral. We’re living the dream here,'” Davis said with a chuckle.

Through it all, Davis recalled high enthusiasm and a true team environment. The belief there was something special about the company was universal. Potential customers also became enthused about Equinix – or at least some did. Davis recalls a distinct divide between those who got the concept of network neutrality, of having a choice of providers, and those who simply didn’t. Equinix moved ahead on the business of those who understood it and eventually that number began to include those who initially said, “No, thanks.”

DC1 is now one of eight data centers at Equinix’s Ashburn complex, and last year’s opening of DC11 was a $79 million capital investment that gives Equinix 500,000 square feet of data center space at the sprawling campus. That’s 8.7 football fields worth of space, with enough digital capacity to store 2,000 times the contents of the Library of Congress. The campus’s backup generators alone could continuously power 31,000 households. It’s a long way from when a single Christmas tree was a campus highlight.

Davis has some square feet of his own to mind. He shares 13 acres in Virginia with his wife and a couple dogs and a cat. A 23-year-old son is in college, while his 27-year-old daughter is teaching English in South Korea.

Looking back, the 60-year-old Davis said he didn’t figure to be with Equinix long enough to hear younger workers call him “Grandpa Equinix” (even though he’s only a decade older than Brad Pitt). He guessed he’d stay a few years, make good money, and then see what was next. But Equinix has maintained a core of its sales staff from its early year, and Davis attributes that to the strength of the company’s business model.

Equinix has been remarkably true to its founding concept of providing network neutrality, Davis said. The changes that have come – ecosystems, clouds and other ways Equinix enable businesses to do their business – are consistent with what the company has always been about, not a departure from it, he said. Davis believes commitment to its vision is a big reason why Equinix has thrived.

“It’s surprising to me because so many companies came and went over that period, you know, changing their business model to suit the times,” he said. “We stayed true to the model.”

Davis looks at today’s digital economy, sees it powered at its base by data centers, and likes where Equinix sits. The company may be the world’s largest data center provider, but among for-profit companies, for instance, Equinix is not a household name. There’s room to expand, and Davis has the same optimism about Equinix that he had in 1999 when he gave up a perfectly good real estate job to come on board.

“I think it will continue to grow,” he said.