“It’s a great outcome,” said Equinix Chief Information Officer Brian Lillie. “This, to me, is the fruits of our labor. It’s pretty cool.”
The annual Forbes rankings, now in their fifth year, are based on what Forbes calls an “innovation premium,” which measures how much investors have bid up the stock price of a company above the value of its existing business based on expectations of future innovative results (such as new products, services and markets).
Tesla topped the list, followed by companies such as Salesforce (No. 2) and Amazon (No. 8) in the Top 10. Companies ranked near Equinix include Adobe Systems (No. 74) and Coca-Cola (No. 81).
Lillie said Equinix’s culture of innovation is traced to its founding, when it began offering space for the networks that formed the early Internet to exchange data traffic, helping enable the Internet’s explosive growth.
“The whole notion of Equinix was innovative,” Lillie said. “Putting colocation at the heart of the network was innovative.”
Equinix has a hard-won reputation for excellence in the foundational mechanics of running data centers (providing space, power and cooling, etc.). But at our core, we’ve always been an interconnection company, and that takes an abiding commitment to innovation.
“We encourage everybody at the individual contributor level to really take innovation seriously, and our people have just run with it,” Lillie said.
One example is the group of software engineers on the CIO product engineering team that started weekly “Spark-a-thon” idea-generating sessions, complete with custom t-shirts and a subtle ban on management participation.
Lillie added the group was talking about microservices and the Docker software container technology before it became the rage, and both are now key components of the Equinix Cloud Exchange software platform architecture.
“That’s just one example,” he said. “Spark-a-thon has just created a ton of ideas that have led to product enhancement.”
Lillie said Equinix’s approach is to find smart people who are willing to take chances, avoid micromanaging them, and let them know the company will put down the cash to fund good ideas. Equinix’s core innovation ethics include: Find a better way by fostering creativity, experimenting, failing fast and learning even faster … realizing that necessity is the mother of invention – something data center technicians prove constantly.
“They find a new and better way all the time because they have to,” said Lillie.
Technologies like the Cloud Exchange, which enable customers to use software-defined virtual circuits to connect with multiple cloud providers on-demand, are obvious examples of Equinix innovation. But Lillie added company innovation also extends to business concepts, like presenting a global data center fleet as a technology platform (Platform Equinix), and business models, including creating industry ecosystems in our data centers.
Staying on the Forbes list is going to take a continued commitment to innovation, but the interconnected era is putting the future in Equinix’s wheelhouse, since interconnection is so critical to exploiting new trends and technology, Lillie said.
Take the demands of big data and the Internet of Things, for instance. Countless devices are producing and sharing limitless data, all of which can yield remarkable insights – if it can be processed, stored and analyzed in real time. That requires the kind of technology an interconnection company is built to enable, and that’s a huge opportunity for Equinix, Lillie said.
“It’s all yet to be invented,” he said. “We’re looking forward to continuing to push ourselves to be at the forefront of what’s next.”