20 Years of Working Toward Data Center Greatness

SV10 in Silicon Valley, California

A lot of things had to be great for Equinix to reach the 20th anniversary we’re celebrating this year.

One was the idea behind Equinix, this concept of a global interconnection platform that turned out to be quite visionary. Our people had to be great too, from our founders, to our employees, to the partners who’ve been with us the whole way. But maybe the most important thing that had to be great was our data centers.

Without world-class data centers, Equinix wouldn’t have been much more than a cool idea. Our data centers set the standard on five continents, and they’re part of an ever-expanding footprint that’s shaping the future of the digital world.

As the head of global operations for Equinix, I can tell you none of that is an accident. It’s about passion, diligence and design – right down to the blue light on our colocation floor. It’s also about knowing as we build on our success that we can’t take the lessons of the past or the rewards of the future for granted.

A higher bar

A big story of the last 20 years at Equinix is the steady growth of our footprint, which has quintupled in the last decade to reach 200 data centers. We built a lot of those data centers, but the ones we purchased have had the largest impact on our operations.

Major deals with Switch & Data (which added 34 facilities), Telecity (40+) and Verizon (29) dramatically expanded our portfolio, and every new deal brought the challenge of managing the people, places and new capacity that came with it. In operations, our work to bring these facilities as close as possible to Equinix standards for design and operations – a process we call “Equinizing” them – begins before we even get the keys to the front door. This can be a challenge, because we set the bar extremely high. Here are three key ways I think Equinix data centers and operations stand out:

  • Operational excellence. Instilling excellence involves continuous training and detailed documentation. We constantly measure and track key performance stats and do root cause analysis when things go wrong. We’re rigorous about quality control and put more than one set of eyes on everything we do. In short, operational excellence is the product of a highly disciplined and repeatable process that is constantly tested and improved on every day.
  • Customer experience. Equinix puts the customer at the center of everything we do, and no one has more contact with our customers than our operations staff. To many, we are the face of the company, and our goal is to guarantee a premium customer experience. That involves delivering the 99.9999% uptime and superior colocation services our customers expect. But it’s also about always listening, responding quickly and paying attention to every detail of their service, so that we can proactively meet their needs.
  • Look and feel. We want people who walk into an Equinix data center to be struck by a unique look and feel. The large red silo customers see as soon as they enter our customer area is part of that. So are the blue lights and multi-colored overhead cable trays that give our colocation floor a unique vibe. Equinix is innovative, efficient and exceptional. Our data centers should convey that.

Always evolving

Our work to maintain high standards at all Equinix facilities is being led by perhaps the most experienced operations teams in the industry. The average tenure of our managers is 10 years, and our frontline people – like our techs and engineers – average five years. These are incredible numbers for our industry, and that kind of experience simply can’t be replicated by our competitors.

In operations, we reflect a lot on why Equinix has thrived during our first 20 years, and what we need to do to keep growing. One critical priority is to not let ourselves be lulled into complacency by our past success.

On the data center side, we need to always be willing to innovate our design to take things to the next level of efficiency. By my estimate, we are on our 4th generation of data center, but we are still constantly evaluating how to improve our cooling, our resiliency, our energy use, etc. That process can never stop.

Being relentless, though, doesn’t mean we can’t take some time out to appreciate where we’ve come from. We should be very proud of what Equinix has achieved to become the clear industry leader. I certainly am. But we always stay focused on tomorrow, because the need for the interconnection and colocation we offer just keeps growing. We’ve got to continue our evolution to be there for the customers that depend on us to achieve their ambitions. It’s been an amazing 20 years, true. But I know the future can be just as great.