Equinix Chief Product Officer Sara Baack Discusses Packet Bare Metal Acquisition

Deploying physical infrastructure at software speed

Today’s companies are doing business from every edge of the globe, exchanging greater volumes of data and dynamic workloads over distributed on-premises and cloud environments. And increasingly, they are considering bare metal as a tool for building digital infrastructure.

As a foundational digital building block, bare metal enables businesses to deploy distributed infrastructure on demand. By provisioning and running dedicated server hardware as a service, organizations can run private compute workloads and deploy and manage hybrid multicloud architectures with greater agility. And unlike traditional Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), bare metal servers are single tenant and not shared between customers, increasing control over performance, latency and security while eliminating CAPEX requirements.

Today, Equinix completed its acquisition of bare metal leader Packet, ushering in a new era in the company’s 20+ years as a leading enabler of digital business. We spoke with Chief Product Officer Sara Baack about the Packet deal and how it will impact Equinix’s next chapter.

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First, Sara, congratulations on closing the Packet acquisition. What is the most exciting aspect of this partnership for Equinix and your customers?

Thank you. It’s such an incredible time to be collaborating with our customers on the front lines of digital business, and we’re thrilled we’ll now have the chance to do so alongside our Packet teammates. We were founded with a vision to be the trusted steward of the world’s IT infrastructure, and everything we’ve done since that moment has been about staying true to that ideal – whether by helping the internet scale through our global reach, cultivating ecosystems where digital businesses could thrive or by interconnecting the digital world and the companies shaping it. Offering Bare Metal as a Service on our global platform is the next step on this journey, and it’s exciting to bring our customers the capability to seamlessly deploy physical infrastructure at software speed.

As a leading colocation and interconnection services company, Equinix’s customers have traditionally “brought their own hardware” to the party. How does offering Bare Metal as a Service change your model?

Bare metal gives our customers a new way to consume our value. It doesn’t change our model  ̶  it adds more flexibility and optionality to it. Our overriding goal is to enable customers to access both physical and virtual resources and capabilities as easily as possible through direct and secure interconnection. Guided by this North Star, we have been expanding and enhancing Platform Equinix® and its functionality at every level. Packet accelerates our on-demand bare metal strategy, moving us more quickly toward a new reality where our customers can enter a new geography or market within minutes. No more waiting for your hardware to arrive on the loading dock … just provision and go.

Equinix has talked about wanting to be the “home of the hybrid multicloud.” How does adding bare metal services to your portfolio allow you to do that?

Customers have been leveraging Equinix for years as their hybrid cloud home, placing their own physical infrastructure in our International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers and leveraging our leadership in building private, instantly provisionable on-ramps to any public cloud they choose. Now, we’re working to enable enterprises to create private cloud infrastructures as quickly and easily as they can leverage public cloud resources, and a bare metal capability supports this focus. We’ll leverage bare metal together with our robust portfolio of interconnection services to allow customers (including cloud providers themselves) to build, orchestrate, deliver and consume services across our global platform, which will exponentially increase the value of hybrid multicloud for all.

Can you give me an example of this in action?

Sure, let’s say you are an enterprise with an ERP system on your private cloud infrastructure that interfaces to an ecommerce front end that you’ve built in a public cloud. To get the best performance possible, you can place that system adjacent to the public cloud of your choice within an Equinix IBX data center. And if a particular public cloud service is not locally available to you, then you can reach across Platform Equinix via Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric™ (ECX Fabric™) to access those services at the push of a button. So, it comes back to enabling fast, frictionless interconnection for our customers to consume mission-critical digital services on demand – whether it is networks, cloud services, security, or compute and storage.

Sara Baack, Chief Product Officer, Equinix

Edge computing certainly has been a trending topic lately. Why is it so important to today’s businesses?

Over the years, we’ve seen our customers shift from centralized, corporate campus data centers to the distributed “digital edge”  ̶  placing data and workloads closer to the users, customers and business partners that are driving interactions between IT systems. This is the need fueling what many of our enterprise customers are already doing. But for a broader audience to succeed at the edge, they need more agile ways to deploy data and workloads to take advantage of the performance benefit of being in closer proximity to the systems and users relying on them. And we’ve been focused on ensuring that important IT functions are available and consumable at this distributed edge, whether they are provided by Equinix or by many of the ecosystem partners that operate their businesses in our facilities. Because for many of our customers, being inside one or more of our 200+ Equinix IBX data centers in strategic metros around the world is their edge. It’s where they can leverage our global footprint to locally interconnect with everyone that matters to their business. It’s where they can create reliable business continuity and disaster recovery environments between geographically separate locations. Or tap into IoT ecosystems to gain new data-driven insights. And as our customers continue to evolve how they define the edge and where it takes them, we’ll be there to support their journey.

How do you see the edge evolving in the future and how does that impact your direction with edge services?

Down the road, the edge could be anything, anywhere, at any time. It could be a connected, autonomous vehicle that needs to send data back to a fleet management tracking system. Or a drone inspecting a burnt-out roof and reporting what it sees to an insurance company. In the end, we want to enable our customers to be agile and flexible enough to continue to transform their business at the speed of digital. And we do this by providing fast, low-latency, secure Interconnection as a Service to on-demand services that are highly distributed and incorporated seamlessly into hybrid multicloud architectures. 

…Packet’s mission of democratizing infrastructure, with its free choice of operating systems and management software, is very much aligned with our commitment to neutral ecosystems.

How do you see your customers leveraging Equinix bare metal as a service?

The possibilities are endless, so I’ll just touch on a few of the kinds of use cases we’ve seen bubbling to the surface with customers lately. Earlier I mentioned companies who want to hit the ground running to bring solutions to a new geography or market. That could include a “born in the cloud” SaaS provider that needs to support a specialized instance of its offering to a Fortune 100 customer. Or an online gaming provider that needs on-demand, low-latency connectivity to bare metal services close to a high concentration of players to cover peak user times. Many companies in our vertical-industry ecosystems, such as financial services, manufacturing, and media and entertainment, are managing high volumes of data and workloads requiring proximity to elastic compute and storage resources on-demand to control performance and costs.

Beyond the technology and business synergies you’ve mentioned, what made Packet the right bare metal partner for Equinix?

Philosophically, Equinix and Packet very much share some passionate beliefs. The first is that physical infrastructure can be a competitive advantage. Second, we believe in ensuring that ecosystems of partners and suppliers form around that infrastructure to create more choice for everyone. So, Packet’s mission of democratizing infrastructure, with its free choice of operating systems and management software, is very much aligned with our commitment to neutral ecosystems. 

And third, there’s that hard to define but all-important chemistry and culture factor. Co-founders Zac and Jacob Smith bring an infectious energy and passion to the relationship. They have a clarity of vision and operate with a sense of community, a down-to-earth attitude and a spirit of fun that’s very much in harmony with our culture. Like Equinix, they run their business with a view of what’s possible and live to create new value for their customers.

Ultimately, we both care deeply about contributing innovative digital solutions that will enhance the world in which we live and know that together we can accomplish much more, much faster than we ever could apart.

Read why IDC recognized Equinix as a leader in colocation and interconnection services: IDC MarketScape Report: Worldwide Colocation and Interconnection Services 2019 – 2020 Vendor Assessment.

Equinix Chief Product Officer Sara Baack & Packet Co-Founder Zac Smith