Even large organizations that have their own data center rent space from data center companies. The reason: running a data center is exceptionally expensive. Any possible strategy to keep it to a minimum is usually adopted. This is true for companies focused on private cloud, public cloud or multicloud.
More important, as cloud computing keeps growing, fewer companies (even large companies) want to build their own data center. They would much rather contract with a data center company, renting only the space they need on an annual basis.
Still, data center companies remain vital providers of IT infrastructure. The vendors below have vast resources for supporting companies.
Selecting a Data Center Company
Choosing the best data center company for your enterprise is complex, and depends on an array of storage volume and SLA details that need to be worked out with a sales person. But at the least, it’s critical to understand the concepts below. Furthermore, some some data center companies offer cloud and artificial intelligence services – so again, it’s best to talk with a sales rep.
In general, however, data center providers offer the following:
Wholesale colocation vendors offer very large facilities, usually an entire data center or at a minimum a very large room with tens of thousands of square feet, which will be used by a single organization. Typically, the leases on the facilities extend over a long period, often more than three years.
In general, wholesale data centers offer excellent redundancy capabilities and they provide access to massive amounts of power. However, wholesale facilities often don’t have as many options when it comes to connectivity and carriers. Customers may be extensively involved in the design and layout of the facility, as well as the management of the facility, and they own the servers in use.
In retail colocation, many different customers share the same data center. Individual customers may have their own racks or rooms, or they may be intermingled with those belonging to other organizations. The lease periods are much shorter – perhaps even just a year, but retail facilities often have a whole lot of connectivity and carrier options in order to cater to the needs of different companies. Customers don’t have as much input into the design and operation of the data center, but as with wholesale colocation, they own the servers.
The biggest difference between hosting and retail colocation is that with hosting, the vendor owns the server. The customer may have some ability to manage the server through a Web interface, but the provider is ultimately in control of the computer equipment. Hosting customers give up a lot of control, but in return they get lower prices and shorter-term contracts.
In recent years, the lines between these three different types have blurred. Some vendors do not specify whether their colocation services are retail or wholesale, and some use the terms hosting and colocation interchangeably. Generally, however, these are how the terms are used within the industry.
Top Data Center Companies: A Dramatically Shrinking List
Due to the growth of cloud computing, many of the data center providers that were once on this Datamation list have been acquired by the remaining players. For instance, Interxion was bought by Digital Realty Trust, CenturyLink purchased Level 3 Communications, and China Telecom bought 21 Vianet.
In a move that raised eyebrows, AT&T – one of the biggest players in the data center market – sold its data center business in 2019 to Brookfield Infrastructure Partners, which now offers data centers as Evoque. Verizon, also a big player in data centers, made a similar sale of data facilities.
Bottom line: as the data center market is challenged by the growth of cloud, the key data center players are undergoing a dramatic period of consolidation. More accurately, a dramatic period of shrinkage.
Indeed, it’s reasonable to assume that the list of data center providers will continue to shrink as the whales gobble up the bigger fish. In the world of data centers, bigger is definitely better (larger facilities offer more capacity, a larger network offers global coverage) so expect only the biggest to survive.
Top Data Center Companies
Given the rapid market flux in the data center industry, remember one key factor in selecting a facility: will it be in business long term? That may be largely impossible to know, but – all things being equal – the larger the data center vendor, the more stable its market position.
Key selling point: Equinix Infrastructure Services offers specialized hardware and software support for large clients that need a special helping hand.
Equinix is a top leader in the data center business, and it has actively moved to acquire data center businesses to gain even more market share. In a world where businesses are moving away from data centers (toward cloud) Equinix is doubling down – a smart strategy, given that the data center, while fading away for many businesses, will still be needed by mega-large enterprise clients. It has offices from Brazil to France to China. Its customers include Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Salesforce.com, eBay, LinkedIn, Netflix, GE, Chevron, Bloomberg, NASDAQ, AT&T, T-Mobile and many other well-known companies.
Digital Realty Trust
Key selling point: A truly international network of data centers, with advanced facilities in 45 cities across the world.
Digital Realty operates data centers in more than thirty different markets on four different continents, but the bulk of its operations are in the United States. It touts an industry-leading record of ten years of 5 nines availability and a future-proof strategy. In an astounding measure of market size, Digital Realty Trust has more than 280 data centers across the globe – six continents hold DRT data centers. No data company provider can claim size as a major advantage over Digital Realty.
NTT Global Data Centers
Key selling point: Not just the biggest data center vendor in Asia, but one of the largest in the world, NTT has the capacity and staff resources for even the largest enterprise clients.
A subsidiary of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, NTT Global Data Centers benefits from very deep pockets. The company operates a network of 160 data centers – with a network like that, scale will never be a problem. The company guarantees six 9’s of uptime as part of a standard SLA. Its services range from custom-built wholesale solutions to private vaults for a repository of compliance-sensitive material. NTT offers access to every major cloud provider.
Key selling point: Bridging the world between data centers and cloud services, Cyxtera offers AI and ML compute as a service.
Once known primarily as an Internet Service Provider, CenturyLink sold its data center business to a group of investors, who operate the business under the name Cyxtera Technologies. However, CenturyLink also retained 10 percent ownership of Cyxtera. CenturyLink used the proceeds from selling the data center business to partially fund its acquisition of Level 3 Communications, which significantly increased its market share in the data facility business. In short, Cyxtera appears to have the resources to be a major market player for years to come.
Key selling point: Specialized in the colocation market, Cyrus positions itself as serving the multicloud enterprise platform.
While many of the vendors on the list offer other services in addition to data centers, CyrusOne focuses primarily on colocation – so any client that wants to house its privately owned gear with CyrusOne can do so. It has more than 50 data centers across North America, Europe and Asia. Its clients include plenty of Fortune 1000 companies that look to CyrusOne to provide highly scalable data center solutions. With a corporate strategy that acknowledges that companies are now largely multicloud, CyrusOne offers a diverse mix of services that fit with this mixed deployment model, including robust connectivity to private and public clouds.
AT TOKYO / SECOM Group
Key selling point: With the largest data facility profile in Japan, SECOM owns a significant share of the Asian market.
SECOM is a conglomerate of security, real estate and services companies with the deep resource to keep growing; several years ago, for instance, it acquired Tepco Data Centers, which owned most of AT TOKYO, another large data center provider. SECOM has been in business since 2000 and promises its customers zero downtime, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – arguably not completely realistic, but even coming very close to that is as good as any provider in the data center world.
Evoque Data Center Solutions
Key selling point: Understanding it needs to leverage cloud-like services, Evoque is a hybrid IT provider that offers cloud on-ramp and other connectivity services.
Having acquired the large portfolio of data centers owned by AT&T, Evoque is that rarity in the data center business – a newer company. Founded in 2018, Evoque is positioned to grow. It has 31 data centers in 11 countries across four continents. The company is owned by Brookfield Infrastructure Partners. The young company is building a network of partnerships; the existing partner network includes Paradox Tech, Intelisys, AT&T, and Bridgepointe.
BT Global Services
Key selling point: BT Global Services offers a full range of managed services to assist those companies that need to outsource their infrastructure management.
BT traces its roots to the very first telecommunications company in Great Britain, but now is a global conglomerate with operations in virtually every country around the globe. In addition to colocation services (which it calls “telehousing”), it also offers a variety of private hosted cloud and hybrid cloud services. BT has an extensive partner network, including HPE, VMware, NetApp, Dell EMC, Microsoft and Cisco. Additionally it has a wide array of consumer tech, from broadband to business apps.
Key selling point: For a large enterprise that needs a data facility in Asia, China Telecom is a top contender.
Although primarily a telecommunications provider, China Telecom is also one of China’s largest data center providers, and has subsidiaries in the Americas and Europe. It offers disaster recovery services for secure backup. Though based in Asia and owned by the Chinese government, it offers Cisco Certification. Additionally, its partner network includes Amazon Web Services, Dell EMC, Microsoft, Oracle, Alibaba, and Nutanix.
Sungard Availability Services
Key selling point: Sungard AS offers colocation facilities that provide private and public cloud services, along with a managed DRaaS solution.
A well known and well regarded name in the US-based data center business, Sungard AS has a network of 24 data centers across North America and the globe. They have a staff of expert IT consultants to ease migration and set up. As a further sign of constant change in the data center business, Sungard AS was involved in a complicated acquisition. A company called FIS acquired Sungard’s financial software business, but the company’s business continuity, cloud and data center business was spun out as a separate privately held company under the name Sungard Availability Services.
Key selling point: For large enterprise clients that need a network across Europe and Asia, Global Switch is clearly a top candidate.
Based in London, Global Switch offers large-scale network-dense, carrier- and cloud-neutral multi-tenanted data centers in Europe and Asia-Pacific. It has 13 facilities. It also says that it has the highest credit rating of any data center provider; the significance of this to customers is that it has the deep resources to continue to invest in hardware and networking for its data centers. The company has focused on green computing initiatives – important, given how much energy these mammoth data facilities require.
Key selling point: With a customer list that includes the US federal government, QTS can boast of high compliance and security standards.
This U.S.-based company is a leading provider of secure, compliant data centers that offer hybrid cloud and managed services, focusing on the North American market. It also has two facilities in the Netherlands. It has more than 5 million square feet of data center space and supports customers across many verticals, including financial services, health care, technology and the federal government. Its business partners include VMware and Intelisys.
Key selling point: The company’s Open Cloud Exchange facilitates secure connections to an array of cloud providers, enabling a multicloud approach.
For its multicloud approach, Coresite partners with AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and Oracle Cloud. It offers a bare metal cloud in its own facilities, and also enables a SaaS platform. Indeed, with 24 data centers, this U.S.-based company offers a wide array of data center, cloud and interconnection solutions. As a sign of its major market profile, Coresite has over one thousand customers, including Verizon, Major League Baseball and Cars.com. The company is publicly traded on the NYSE.