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For colocation data center dating, there are new ways to make a match

Making matches between enterprises and services inside a colocation facility is getting easier with tools that act like LinkedIn in the data center.

Enterprises in a colocation data center seeking just the right data transfer service may find what they're looking for is right in front of them.

An increasingly sophisticated set of matchmaking tools is being made available within colocation data centers to help enterprises find the products or services needed to solve their problems. It's part of an effort among colo providers to address a shifting mindset among their customers, emphasizing an "interconnection-rich ecosystem," said Jabez Tan, research director for data center and cloud at Structure Research Ltd., in Toronto.

Rather than scouring the world to find a managed services provider, IT shops might find it "immensely helpful to have that warm connection [established] via a middleman."

Digital Realty Trust Inc. (DRT), which is shifting from being a real estate company to a more comprehensive data center operator, recently took on the marketplace developed by Telx, which it acquired last year. It is transferring DRT customers from its previous "bare-bones customer portal" to the new platform, MarketplacePORTAL, which includes a new business intelligence engine.

It's a LinkedIn, of sorts, for Digital Realty and Telx data center customers, recommending potential business relationships for customers within the company's data centers based on users' existing connectivity. The matchmaking capabilities can be confined to tenants in a specific data center or across the company's portfolio.

Part of the DRT-Telx marketplace of tools and services is an in-person networking event, MarketplaceLIVE, which has been organized by Telx for more than a decade. It takes place later this month in New York, said Josh Neuroth, MarketplacePORTAL product manager for DRT, based in San Francisco.

Similar marketplaces include Equinix Marketplace by Equinix Inc.; CoreSite Realty Corp.'s CoreSite Community, which was launched earlier this year; and the ClientConnect portal from Savvis Inc., which still exists within the portfolio of CenturyLink, which bought Savvis in 2011.  

These marketplace offerings add "a level of familiarity to the conversation" between enterprises and service providers, Tan said. How engaging that conversation is varies between platforms: Equinix has hundreds of customers per data center available to be part of its marketplace, while Digital Realty may have a dozen or fewer, he said.

These platforms could also create a conflict with some colo providers' wholesale customers, which sell retail colocation space from within these data centers. "It will be interesting to see how customers react to that shift," Tan said.

ClearSky Data Inc. runs a fully managed global storage network and uses the marketplace to find partners to sell its services as a white-label product, as well as through managed service providers or cloud-based services.

Being able to piggyback on the broad reach of established data center companies, such as Digital Realty and Telx, adds credibility to the young and growing company, while putting it alongside its customers, said ClearSky CEO and co-founder Ellen Rubin.

Rubin said the company wanted to have a colocation data center presence and would not have wanted to rely on just cloud computing to deliver services because of latency and performance concerns.

The open internet isn't secure enough, nor does it have connection speed that is fast enough.
Josh NeurothMarketplacePORTAL product manager for DRT

"The fact you are in the marketplace and see who is there and go to events opens you up" to new opportunities, she said.

Digital Realty claimed 7,000 active users in its data centers log into the platform at least once a month, and 30,000 total users have signed up. These include Hollywood film-industry customers that have "render farms" all over the world, which may need to get hundreds of terabytes of data from a digital effects team in Australia to the editing crew in Los Angeles. They could rely on the marketplace to find a company to get it done, Neuroth said.

As another example, an IT network planner for an enterprise in a colocation data center with a presence in both Portland, Ore., and New Jersey that needs to transport a large amount of data for disaster recovery could turn to the marketplace.

"The open internet isn't secure enough, nor does it have connection speed that is fast enough," and the enterprise would look for a seller with a 100 GB connection with Dark fiber, Neuroth said.

While these marketplaces add some potential value and "stickiness" for colocation users, their existence or completeness likely would not be enough to sway a customer to go with a certain provider, Tan said. Nevertheless, "it's a nice touch and it adds value," and he equated it with other data center amenities, such as a gym or shower facilities.

Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him on Twitter @RBGatesTT or email him at [email protected].

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