Andy Stewart thinks “hybrid cloud” is too foggy for customers to easily understand. So Stewart, the CEO of Evoque Data Center Solutions, is buying a Foghorn to offer clarity for the cloud.
Colocation provider Evoque is acquiring Foghorn Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based provider of cloud consulting and cloud engineering services. With the addition of Foghorn, Evoque is launching an “application-first” strategy to help guide enterprise customers as they navigate the growing options for IT infrastructure deployment.
“We wanted to get away from ‘hybrid cloud,'” said Stewart. “Everyone says it, and it doesn’t mean much anymore.”
Instead, Evoque will brand its offerings as Multi-Generational Infrastructure (MGI), and offer consulting services through Foghorn that help enterprise customers find the best way to deliver applications using all infrastructure models – including cloud, on-premises data centers and colocation services at Evoque.
What does “multi-generational” mean? Stewart says most enterprises are grappling with years of infrastructure investments, adding components from each new generation of technology. That includes mainframes, x86 servers, and virtualized workloads using VMware that have spread applications across cloud platforms and data centers.
A key element of Evoque’s strategy will be a focus on containerized applications that are less reliant on specific infrastructure, and can run in the cloud or a customer’s data center infrastructure.
That’s where Foghorn comes in. The San Francisco-based cloud consultancy was founded in 2008, and partners with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. Its “FogOps” teams conduct customer assessments and serve as guides in developing the best deployment options.
A key tool for Foghorn is containerization, which uses software to package code and all its dependencies so applications can run in different hardware platforms and easily shift from one computing environment to another.
Container technologies like Docker and orchestration platforms like Kubernetes and Amazon ECS have become leading tools in DevOps strategies that provide flexibility and speed to IT operations. Containers make it easier to migrate applications between platforms, either in shifting on-premises apps to the cloud, or repatriating workloads from cloud platforms to colocation facilities like Evoque.
Solving IT Challenges Across Time, Platforms
The Foghorn acquisition and MGI strategy are the first major new moves by Stewart, who joined Evoque as CEO last June during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. Evoque is among the providers building data center platforms from assets being shed by large telecom players. The company was formed by Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIP) in late 2018 after it acquired a portfolio of 31 data centers from AT&T for $1.1 billion.
Stewart said much of 2020 was focused on “fixing things” and positioning Evoque to be a larger player in carrier-neutral colocation, which required additional connectivity beyond AT&T. Early this year the company announced a partnership with ExteNet that will expand cloud and network connectivity services into Evoque’s infrastructure at 14 U.S. data centers.
With the addition of consulting services, Evoque is looking to move up the value chain and position itself to compete in a crowded market for retail colocation services.
“We think this is the right competitive pivot,” said Stewart. “It’s really hard to differentiate in this market. We wanted to compete in an advisory capacity, as opposed to trying to compete on price. It helps us stand out, as opposed to a baby step like bare metal cloud.”
Several of the largest colocation providers, Equinix and Cyxtera, are using bare metal server offerings to expand their business beyond providing the “power, pipes and ping” that have been the table stakes in colocation. With the Foghorn deal, Evoque wants to evolve into a trusted strategic partner for its enterprise customers, creating stickier relationships that can transcend shifts in platforms and hardware.
“Our MGI strategy speaks to clients’ needs to deploy today’s application workloads across a blended infrastructure,” said Stewart. “It points to our ability, with the addition of Foghorn, to tailor solutions across colocation and cloud environments and more, with the ability to change workload deployments over time as their business and application needs evolve.”
“Aligning with Evoque will enable us to deliver even deeper solutions for enterprises wishing to innovate in the cloud, in their data center and increasingly within both,” said Foghorn CEO Alex Roosakos. “Combining colocation, connectivity and cloud expertise gives Evoque and Foghorn the ability to deliver application-first technology solutions, rich with business benefits for our customers around the world.”
Foghorn will continue to operate independently as a subsidiary of Evoque. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Evoque and the M&A Market
With the backing of Brookfield, Evoque has a parent with significant resources to fund future growth. Stewart previously served as Chief Strategy Officer at TierPoint, where he was responsible for leading mergers and acquisitions. Stewart has said that he expects Evoque to be an active player in the global merger scene for digital infrastructure. But the strong investor interest in the data center sector has created competition for assets, and auction-style bidding.
“Multiples are very high, and assets are priced to perfection,” said Stewart. “We’re more optimistic about one-off opportunities instead of participating in these auctions.”
In the meantime, the company is optimizing its network and colocation footprint, which will likely include exiting a handful of data centers, including international sites. In the U.S., Evoque may look to add capacity in its most important markets.
“We now have a lot more clarity internally on which data centers are more strategic than others,” said Stewart.