Digital Realty Partners With Zayo on Vision for Open Interconnection

July 27, 2021
Digital Realty will partner with Zayo Group to pursue its vision for an open “fabric of fabrics” providing software-powered connections that span the globe’s major data hubs.

The world is becoming more connected every day, and there are dueling visions for how networks and businesses will connect, and the central role data centers will play in that process.

Digital Realty intends to be a key player in that discussion by creating an open “fabric of fabrics” providing software-powered connections that span the globe’s major data hubs.

Today it announced a key ally in that effort. Digital Realty will partner with Zayo Group to lay the physical and virtual foundations of that open fabric, enabling next-generation interconnection and security capabilities.

The partnership taps the capabilities of two huge players in digital infrastructure:

  • Digital Realty operates 290 data centers across 24 countries and six continents, including massive campuses and carrier hotels in the world’s largest centers of data gravity.
  • Zayo Group operates a Tier 1 network backbone, with a 126,000 route-mile fiber network across North America and Europe, and more than 13 million miles of fiber connecting thousands of office buildings and data centers.

Today’s announcement offers few details of how the partnership will play out, but lays down a marker for both companies as the data center business shifts from a focus on facilities and hardware to solutions for a software-powered business world.

Digital Realty called it a “significant milestone” towards beefing up its PlatformDIGITAL roadmap with new investments in interconnection technology and infrastructure.

‘Going Beyond the Cross-Connect’

In March, Digital Realty announced plans to develop its own orchestration and fabric connectivity software, acquiring the IP and engineering team from Pureport to add in-house network software development. The Zayo partnership provides the fiber to bring those new capabilities to enterprise customers in cities across North America and Europe.

“This is really about going beyond the cross connect and enabling an outcome via software,” said Chris Sharp, the Chief Technology Officer for Digital Realty. “A click-to-configure capability is core to the success of our customers.”

“What we were looking for with the acquisition of Pureport is orchestration,” he added. “We’re not going out of our core competency. But we see a requirement of having a native software capability to tie all that together.”

A key driver for Digital Realty is its belief that interconnection will move closer to giant storehouses of data, rather than being concentrated in network hubs in city centers. That’s where Zayo comes in, offering the fiber and reach to connect places, companies and networks.

“What we’re going to be providing is a deeper integration with the infrastructure around the country and around the world,” said Brian Lillie, Chief Product and Technology Officer at Zayo. “We look forward to working together to power next-generation interconnection and security capabilities that will unlock the true potential of digital transformation.”

Data Gravity Drives the Interconnection Map

The success of cloud computing has many customers yearning for programmable, software-defined IT infrastructure. This trend is changing the game for data center providers, who now seek to capture the benefits of cloud – including the ability to deploy applications quickly and manage infrastructure through a point-and-click interface – and apply them to traditional data center products like colocation and interconnection.

The Zayo alliance supports Digital Realty’s growing ambitions in the interconnection business, which is dominated by colocation heavyweight Equinix, which has built lucrative business ecosystems atop its network hubs. Equinix recently outlined its strategy to “cloudify” its colo and interconnection business, enabling customers to blend physical and virtual assets across technologies and geographies.

Digital Realty is pursuing a similar path to but offering an alternate future in which data gravity creates a more diverse geography of connections. Sharp said the Digital manifesto seeks to “remove the legacy interconnection barriers that continue to impede enterprise digital transformation initiatives.”

“We listen to the customer, and that’s core to why you see Zayo and Digital working together – customers want a choice of an open platform, and they want to be able to deploy their own capabilities and services and not feel like they’re going to be competed against (by their provider),” said Sharp.

Physical Assets Still Matter

Sharp and Lillie know about collaboration, as they previously worked together on the executive team at Equinix. Both are familiar with the competitive landscape, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. With their combined infrastructure, they will not be lacking for resources.

“Physical assets matter,” said Lillie. “Cloud isn’t this ephemeral sort of floating thing – it’s data centers and networks and really smart tech. Given our global set of assets, we can make a difference in the customer experience.”

The Zayo partnership builds on Digital Realty’s 2020 acquisition of Interxion, a European colocation player with strong interconnection bona fides, as well as its long-running collaboration with SDN specialist Megaport and now the Pureport acquisition. The net result, it hopes, will be an “open fabric of fabrics” connecting focal points for data gravity – in many cases, located at Digital Realty’s connected campuses.

“Our platform capabilities and the steps we are taking in collaboration with Zayo will serve as a force-multiplier in building the industry’s largest open fabric-of-fabrics to effectively address the growing intensity of enterprise data creation and its gravitational impact on IT architectures.” said Sharp.

But interconnection can be a complex undertaking in which details matter. Digital Realty and Zayo say they will soon offer more specifics on how they will work together and the customer offerings. Stay tuned.

About the Author

Rich Miller

I write about the places where the Internet lives, telling the story of data centers and the people who build them. I founded Data Center Knowledge, the data center industry's leading news site. Now I'm exploring the future of cloud computing at Data Center Frontier.

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