CRN Exclusive: MSP Giant TekLinks Expands A Key Data Center

Managed services provider TekLinks has expanded its data center capacity in its home base of Birmingham, Ala., as it looks to accommodate the needs of a growing customer base, the company announced Tuesday.

The multimillion-dollar expansion added more than 3,000 square feet of capacity to one of its two data center's in Alabama's largest city, almost doubling the size of the state-of-the-art facility and making it one of the state's largest, TekLinks said in a statement. The company flipped the switch on the expansion last week.

TekLinks now has more than 12,000 feet of data center space in three southeastern states. Besides the two data centers in Birmingham, the company has a facility in Mississippi and three more in Tennessee.

[RELATED: TekLinks CEO On Claris Acquisition And How To Succeed In A Fast-Moving Cloud Market]

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"We have an ever-growing list of enterprise clients that have a mix of requirements," CEO Jim Akerhielm told CRN. "Almost all have a hybrid strategy where there are certain applications that reside [on premises, and] there are certain applications that are best served near-premises … That's what this capacity is for."

Akerhielm said TekLinks can also help satisfy clients' public cloud needs by migrating their appliications to either Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure, provide them with on-premises support, in addition to hosted or colocation options.

TekLinks' decision is another sign of how cloud service providers are increasingly treading on turf that telecom carriers once dominated. Cloud providers like AWS and Microsoft are winning over solution providers by offering access to top cloud services technical talent and sales support along with robust recurring revenue commissions. That stands in sharp contrast to the single-digit margins provided by carriers trying to compete in the cloud services market.

The expanded Birmingham data center can hold more than 150 equipment racks and has 1 MW of redundant generator capacity – enough to power more than 500 homes, the company says. That redundancy capability will double as capacity grows, TekLinks said in a statement.

The company also said it has power and cooling systems installed to create a modular, redundant and efficient environment for their customers.

Akerhielm said one particular customer – a consumer content provider - "made a big commitment to us" and forced TekLinks to pursue expansion plans. "We exhausted a significant amount of capacity," the CEO said.

TekLinks – No. 174 on CRN's Solution Provider 500 list – has customers in several vertical industries, such as financial services, health care, medical imaging and large content providers, such as those that produce video and need to store it offsite, Akerhielm said. Those customers "find it more efficient to have a portion of their content reside in Tier 2 markets like Birmingham."

Last year, TekLinks expanded its footprint for recurring revenue cloud services by acquiring Claris Networks, of Knoxville, Tenn. Its Total Cloud offering, a complete, outsourced cloud service, boosted TekLinks' recurring revenue services by 60 percent, from about $25 million to $40 million, Akerhielm said at the time. That deal gave TekLinks a foothold in the large Nashville, Tenn., market. It also boosted its offerings to its health care customers since Claris did about half its business in that industry.

Also, in 2013, TekLinks acquired health care managed services provider ClinicAnywhere.

With the Birmingham data center expansion, TekLinks can also grow its cloud services and offerings, the company's vice president of data center architecture, Terry Miller, said in the statement.

"We don’t think of ourselves necessarily as a data center company," Akerhielm told CRN. "Data centers are one of the tools we use to serve our customers."