Equinix Exec Talks Generative AI, Storage And The Future Of The Data Center

‘Everybody is trying to understand right now how they’re going to fit into AI whether it’s going to be training, whether it’s going to be inference. The beauty of it all is it’s all going to live and need to be close to the data centers,’ says Lisa Miller, Equinix senior vice president of platform alliances and global channel.

With cloud repatriation and the rise of hybrid digital environments, data center powerhouse Equinix was already positioned for growth before anyone was talking about generative AI.

But the computational and storage demands of generative AI at scale play into Equinix’s strongest offerings: acres and acres of computer racks in 251 facilities, across 32 countries and six continents.

“Where Equinix is so well positioned is we’re now all talking about where the data lives,” Lisa Miller, senior vice president of platform alliances and global channel at Equinix, told CRN. “So it doesn’t matter what partner you’re talking about. Everybody is trying to understand right now how they’re going to fit into AI whether it’s going to be training, whether it’s going to be inference. The beauty of it all is it’s all going to live and need to be close to the data centers.”

Equinix sales last quarter reached $2.06 billion for 12 percent year over year growth. It is projecting annual revenue of between $8.16 billion and $8.20 billion, for as much as 15-percent growth versus last year.

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Miller said the company isn’t just expanding its revenue. It has announced partnerships with tech giants Nvidia, NetApp, HPE and VMware.

Equinix and Nvidia announced “instant AI infrastructure for enterprise customers,” an end-to-end offer with both AI core infrastructure for model training with Nvidia DGX and inference and AI edge infrastructure on certified Nvidia systems build on Nvidia’s EGX platform.

With NetApp, Equinix can give customer a full stack, bare-metal-as-a-service, hybrid multi-cloud operations on a unified management platform. Through a partnerwhip with HPE and Equinix, customers can extend their private cloud portfolio within Equinix’ data centers, while an offer with VMware expands the pair’s global cloud services offerings.

“What we find is when we can create purpose-built solutions for them that plug into a story that they are trying to take to the market, and they are creating a practice around it or a discipline around it, that we can be really successful,” Miller said.

Miller is Equinix channel chief, responsible for the company’s platform alliances, which are its top strategic and technology cloud partners, as well as Equinix global channel.

“That gives me the full breadth of the channel and the cloud,” Miller said.

She talked with CRN about Equinix partnerships, where its channel partners were finding opportunity, and how all modern technology roads converge at the data center.

Equinix is a massive VMware partner. How are you folks looking at what is going on with Broadcom?

Well, we’ve been working with VMware for almost 18 months on an offer to take to market. We have had customers in early access and limited availability and so we are anxious as everyone else is, to see this deal close and to have even more clarity. But we feel very confident in our relationship with VMware and the partnership we’ve developed.

Can’t wait to hear more about what you folks have been working on with VMware. That sounds like it could be something big?

Yes, it’ll be on our metal offer. So that’s what makes me very excited because it’s also emphasizing our digital services, which is a real growth area for the company, especially as we head into 2024.

So I’ve also been not only very focused on the VMware relationship, because VMware sits in my role and is one of my alliance partners, but also HPE if you have followed the HPE private cloud enterprise at Equinix.

That is also a great solution where we have helped enable HPE for their as-a-service offer. So we are right now aligning some of our sales teams. We are getting ready to get that launched and in 2024 we will start having customers live on that platform as well.

So a very big year for some of our some of our partners here.

There’s so much going on in storage lately. Dell had a big change in their go-to-market around storage. HPE said they’re doing something different around storage. Any clarity around storage and how you are looking at that is hugely helpful.

You are absolutely right that storage is more and more critical. People want to have a seat in public clouds, but they also want a lot of private cloud as well. And that’s where we fit with a lot of the AI strategies.

We just announced our relationship with NetApp as a key storage provider for us, for our metal locker. But keep looking in the next few weeks. You’ll probably hear more on some storage relationships that we will continue to emphasize and so NetApp has been announced.

What is it about the moment that is driving all this energy around something as tame as storage?

Think of just what AI is doing.

The reason there’s the biggest explosion in storage is because AI is requiring and producing so much data. They go hand in hand.

It all is around data and where people are going to put that data and where they’re going to feel comfortable. And if they want it on a private cloud basis, or a public cloud basis, or they want it in a secure private cloud. And that’s where we really play well. That’s why you see the clouds view us as strategic partners. We view the clouds as our strategic partners. They are interconnected in locations all around the globe. And we really have a great relationship there.

But for all of our other partners that rely on our data centers around the globe they have the inner connection right there. They don’t have to deal with latency. They know the data is secure. I mean, when you start looking at all of those things, there are a lot of partners that need our capabilities to bundle in their capabilities to provide a great level of managed service offerings in the market, leveraging our platform.

Can we get into the Equinix strategy for AI? How are you approaching it for customers and channel partners?

Absolutely. AI, as you know, is top of mind for all of us. What is great with having alliances and the partners is we get to work with the cloud providers on the offers they are creating for generative AI, all of the training modules, everything that’s taking place. And then we also get to work with the technology partners, and then all of our global partners where AI as well is a part of their portfolio.

So you may have noticed at our analyst day in the second quarter. We actually had Nvidia speaking about their AI requirements and what they’re doing and how they really feel that Equinix is you know, the place to put that data and so we’ve been working very closely with them, you’ll see you know they will be a key partner for us as we continue to go forward as well.

Dell, again, very big partner for us. I saw your article on Denise Millard (pictured). We had been working with her for a long period of time. Because we do sell with the Dell sales teams in the market. And Equinix is one of Dell’s Alliance partners and that’s how I first started working with Denise Millard. And now that she has moved over as the channel chief, with their big changes they’re leaning even more into partners. We feel it will do nothing but strengthen our relationship even more.

What is the partner opportunity for Equinix partners around GenAI? There’s a lot of talk among Dell partners and VMware partners, but how are your data center partners leveraging this excitement through Equinix?

Well, what you have to realize is almost every one of the partners that I have in our alliance program is also big in our channel side too. So when you think of all of the clouds, of course, you know how they’ve been talking about AI and the offers that they’re going to have.

But then Dell has had significant announcements about AI and how they’re going to play, how their funnels have been growing. At HPE’s event this summer, they announced their AI initiative and how they’re going to be leaning in to AI with Cray computing and all of that that they see as a key growth area.

You’re seeing AI play out everywhere .

Where Equinix is so well positioned is we’re now all talking about where the data lives. So it doesn’t matter what partner you’re talking about. Everybody is trying to understand right now how they’re going to fit into AI whether it’s going to be training, whether it’s going to be inference, that the beauty of it all is it’s all going to live and need to be close to the data centers.

Now your compute doesn’t have the latency requirements as much, but there is a lot of AI that requires your data to be close by. That positions Equinix really well because we are interconnected with the clouds in many major markets around the globe.

And so as people want to have that private public training, inference, whatever it is that they’re trying to launch for AI, we are in a very good position.

Can you explain a little about the interconnect feature? How are partners and customers using that?

With our interconnection, we’ve got over 10,000 customers sitting here with strong ecosystems to their partners that they need to get to on a daily basis, whether it’s other SaaS providers, whether it’s financial institutions, whether it’s for manufacturing companies, whatever it may be, a lot of their critical partners sit within Equinix.

With interconnection, you have no latency challenges when you’re interconnecting within the data centers, and so it allows for a great place for this data to reside for AI.

And we are super excited because we feel AI is going to be another explosion or inflection point for data centers. And as you know, today, I wish I had our same footprint, double if I could. Because when you look at AI, the demand is going to be huge.

And so we are super excited and aligning with all of our partners to understand their strategic direction. How they’re looking out for the next three years. How we can play into that. What our joint value propositions will be as we go out to all of our partners, to say ‘Come to Equinix. You can plan the solutions, build the complex digital transformation stories that are required for our enterprise customers and their growth.’

But look at Equinix as that center where you can get to all the clouds you can get to all of those business partners across our reach and connection.

We’re super excited about it. We see a lot of different AI applications, whether it’s for health care, whether it’s for Life Science, you name it, there’s not really going to be an industry that is not going to be impacted by AI.

So when people go ‘Well, what industry?’ Well, it’s kind of all industries. There’s been things that we that have been brought to market where many times it’s very much a vertical. Maybe it’s for healthcare only or maybe its financials. The beauty of AI is it’s going to touch them all and it’s all going to be about your data and where’s your data located? So can we feel that we’re in a good position for that?

How is Equinix doing when it comes to building out facilities that are use-case specific for generative AI?

Well, I think we’re still in the evaluation stage of exactly where we need to adapt. We know that liquid cooling will be a hot topic as we continue to grow for AI. And so you’ll hear a lot more about that, just as an education to the market from Equinix.

You have to realize that many of our facilities today, based on what the needs are, we can accommodate AI applications.

But in the future, there are going to be modifications or changes we may need to make, just like any data center provider is going to, but we’re really working closely with the partners to try to understand how it is that can we meet the needs today, which we are. We’re doing all sorts of AI applications are ready.

We want to make certain that we’re always looking at what’s required. And that’s why it’s really important for us to understand the strategy of our key partners, where they’re going to play, where they’re seeing their largest growth so that we’re in lockstep with them.

When I talk to VMware, they have a TAM for what for their AI market is and Nvidia has a TAM for their AI market. What’s the TAM for GenAI in the data center?

You know, it’s interesting, I don’t know if I can answer that right now.

I hear its big.

Yes. That’s what we’ll both agree on. It is big. Demand is big. So, we’re extremely excited about it. I’m sure you’ll hear in future earnings as we start sizing up the market and want to make predictions as to where we feel we’ll be really playing in that targeted addressable market. But right now, I don’t have what we’re quoting for that.

Besides Generative AI, where are your partners finding opportunity with Equinix or in the market?

We work a lot with global system integrators. We work as well with the MSPs. And we work with almost all the technology partners many of which you’ve already identified on this call.

What we’re trying to look at is how we can work with let’s just say global system integrators. Accenture is a great partner of ours.

We’re looking at all their disciplines in their practices and saying, ‘How can we fit in to the solutions that you’re creating? How can we create some solutions that fit into your digital transformation story? How can we create solutions that then fit into your AI story as people need that public or private network and connectivity?’

What we find is when we can create purpose-built solutions for them that plug into a story that they are trying to take to the market, and they are creating a practice around it or a discipline around it, that we can be really successful.

And so when you think of an HSI (high-speed synchronous serial interface) stack. You may see Microsoft inside of offers for HPE. Well, what we always want to look at is how can Equinix play in that? And so we look at ways that we can use the power of three, the power of four, with different partners that we have.

So we look at always where our cloud connectivity is. We’re always trying to say, ‘How can we take that cloud into it for multi-cloud capabilities, as well as how we can leverage the interconnection and the data center.’

But now with digital services, we can also add our network edge, we can connect things with fabric, and we can also add our metal offer, which is a great solution.

Your global presence also presents opportunities for customers as well I would imagine?

When companies want to go into new markets around the globe, it’s great to be able to say here’s where we can turn up some sites for you. So you don’t have to go and deploy a significant amount of data into maybe a new market and gear and everything else into a new market. Come and use us first. Try that location. Get close to your customers and see if it’s going to end up being a huge growth market for you.

And then many times we start with metal and then we migrate them to our colocation facilities, either for strategic reasons, or they feel it’s more price competitive to go to a colo-solution long term.

So the beauty is digital services really opens up the portfolio where we can create solutions for customers now that span a much broader product set, which is really exciting and it’s opened up even a lot more partners.

Managed service providers now want to build services on our platform and put their managed service wrapper on top of that. And so I am super excited as we go into next year with what we can create now with all of these solutions as they’re starting to mature.