CenturyLink Expands Connectivity Options, Carrier Support In Its Data Centers

CenturyLink has considerably boosted the number of connectivity options across its 58 global data center locations. The provider now supports 99 unique carriers and network providers across its footprint, up from 78 last year. But the future of CenturyLink's data center business unit is still up in the air.

In addition to supporting 21 new carriers, CenturyLink raised the bar on the number of reliable connectivity options per data center location. In 2015, the Monroe, La.-based provider offered about five different providers at each data center facility. Today, CenturyLink offers an average of seven carrier connections at each center, with some facilities offering more than 20 unique provider options, CenturyLink told CRN.

Expanding the number of secure, low-latency interconnection options will allow businesses to better grapple with their increasingly "data centric" environments. And partners benefit any time CenturyLink adds service options because the need for hybrid connectivity options is only increasing as businesses push their chips all-in on "as a service" offerings, said John DeLozier, who joined CenturyLink as channel chief in July.

[Related: Centurylink's New Channel Chief On Recruiting New Partners, Data Center Strategy, And 'Doubling Down' On The Channel]

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"By increasing the number of network carrier interconnections available across our data center footprint, companies that are selling hybrid IT services – including network and colocation – through CenturyLink can now enable their end users to further leverage their existing IT infrastructures, as well as access new as-a-service offerings, third-party data center locations, financial exchanges and more," DeLozier said.

Many businesses today are using colocation providers as a way to directly connect their own geographically diverse, hybrid IT environments to outside IT environments and providers, including AWS, Google and Microsoft Azure.

"CenturyLink combines network services, managed hosting, data center services and cloud services. Having all of those [tied] together is a big competitive advantage," said Tim FitzGerald, vice president of digital transformation, and channel ecosystem strategist for Avnet, a CenturyLink partner.

Phoenix-based Avnet, a technology distribution provider of hybrid data center solutions, believes CenturyLink's leadership in the data center market and its ability to interconnect across several providers within its data centers translate into expanded solutions for its partners and end customers, FitzGerald said.

"Not all carriers have the same types of connections or have the same geographic footprint. So, by having additional carriers, it expands the breadth of solutions that we can deliver because it lets partners expand either the type of service, or the geography that those services can be offered in," he said.

CenturyLink added four megawatts of new capacity at eight of its data center locations in 2015, and has plans to further increase capacity at more facilities during 2016. However, the ownership of CenturyLink's data centers still remains up in the air.

During the provider's Q2 2016 earnings call earlier this month, CenturyLink’s president and CEO, Glen Post, said that the probable sale of its facilities will be announced by the end of the third quarter or the beginning of the fourth. Post also assured customers and analysts during the call that regardless of the final decision on whether to sell or retain its data centers, colocation would be a part of CenturyLink's future.

CenturyLink only owns a small percentage of the data center facilities in which its services are being housed, according to Avnet's FitzGerald. Whether the provider decides to ultimately sell off its own data centers or not, Avnet doesn't believe the decision will affect CenturyLink's ability to deliver solutions, he said.