Equinix Channel Chief On ‘Next-Level’ Dell Alliance, xScale And Bullish Partner Goals

The data center giant’s global channel chief Jules Johnston talks about Equinix’s multi-billion xScale data center push, its bold new partnership with Dell Technologies and partner plans to take over 50 percent of its business through the channel.

Equinix’ First-Ever Global Channel Leader Jules Johnston

Equinix’s global channel chief Jules Johnston is dead set on elevating Equinix’s channel to soon represent over 50 percent of the data center giant’s total business.

“We’re marching very purposely toward our goal to be greater than 50 percent of the business through the channel,” said Johnston, senior vice president of global channels at Equinix in an interview with CRN. “In 2018, we ran about 4,000 deals through the channel. We’ve more than doubled that now. So we do over 2,000 deals a quarter through our partners. … We’re spending a lot of time in the market shoulder-to-shoulder with our top partners like WWT and Presidio.”

Equinix is one of the world’s largest data center colocation, interconnect and digital services providers with more than 220 data centers across the globe. Johnston, who has been with Equinix for over five years, recently moved into the newly created worldwide channel chief role as Equinix formed its new global channel organization this year.

In an interview with CRN, Johnston explains Equinix’s revamped channel investment strategy, the company’s bullish multi-billion xScale data center bet, and Equinix’s new “next-level” partnership with Dell Technologies and Dell’s Apex as-a-service program aiming to attract new channel partners.

You just formed a big partnership with Dell Technologies. How important is this for Equinix’s channel strategy?

It’s very important. Actually, Dell executives and Equinix executives are doing a lot of talking to each other’s teams and propagating our story together because it’s really exciting to us. Dell is very committed to offering Equinix bare-metal as-a-service and taking that through their Apex program. They will be making Equinix bare-metal as-a-service available from Dell through their channel partners. That’s a huge next-level partnership for us to date. Our resellers and alliances have not resold us through their channel. As we move in that direction, it will extend our reach very significantly.

If I’m a Dell partner who has never partner with Equinix before, why should I now?

Dell’s partner program has been around and is bigger than ours. So there’s an education as to the uniqueness of the Equinix IBX (International Business Exchange) proposition. But together with Dell to be able to aggregate – not just the physical [infrastructure] that partners are already highly trained, certified and comfortable recommending to their customers – but with the virtual services that Equinix can provide in a data center, that’s a story they need to tell their customers. That’s a story their customers want to take advantage of. So understanding that where the edge is, matters. Then the ability for partners to marry the physical and virtual in any combination for a customer and make it seamless -- they don’t want to miss that boat.

A partner who recommends Equinix with adjacent services is able, on average, to help a customer reduce latency by about 60 percent and reduce network expenses by 30 percent. If you’re a partner and you take a story to a customer that helps them reduce their network expense by 30 percent and their latency by 60 percent as a starting point -- and wrap their own value-added service around that – it’s a really good conversation to initiate.

What is Equinix’s partner goal in terms of driving more sales through the channel?

We set a lofty goal for ourselves in terms of the share of the business that Equinix expects to get from our partners. We’re bringing our teams together in one organization to get our arms around the march to have [channel sales] exceed 50 percent of our business. It just makes sense. They’re a pretty beefy share of the contributions right now. To chart that next phase, we wanted to bring the team together. We’ve been making progress.

The channel represents about 30 percent of the business now, correct?

A few years ago, it was probably around 20 percent of the business. We’re now consistently over 30 percent of the business every quarter, with some regions exceeding that. We’re marching very purposely toward our goal to be greater than 50 percent of the business through the channel.

In 2018, we ran about 4,000 deals through the channel. We’ve more than double that now. So we do over 2,000 deals a quarter through our partners. This is also why we brought the channel team together because we’ve been purposely focusing on our largest partners who are integrating Equinix into their solution.

A few years ago, those larger partners represented a small share of our channel number, but last year, our top 30 partners did over half of the total channel bookings. So we’re now doing greater than 50 percent of the channel number through the top 30 partners. That’s also part of bringing our channel group together so we can better serve those big global partners in a consistent way regardless of region.

Are you hiring more channel executives?

We absolutely are. My role was newly created. Then we hired the company’s first vice president of channel in Europe and in Asia/Pacific in May. This month, we hired [my replacement] as I had been the vice president of the America’s channel. So we hired three new vice presidents of channel in an organization that is now over 200 folks and growing.

So a few year ago, there was a much smaller group of people and a much smaller share of the business. Those investments in that level of caliber and talent are proof points that we’re building our channel out. In 2022, we’ll continue to add bench strength at all levels in our partner-facing resources.

Where else is Equinix investing more channel dollars?

We’re also investing in the tools for partners. So there’s been a lot of money and time spent on upgrading our Partner Central Portal. For the first time, we’re now providing a partner direct quoting tool so partners can build their own quotes from a budgetary perspective. As we’ve done more business with partners, they’ve helped by informing us around making them more self-sufficient and making things easier for them. So integrating into their quote tools and providing that extension so they can do more and more Equinix at scale, that’s a big thing we’re doing in addition to giving the human resources. We’re investing in the tools and resources for them to take Equinix to their customers in a more efficient way.

We do a lot to have our Equinix sellers understand what WWT’s network as-a-service is, for example, so they can go together in front of the customers with Equinix sellers acting as subject matters experts to help those top partners on our piece of the puzzle. We’re spending a lot of time in the market shoulder-to-shoulder with our top partners like WWT and Presidio.

Where are Equinix partners making a lot of money today?

Enterprises say they don’t have the in-house talent to move as fast as they need to around digital transformation. So partners with the expertise are going to win. If they can guide enterprises to finalize and implement their digital transformation strategy, that work is out there in abundance. Then partners are wrapping adjacent services around it because it’s not just an Equinix decision. We’re not just a colocation provider only. Our value comes in the community-based ecosystem of over 10,000 customers connecting to each other with direct on-routes to the cloud. So having the future-proof ability to take advantage of that ecosystem is our value.

Customers will need application and workload assessments to decide what’s going to go public and what’s going to go private. They’re going to need testing centers to determine what latency levels are acceptable to them. They will need infrastructure deployment services around it. The big partner opportunity is to say, ‘Equinix is a strategic anchor, what do I wrap around that so I’m pulling through seven- or eight-times the Equinix piece.’ But the Equinix piece is the enabler.

How important is Equinix’s multi-billion xScale data center initiative to win over business from hyperscalers like AWS, Google and Microsoft?

We’re the logical choice for those partners given our reach, investment and the financial health we bring into that equation. It’s not a secret why they would choose Equinix over others as they’re making multi-year bets here. We are the best one.

Adjacent to the xScale strategy, you would find AWS Outposts deployments and Google Anthos deployments also being made. Then Google partners leveraging those so they have the benefits of both. The Microsoft Azure, Google, and AWS channel partners, as much as their business is about those hyperscalers – is never only that. For them to have Equinix participate in multiple hyperscale programs, that’s one big benefit -- having the flexibility to give their customers a choose of providers. Just like how partners give customers the choose of hardware providers, they have the choice of providing any of the major clouds and some of the lowest latency. The xScale development really helps us with compliance, security, providing extremely low latency – those kinds of things are going to take them to another level in those deployments.

Talk about your new role as the global channel chief and Equinix bringing everything under one global organization?

I am thrilled. We just crossed the 90-day mark of having one global channel organization. We began planning for this last year. The full implementation of moving the internal folks and aligning them began a quarter-ago. We’ve hired new regional vice presidents in Asia/Pacific, in the Americas, in Europe, and we brought the teams together and are beginning to find the value for that.

We’re doing it for a couple of reasons, but mostly to elevate the partner experience. Previous we had channel resourcing reporting into multiple different leaders, into multiple different countries and to multiple different sales leaders, but we weren’t aggregating the voice of the partner in the way that we aim to now. So now we are aggregating the partner needs around tools, around our systems and processes, and around our products.

Why is Equinix doubling down on the channel?

One big reason is to take the many partners we are touching, to bring their voice into Equinix so that we can improve and elevate the experience to be more robust and consistent. Even where it’s strong, I think we can replicate those best practices to deliver consistent experience.

Secondly, we’re broadening our product portfolio. We aiming to provide partners with more choice around both the physical and the virtual services they’re delivering to customers. As we do that, we need to bring the product voice for the partner into that process and for Equinix to evolve and become a partner-first company. We want to make sure we’re pulling that partner voice into our processes.