Citing the need for “urgent action” to protect staff and uptime, colocation provider Equinix will restrict access to its data centers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, the company said early Monday. Customers in those countries will no longer be permitted to enter Equinix facilities to access their equipment as of Monday, with Equinix staff providing services normally handled by customers.
The policy shift reflects the intensifying nature of the Coronavirus crisis in Europe, as well as the increasingly mission-critical nature of data center operations as large portions of the world go on lockdown, relying on the Internet to conduct business, school and essential purchases.
“As COVID19 continues to pose unique challenges around the world, our number one priority is the safety of our employees, customers, and partners,” the company said in announcing the access restrictions. “It is important to note that all Equinix IBXs are currently in full operation, including those with limited or restricted access. We continue to align with local government and public health guidance.”
Most major data center operators have been limiting access to their facilities, which house servers and network equipment that power many of the world’s leading social media, video platforms, and cloud computing services. As the leading operator of interconnection services, Equinix plays a particularly critical role in keeping data traffic moving across the Internet.
“The continuity of our services remains front and center,” Equinix said in its COVID19 update page. “This is of special importance when it comes to infrastructure supporting the health, financial, government and technology sectors critical to maintaining public health and stabilizing the economy.”
Mission-Critical, Across the Globe
As a result, it is essential that the data centers run by Equinix and its peers continue to operate, and remain virus-free to every extent possible. A Coronavirus outbreak inside a data center could, over time, create serious challenges in maintaining customer uptime.
That’s a scenario every data center wants to avoid, and companies across the industry have taken steps to limit access and screen both staff and visitors to prevent exposure to the virus. This is a challenge for colocation facilities, which lease cages and cabinets in which companies can operate their IT equipment. Customers place their own servers and storage equipment in their space, install new equipment, and handle any maintenance when equipment breaks.
Data centers are highly-automated facilities, and as a result can operate with limited staffing, which typically includes security staff, IT technical teams and facilities management personnel. Customers and vendors are frequently on site to manage IT hardware and power and cooling infrastructure.
Equinix has already sought to reduce access by asking customers to limit their site visits to critical work, and instead use Equinix technicians to perform this work via “smart hands” support services at their data centers, known as IBXes.
With Sunday’s order, Equinix said the growing outbreaks in France, Germany, Italy and Spain requires it to lock down facilities, with only Equinix staff allowed inside. As of Sunday, Italy had more than 53,500 cases and over 4,800 deaths, surpassing China as the country with the highest death toll. Germany, France and Spain are now seeing dramatic increases in cases, according to media tracking.
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This prompted Equinix to take the next step in its business resiliency planning.
“Effective Monday March 23 at 8:00 am CET (Central European Time, UTC+1) until further notice, visitors, customers, customer contractors and non-critical Equinix vendors will not be permitted to enter the IBX facilities in France, Germany, Italy and Spain,” the company said in a global advisory. “The remaining IBXs, except those in Asia-Pacific, will be moving to an appointment-only protocol as of 8 am local time on Wednesday, March 25.”
Equinix said it would offer free smart hands for support services that are “business critical” and would normally require a customer site visit. The company is asking customers to limit support requests to critical work only.
Responses From Customers, Community
Some European customers expressed concern on Twitter, noting that although colocated equipment can be managed remotely, that’s not true for equipment upgrades to boost capacity, which is a current focus for many enterprise customers and service providers. They also expressed concern about the handling of shipments of equipment to data centers.
Others expressed support for Equinix, saying it as taking a necessary step to protect the health of its staff and operations of its data centers.
“Equinix is doing the right thing here for their customers and employees,” tweeted Dan Golding, a veteran of the data center networking business “I support them here. This seems like a very reasonable step”
A similar sentiment was expressed by another veteran in data center networking.
Hey data center world – follow the footsteps of @Equinix and do the right thing
Everyone else: You want to be a hero? Stay home. That’s the hero we need
— Christian Koch (@mrchristiankoch) March 22, 2020
Tech analyst Greg Ferro summarized the big picture concerns.
Look, its serious. In a few days, no one in Europe is leaving the house. Its going to get a lot worse, its going to be 2 months before you can plan anything.
If you have a technical problem, its not an emergency. Its a ‘too bad’, I’m not going to die over it. Stay at home.
— EtherealMind (Greg Ferro) (@etherealmind) March 22, 2020
Most major data center service providers have set up pages for Coronavirus policy and operations updates. Here’s a list of some prominent providers.
Data Center Service Provider COVID Information
- Digital Realty
- Iron Mountain
- QTS Data Centers
- Cushman & Wakefield