After a year of investing in its team and facilities, Evoque Data Center Solutions enters 2021 with new connectivity options, and ambitions to boost its customer base and presence in the data center business.
“I’m really preparing for 2021 to be all about growth,” said Andy Stewart, the President and CEO of Evoque. “We’re looking forward to getting back to normal, but also to see the payoff on the investments that we’ve been making.”
Evoque Data Center Solutions is among several new players building data center platforms from assets being shed by a large telecom player. The company was formed by Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIP) in late 2018 after it acquired a portfolio of 31 data centers from AT&T for $1.1 billion. With the backing of Brookfield, Evoque could be a player in the wave of mergers and acquisitions in the digital infrastructure sector.
Stewart, who joined the company as CEO last June and previously served as Chief Strategy Officer at TierPoint, said much of 2020 was focused on “fixing things” and positioning Evoque to be a larger player in carrier-neutral colocation.
One key piece of that strategy is connectivity. Evoque has just announced a partnership with ExteNet that will expand cloud and network connectivity services into Evoque’s infrastructure at 14 key data centers throughout the United States.
Building Through the Pandemic
Stewart’s early tenure has been an unusual journey. He was hired via Zoom, and has been leading Evoque through a pandemic that has altered the day-to-day business experience.
“It’s hard to come into an organization and not have the chance to sit down with people face to face, or travel to all the data centers or not be able to get everybody into a room to figure out how to solve problems,” said Stewart. “That’s been challenging. By the same token, it’s given us the ability to focus a little bit more on those on those areas where we needed to improve and change.”
Evoque is focused on the enterprise colocation market. After the carve-out from AT&T, the Evoque team focused on stabilizing its customer base through the ownership transition, and building connectivity as a carrier-neutral provider. That meant adding network providers to many data centers where the primary option has previously been AT&T.
The ExteNet partnership marks the next phase of that initiative. ExteNet is perhaps best known for its leadership in mobile network infrastructure, particularly its huge network of outdoor small cell and DAS networks. But the company has also built a fiber network, and works closely with property owners in commercial real estate, sports and healthcare.
“Our objective in working with ExteNet is to optimize the client experience,” said Donna Henderson, Evoque’s Chief Marketing Officer. “Our alliance gives them added speed, geographic reach, and interconnection flexibility on a single bill. It delivers the range of features they are looking for to be more productive and competitive, both today and into the future.”
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Drew Leonard, the VP of Strategy at Evoque, said the partnership also positions Evoque for the convergence of tech across the digital infrastructure spectrum, including future business driven by growth for 5G wireless and edge computing.
“It expands the breadth of our ecosystem, not just by adding more choice of network service providers in our data centers, but also the capability to bring on buildings that are outside our data centers so our clients can reach additional partners. It can broaden our brand outside of the four walls of our data center.”
Partnering with ExteNet was the fastest way to add these capabilities, Stewart said, an important consideration as Evoque focuses on growth. Another key initiative is to add capacity in existing data centers in strategic markets.
“We’ve been looking at the characteristics of our data centers, and which ones we can profitably and economically expand,” said Stewart. “That expansion piece is pretty critical, since you never want to be tapped out in a market. Growing customers want to see some white space and expansion capability. Otherwise, your competitors start looking more attractive.”
Stewart said Evoque is working with Brookfield on a $150 million, multi-year program to upgrade facilities.
M&A On the Horizon?
Brookfield is interested in developing Evoque as a platform for global M&A in the data center sector. Brookfield is among the large global investors targeting billions of dollars to invest in digital infrastructure, citing extraordinary demand for capital to fuel the data economy.
“Data continues to require massive amounts of capital to complete the 100-year transformation of the backbone of that sector, and the opportunities are global,” said Sam Pollock, CEO of Brookfield Infrastructure Partners, in a recent earnings call. “There’s a lot of new entrants into the market, and we obviously need to pick our spots carefully. I’d say the issue isn’t so much the supply of opportunities on the data center side, but a valuation challenge.”
Stewart says acquisitions are definitely part of the roadmap for growth at Evoque.
“Since I’ve joined Evoque, we’ve looked at over a dozen M&A opportunities, and we’ll continue to work on both domestic and international opportunities,” said Stewart. “Our plan has always been to scale through, through both organic and inorganic growth. We’re working on expansions, but I think it will be a year of some inorganic growth for us as well.”