For Evoque Data Centers, the upside of acquiring a portfolio of 31 AT&T data centers is the ability to launch a new brand with a global network of colocation facilities in key business markets. But the deal also came with a challenge: The business and its more than 1,000 customers have been focused on connectivity provided by AT&T.
As Evoque nears the six-month mark, the company’s leadership is focused on building a carrier-neutral future, where clients can connect to a growing universe of clouds, carriers and partners.
“Our biggest priority is to develop a more carrier-neutral posture,” said Tim Caulfield, the CEO of Evoque. “During the first quarter we have built out meet-me-rooms in all the domestic facilities.”
Evoque is among the new players hoping to capitalize on changes in corporate IT and how it is delivered. Many enterprises are seeking to create more nimble IT infrastructure to deploy new types of applications, both for in-house and consumer apps. As these companies move workloads to third-party data centers and cloud platforms, they are realizing the importance of a strong, diverse network that can connect all facets of these new architectures.
Deploying More Meet-Me-Rooms
Caulfield and the Evoque team are working to make that happen, adding connectivity to many data centers where the primary network option has previously been AT&T.
“We expect that by the end of the year we will have a much more diverse footprint,” said Caulfield. “From the customer’s perspective, they want options with carriers, and the ability to reach hyperscalers. We’re building out additional carrier infrastructure in caged space, separate from AT&T’s presence. In all of their facilities, AT&T had their own network node.”
The Evoque team created a design for a repeatable meet-me-room (MMR) design that could be deployed quickly across national footprint. “We had to audit the environment and conduit available in each facility,” said Caulfield.
He said they are also working with companies offering software-defined networking services, which can allow customers to easily provision connections through a customer portal, making it easier to exchange traffic with networks and partners, and even across data centers and regions.
“We’re working with carriers as well as SDN providers like Megaport,” said Caulfield. “We don’t see them as a replacement (for cross connects), but as a quick alternative. By having Megaport build in, we open up a whole range of services and have access to the hyperscalers.”
New Life for Telco Data Centers
Evoque is a data center company formed by Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIP), which acquired the AT&T portfolio for $1.1 billion. The deal, which was announced last June and closed on Dec. 31, represents the latest effort to create a data center platform from assets being shed by a large telecom player. Other efforts employing this theme include Cyxtera’s $2.8 billion deal to buy the CenturyLink colocation business, and the sale of 24 Verizon data centers to Equinix for $3.6 billion in 2017.
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BIP is an infrastructure fund that seeks returns over a long asset life in sectors like utilities, transportation and energy. Data infrastructure is a new focus area, and the AT&T asset purchase marks Brookfield’s entry into the U.S. data center market. In 2018 BIP also partnered with Digital Realty to acquire the Ascenty data center business in Brazil, a market where Brookfield has extensive experience.
Evoque will focus on the enterprise colocation market, with 31 data centers across 11 counties, including 18 in North America, including sites in Boston, New York/New Jersey, Northern Virginia, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Irvine, San Diego, Seattle and San Jose.
“We now have one full quarter under our belts,” said Caulfield. “The first quarter went very well. We hit all our key milestones, and we’re pleased with the amount of sales activity we’re seeing.”
Caulfield is a veteran of leadership roles at Exodus, Cable & Wireless, Savvis and American Internet Services, and brought along the executive team from his consultancy The Antara Group to launch and operate the Evoque business.
Caulfield said the transition has gone well, with few of the integration challenges that sometimes emerge when new owners take over an operating business. Communications issues were the primary challenge.
“AT&T had not communicated with their customers as well as we had hoped.” said Caulfield. “We had to do some communicating about the transaction and who we were. Some large customers were notified by AT&T, but a lot of people got surprised.”
The Evoque team is continuing to work closely with AT&T on transitioning billing. The next challenge will be supporting growth in its international locations, which include data centers in London and Redditch in the UK, along with Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris, Bangalore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo and Sydney.
“Solidifying our international presence and strategy is key,” said Caulfield. “We need business development resources in EMEA and Asia. People are asking ‘how do we know you’re serious about the region?’ We have to address that.”
With the backing of Brookfield, Evoque could be a player in the wave of mergers and acquisitions in the data center sector, using the AT&T assets as a platform to build for the long term.
“There’s a lot going on in the market,” said Caulfield. “We are working with Brookfield to look at opportunities that might be a good fit, and there are several. Brookfield can do the early shopping.”