07 May 2018
| James Pearce
Interxion is about to go live with its second data centre facility in Marseille, with plans to add a third in motion, and Colt is already announced as a key partner. James Pearce spoke to Interxion’s Mike Hollands and Colt’s Andrew Edison about why companies are investing in Marseille
The city of Marseille, the second largest city in France,
was once one of the most important trading cities in Europe for
the ancient Greeks and Romans. Now, as the largest port for
commerce, freight and cruise ships in France, it is also one of
the key Mediterranean hubs for data.
Typically, when talking about the geography of the internet,
the key European hotspots have been Frankfurt, London,
Amsterdam, and Paris – known as FLAP. But an explosion
in demand for data in Africa, the Middle East and Asia and the
deployment of new subsea cable systems has opened the door for
Marseille to become a new European hub.
The predicted growth of data to he Middle East, Africa and
Asia is eye-catching. The Cisco Visual Networking Index
estimates that internet traffic in the Middle East and Africa
is set to grow six-fold by 2020 to 10.9 exabytes per month.
Traffic in Asia Pacific is forecast to grow three-fold to 67.8
exabytes per month over the same period. That, according to
Interxion’s Mike Hollands, is why the data centre
company is investing heavily into the region. He explains:
"Marseille is becoming now a key gateway for traffic." That is
why, he adds, Interxion is launching its second and third data
centres in the city.
If we rewind back to 2014, Interxion made its first move
into the city through an acquisition. It snapped up the SFR
Netcenter data centre, which ultimately became Interxion
MRS1, for a total of around €45 million, of which
€20m million was associated with the purchase of the
freehold land and buildings.
At the time, MRS1 served as a transit and caching node for
around 60 network providers but now the 6,500 sq m space serves
around 135 networks and 13 subsea cable systems. There were
just eight connected at the time of the acquisition.
This explosion in connectivity options, along with the
growing onward demand coming out of Europe, was
a key component to Interxion’s investment
plans. These include a new 4,500 sq m facility –
called MRS2 – which is being built around 4km away
from MRS1, with the first phase due to go live in June. Then
there are the plans for MRS3, which is going to be built next
to MRS2. Hollands adds: "We’ve already got part of
the space ready and the first major space becomes ready on 1
June. The original data centre is around 6,500 sq m but this
one is about 4,500 sq m."
So why build more in the same location? It "reflects the
first major, diverse location in Marseille away from where our
existing MRS1 data centre is located," he replies. "In the past
all of the traffic from the 13 submarine cable systems that
land in Marseille and from the 135 networks present in the city
were based in MRS1 and there has been a demand from cloud and
content providers that are arriving there for more diversity in
"So rather than just MRS1 being the core focus of this
traffic, a diverse location to add to resilience but also to
ensure there is a second site – so it
doesn’t just become a satellite of the first site.
So traffic can exit the second data centre and go straight to
the major cities in Europe without having to go via MRS1."
Diversity of routes
That diversity of routes is being demanded by
Interxion’s partner base, both new and old, as
they see more and more data coming into and out of Marseille.
With more data and more connection comes greater risk of a
single point of failure – something no operator or
data centre provider would want.
If you don’t believe what impact this could
have, consider this from Interxion’s director
marketing and strategy for connectivity Michael Rabinowitz in
an article he wrote for Capacity in March. The knock-on
commercial effects, he says, of major outages "can be
catastrophic for both providers and business customers." In it,
he outlined five of the biggest outages, such as the AWS outage
in 2017 or the impact of the DDoS attack on Dyn in 2016.
Having diversity can help allay the impact of such failures
on a single point, and customers recognise the need for
alternative routes in the same location, says Hollands. He
points to subsea cable AAE-1 as an example.
"What we have in the submarine cable system AAE-1 is for the
first time a system that asked for two PoPs in Marseille
– half in MRS-1 and half of the traffic lands in
MRS-2," Hollands explains. "The reason for that is because the
volume of traffic that was passing through MRS-1 was becoming
so large it would be a concern for any network planner that it
was a single point of failure that was too big to fail.
And so, MRS2 was built, with capex of around €76
million. "By having invested in a second data centre and with
other networks coming to that location and providing diverse
routes out of Marseille, we have together provided a solution
for the likes of AAE-1 – a solution that really
removes that horrible single point of failure situation that
they were looking to avoid."
The carrier community has responded too, with Colt
Technology Services becoming one of the first carriers to
announce a point of presence in MRS2. This accompanies the
carrier’s existing PoP in MRS1 and diversity was a
key part of Colt’s thinking, says VP of wholesale
He adds: "We have three core areas of focus: helping other
operators, carriers and service providers meet their own
internal needs and those of their end customers; digital
transformation services through our high bandwidth optical
network – the IQ Network; on helping companies become
more agile and to boost their customer experience through
"Marseille fits into this picture across three points. It is
important from a connectivity standpoint. We’d
already invested into MRS-1 in 2016, and we’ve
seen that Marseille is an important hub to provide connectivity
into and out of the European region. There are around 130
connectivity partners who come into MRS-1 and that makes it a
very important strategic opportunity for us," says Edison.
He adds: "We want to support the demand on that traffic
coming in. We’ve seen an explosive growth in
internet demand and internet traffic. That internet traffic is
primarily trying to get to the data, content and applications
which are housed in Europe. Out of Marseille we bring our high
bandwidth optical network and then we can pull that traffic to
all the key peering points and data centres across Europe."
Though London-based Colt is traditionally seen as a European
operator, it has recently invested in expanding its presence in
Asia – notably in Singapore and Hong Kong –
and the Americas. But it is the former of these areas that make
investing in the additional PoP in Marseille even more
important, Edison tells me. "What has been driving our growth
in other areas is the need to support our European base of
customers and this deep presence we have in Europe," he
"We’re seeing that customer demand expand
outside of Europe but what they want is the same level of
experience, consistency continuity, which we are looking to
replicate as we build out. Our core market is here in Europe
and that’s where our density of customer activity
is – we’re looking to support their own
end connections into the market," he adds.
Single point of failure
"Both on the wholesale side and in the retail business, the
submarine operators and other service providers
we’re dealing with really want to have a second
route. They are looking for diversity, security, flexibility
and, if we can show there isn’t a single point of
failure in the Marseille hub, that gives them more comfort
around doing business with us and the service levels they can
offer back to their own end user customers. We see increasing
demand for data and traffic and our customers are looking to
serve that demand over multiple links rather than one single
Colt is a key partner for Interxion, Hollands explains, as
it has the highest number of cross connects with other
operators in Interxion data centres with a presence in 42 of
its sites. "This has led to Colt being arguably the most
popular network with customers we serve in our data centre," he
For Interxion – the lead data centre partner at the
upcoming Subsea Connect EMEA event, being held in Marseille in
July – the likes of Colt is vital to its own outward
Hollands explains: "For us to deliver a data centre and
diverse location is only part of our story. Colt is providing
another part – a modern network with diverse routes
out of Marseille and providing services that are very popular
with the clients that we serve."
the Middle East,