Interxion sets its sights on Rome
Big Interview

Interxion sets its sights on Rome

Mike Hollands Interxion .jpg

Mike Hollands, director of marketing and business development, at Interxion talks to Capacity about the growing trends in the data centre market and trials the company is currently conducting in Rome.

With work completed on its flagship MRS1 and MRS2 sites in Marseille, work is due to begin on its MRS3 site, situated in a World War II submarine building facility which was abandoned by Germans, which as Hollands says will be “taken up in large chunks by cloud and digital media platforms.”

The decision to continue building out Marseille as Hollands puts it is driven by “a huge amount of demand from our customers for the existing locations we’re in, it’s now following a trend in every city we’re in.”

As well as Marseille, Interxion has announced plans to add an eighth data centre in Amsterdam which will be over 10,000 sqm in size. The same for Paris – where they plan to expanding 500sqm part of the existing PAR7, in Frankfurt – they will soon open FRA14 and most recently the company opened the doors to its LON3 data centre as well.

“Interxion is very much focussed Europe with enough demand to keep us very busy for the foreseeable future,” he says.

But Marseille in particular is a very important location for Interxion because of its forward connectivity to Africa.

Hollands adds: “We have made an investment in a data centre in Mombasa and we’re likely to leverage our presence in Marseille, its link with Africa by perhaps expanding into other locations in East Africa.”

Interxion sees Africa as the next big region from which an influx of data will originate from, though Hollands hastens to add that “It’s not going to get near the volumes we get from India or China anytime soon” and suggesting that now is the time for Infrastructure to start being built to get ready for that.

Clearly it’s not just Interxion that feels this way with multiple submarine cable projects being built in the region a growing number of which involving Chinese players, typically with East Africa first and West Africa after that.

Despite its location, Interxion is not immune from the effects of increased internet traffic and data coming from Asia, not in a technical sense but an operational one.

“We’re dedicating a lot more of our internal resources to our engagement with the like of: China Telecom, China Unicom, China Mobile, China Mobile International and PCCW Global, and on the Indian side as well companies like: Jio, Tata Communications and GCX”

Additionally Hollands points to things like the Belt and Road Initiative launched by the Chinese Government, which has a focus on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries. As a result Hollands says: “It is driving a huge amount of Chinese IT companies and enterprises, that are looking to deploy IT assets in Europe, and a lot of them are preferring to that through the likes of China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile etc. They ask them to arrange for their IT space in Europe.”

It was during his panel on interconnection-rich data centres at Subsea EMEA, that Hollands commented that Marseille has transformed from a transit location to one where data is stored and exchanged’. Explaining exactly what this meant he says:

“As the community of interest grows in Marseille it makes more sense for people to exchange traffic here between one another. As more and more networks began to deploy their IP equipment in Marseille you save that extra cost, and time if you could exchange that traffic in Marseille.”

Talking to him about the Marseille market it appears to have been a snowball effect. According to Hollands in 2014 there were approximately 50 networks and since then a further 80 have come to there to exchange traffic with one another. At same time he says that CDNs like Limelight, Verizon Digital Media services, Cloudflare, have also deployed in Marseille again “because it make more sense, as it all has destination for Africa and the Middle East anyway.“

He also commented that ‘London has become a bit of a bottle neck’ during his panel session but when questioned on whether Marseille runs the same risk of becoming one he says: “To one degree or another that’s always going to happen regardless of what city you’re talking about when it gets to a certain critical mass.”

He says that some customers are already looking for diverse locations to Marseille and while this is a concern another important factor to remember is the commercialising of a cable.

“Landing a cable in a diverse location with no one to buy and sell capacity from, causes challenges. We still see that the cables that are trying to sell capacity will still want to come to Marseille because of the big community of other networks that can buy capacity from them.”

But steps are being taken at Interxion to try and mitigate the risk of that happening. Hollands says that by building their data centres 4km away and by having diverse routes out of the city to other locations, they are adding another layer of diversity and resilience.

“No successful hub doesn’t encounter the issue of becoming a bottle neck and then people come up with differentiated solutions to avoid that bottle neck,” he says.

Most excitingly in my conversation with Hollands is the news that the company is currently conducting data centre trials in Rome, with a view of building its own facility there and ultimately building the ecosystem to enable it to become the next hub.

On why Interxion chose Rome, Hollands explains: “At the moment if you look at Italy, Milan is the connection hub with many data centres very well served but there’s no carrier neutral facility like Interxion in Rome at the moment. Italy is a very long country and for everything to happen in one city, for a country like Italy it really doesn’t make much sense, what does make sense is that somewhere else develops.”

The primary purpose of the trials is to learn and understand the Italian market. The tests are being carried out with Wind Tre, using its data centre to house a small Interxion deployment giving a few customer colocation services.

“It’s really about learning about the Rome marketplace and as we learn more we may consider building our own facility, this is really why we’re there, “he explains.

But launching a new site in a location that isn’t a hub, poses its own problem and I wondered if Rome had enough backhaul infrastructure and onward connectivity for it to be a viable option.

Hollands says there is but it would need everyone to be aligned with the strategy in order for it to work.

“That’s one of the things you need, everyone with a similar vision like we’ve got in Marseille. Submarine cables, backhaul providers, internet exchanges, CDNs, everybody deciding that there’s mutual benefit to make this happen.

Rome-based internet exchange Namex appear to be very much involved with the initiative they’re and have deployed themselves into Interxion’s test locations, Hollands says that they have worked a lot with them to progress the market tests.

Hollands says the test, which should come to a conclusion by the end of year, are trying to answer the question of Rome viability of being a hub – “we think it’s going to turn out to be a yes.” But all the market players would need to aligned, “we wouldn’t want to build a data centre that didn’t include all of those players,” he says.  

With some much on its plate it still comes as no surprise that for the foreseeable future Interxion will continue building in existing locations where it has data centres.

“We’re seeing off the chart demand for the locations we’re currently in,” says Hollands.

The company recently refinanced itself recently for $1 billion, “to reduce our cost of borrowing, which saves us a considerable amount of money,” he says, which can then be used to build more data centres and some of which “was also used to push ahead with new data centre expansion in Marseille, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris,” he explains.

They are also investing in its Cloud Connect Platform, which is deployed at all Interxion facilities now, meaning that more and more cloud service providers are joining – attracting more customers to connect onto it.

The plan? Growth and expansion throughout Europe.

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