Big Interview

Living Life on the Edge

Sara Baack.jpg

Capacity speaks to Sara Baack, chief product officier, Equinix, about the company’s plan for network edge services and her personal journey navigating the industry as a woman in telecoms.

2019 has been a big year for Equinix in terms of product development. Speaking to Sara Baack, Equinix’s chief product officer, I was curious to know what the company’s plans were specifically in its network edge services portfolio after its recent product launch.

“In June, we announced Network Edge as a new way to deploy virtual, digital-ready, and vendor-neutral network functions on Equinix’s global interconnection platform,” said Baack. 

“We designed it to accelerate digital transformation and support network optimisation for global businesses by bringing seamless, low-latency network functions closer to end users, clouds and valuable ecosystems.”

As Network Edge is activated across Equinix’s sales organisation, the company continues to add new vendors, functions, features and geographic coverage to the portfolio.

“We want to empower companies to be everywhere they need to be to interconnect everyone and integrate everything that matters to their business,” Baack says.

Adding to the company’s already impressive suite of products is Platform Equinix. It is the largest global platform of interconnected data centres and business ecosystems. Speaking to Baack I questioned how it will evolve in light of new architecture and hybrid cloud adoption. Will it be up to the challenge of future networking requirements?

“Platform Equinix will continue to be more agile and evolve along with our customer needs,” she says.

Additionally, Equinix opened the doors to its eleventh data centre in Tokyo. Perhaps an indicator of further regional expansion in the near future?

“We are certainly excited about the opening of TY11, which will be the largest data centre in Tokyo and is located close to key venues for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” she says. “But Tokyo is just a small part of our plans. This year Equinix plans to open 12 new International Business Exchange (IBX) data centres and expand 21 existing IBX data centres globally.

Unsurprisingly, Asia and Europe are the two key areas of focus, with entry into two new markets.

“Upcoming openings include additional IBX centres in Melbourne, Sydney, Singapore and Warsaw,” explains Baack. “We are also entering two new markets in 2019. We recently announced a new IBX in Seoul, South Korea. We will also be entering Hamburg, which given its proximity to the North Sea will provide easy access for subsea cable landing stations.”

As the conversation takes a more personal turn, I take the opportunity to speak to Baack about her experience as a woman in the traditionally male-dominated data centre space. In fact, on Equinix’s own executive management page, she is one of two female senior executives listed, out of a total of eleven. 

Interestingly Baack says its our similarities we need to keep at the forefront of our mind not our differences adding that she had a fairly positive experience of this industry.

“We as people, no matter our gender or race or nationality, are similar in a couple of regards. Firstly, we play more than one role. The second way in which I think people are similar is that they tend to gravitate to those they can identify with,” Baack says.

“What’s important here is for all of us to recognise that diversity (of all types) in an organisation is a powerful lever to drive bottom line results. You then have to purposefully introduce ways in which a team or an organisation can reduce unconscious bias that acts against diversity. The best organisations in the industry are the ones acknowledging these issues and taking steps to counteract them. I don’t think I’ve run into many who don’t see opportunities here; they just need tools for action.”

No real conversation around diversity and inclusion can create tangible change without first being inclusive of men and influencing the culture of our industry. Baack, shares that it was her network of male allies that helped her in her career.

“It’s also worth pointing out that while being a woman in technology has come with obstacles, for much of my career I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by supportive men who have been fantastic partners, sounding boards and sources of counsel,” she adds. For the near future, Baack and her team will continue to evolve Platform Equinix to “meet the changing needs of our customers in the throes of digital transformation.”

While on the product side of organisation, she says they will “continue to scale our colocation and interconnection offerings and are incubating a number of new capabilities that we hope will keep us a step ahead in supporting digital infrastructure needs, both physical and virtual.”