Rob Bath, Digital Realty: Realty check

04 November 2014 |

Europe is set to be a major focus for Digital Realty over the next couple of years, says VP engineering EMEA Rob Bath. Alex Hawkes gets the inside story from one of the architects of the company’s success.

Headquartered in San Francisco, data centre operator Digital Realty has an impressive international sweep, with business spread across 31 different markets in North America, Asia-Pacific and Europe.

Of these three geographic zones, it is probably fair to say that Europe is the one that the company has least exploited to date. Plans to change that are well underway, claims VP of engineering EMEA Rob Bath.

Indicative of this change is the recent deal with the London Internet Exchange (LINX), which is to site its new PoP in Digital Realty’s Chessington facility. It is LINX’s first new PoP for over six years. Bath believes the exchange was attracted to its Chessington centre by the fact that it is already home to a large community of cloud service providers and content delivery networks, all of whom value the chance to share in a rich and varied ecosystem.

Bath points out that in addition to Chessington, LINX gains access to the company's London portfolio of eight other data centres via satellite vPoPs. He says LINX’s decision also offers it important physical diversity of footprint beyond its current concentration of city-based deployments.

“When we approached LINX, we had in mind their current distribution across the metro, concentrated as it was around [London] Docklands,” he says. “We sold them a vision of where we saw the internet evolving, what that would represent and what we could do for them.”

Enriching the cloud services market is another of Digital Realty’s priorities over the coming years. In partnership with cloud brokerage ComputeNext it has created the Digital Realty Global Cloud Marketplace (GCM). This, says Bath, will offer Digital Realty customers of all sizes easy access to the instant provisioning of on-demand, burstable cloud services from any number of cloud service providers, plus access to a hybrid solution of private, semi-private and public cloud.

Cloud providers signed so far include IBM SoftLayer, Internap, Interoute, GoGrid, and SingleHop. Additional names will be added in the coming months, he promises.

“With our GCM we are attempting to tie enterprise connectivity to cloud service providers, and to automate that function,” he explains. “Cloud providers and connectivity sit indigenously within our centres to facilitate speedy provisioning and turn up. VMWare’s cloud offer is a recent addition.”

CenturyLink, a major Digital Realty customer, is set to be one of the early beneficiaries of the company’s cloud service provider relationships in London and beyond, says Bath.

“We have JVs with them in various parts of the world, mainly in the US and APAC, but Europe too,” he adds.

Digital Realty’s financials suggest a company in the sweet spot of a growth market. But it will not be resting on its past glories.

“For 2015, there are moves afoot to focus more than ever on energy costs,” Bath explains. “As virtualisation becomes more and more widespread, it is important to drive greater cost and operational efficiency, as well as drive higher utilisation. We take corporate social responsibility and green credentials very seriously, but not at the expense of commercial considerations.”

Nor is it done with its European moves by any means: “We’re also expanding in France, working with France-IX, the country’s biggest internet exchange,” he points out. “Soon we’ll be in Amsterdam and working with AMS-IX, and we have plans for Dublin as well. You can expect to us to be expanding into other key European markets too, like Germany and Scandinavia. Europe is definitely going to become more important for us, contributing a lot more to our revenue that has been the case for the part two years.”

Capacity Europe, believes Bath, will give Digital Realty the opportunity to talk about these European plans, and also to have conversations with some of the most important elements in its ecosystem in support of its objectives: network operators and carriers.

“They’ll help us with the metro cloud cluster we’re looking to build, putting glass in the ground to match our other investments,” believes Bath.

Bath has lived and breathed data centres since 2006. From that date he has been intimately involved in the strategic and evolutionary design, build and expansion planning of major sites for a number of data centre owners and operators.

He joined Digital Realty in early 2011 as director of engineering. His principal focus is on leading the engineering, network and infrastructure teams in support of business solutions, a remit that spans property acquisition, design and construction, technology deployment and sales. He is an Electrical Engineering graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and is a Chartered Engineer with the Engineering Council in the UK.