Russell Cozart, SVP Marketing & Product Strategy at Cyxtera, on global multi-tenanted datacenters

In this Episode, Russell Cozart (SVP Marketing & Product Strategy at Cyxtera) shares insights on creating CXD as the ‘new’ paradigm for the modern enterprise, and freeing customers from managing infrastructure while still providing them with full control of their cloud systems.

Episode Transcript:

INTRO: [00.00] Welcome to the Tech in 20 Minutes podcast, where you’ll meet new tech vendors, and learn how they can help your business. At ITBroker.com, we believe tech should make your life better, searching Google is a waste of time, and the right vendor is often one you haven’t heard of before. 

Max: [00.18] Hi, I’m Max Clark and I’m talking with Russell Cozart who is the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Product Strategy for Cyxtera. Russell, thank you for joining!

Russell: [00.24] Absolutely, thanks – good morning.

Max: [00.27] So Russell, what does Cyxtera do?

Russell: [00.30] Cyxtera is a global datacenter provider, so that means that we own and operate datacenters around the world for retail colocation, which means delivering multi-tenanted datacenters space and power for enterprise customers.

Max: [00.50] And in addition to your floor space and datacenter and colocation practice, you now have this service line called CXD that we’re going to talk about. What is CXD?

Russell: [00.58] CXD is Cyxtera’s extensible datacenter platform. It’s a software-defined network fabric that allows us to interconnect our customers to themselves, to other customers, to Cyxtera delivered services, to third party vendors… It is an interconnectivity platform that is programmable, it’s available on demand, it’s seamless network connectivity for our customers to anything that they might want to enable their hybrid strategies.

Max: [01.32] So, Cyxtera has done something really interesting with CXD where it’s not a full public cloud platform and it’s not a bare metal platform. You’re somewhere right in between, and in comparison to market, people that are – you know – based on VMware, V-cloud, that’s a very specific IS type platform, and… you’re not, you’re somewhere – so how do you actually fit in this market, and who’s your target customer?

Russell: [01.52] Yeah, so if you think about the traditional datacenter space, customers are very familiar with consuming and deploying space and power, they’re taking their infrastructure and deploying that into the datacenter, and so when we took a look at the market when we formed Cyxtera, about three years ago now, was, “How do we deliver datacenter products and services faster? How do we deliver datacenter products and services better?” If you think about the traditional paradigm now, for the modern enterprise, their users – the customers – are used to going out to public cloud or going online and instantly point-clicking and provisioning of infrastructure resources, and having access to those today. We’re in contrast with the traditional datacenter over the past twenty years; it’s really been focused on going out and signing a contract and spending three to six months, sometimes nine, and at time even longer for larger enterprise deployments, to go through that process of: procuring the infrastructure, setting up their space, getting the infrastructure deployed, racked and stacked and integrated, and it’s just a very long process time to value. And so, we wanted to model around the ‘new’ paradigm for the modern enterprise. Really, our traditional customer base is the enterprise customers, and we really wanted to deliver on how they’re used to getting infrastructure today. How do we speed up that time to market, and time to value for their business applications? How do we make this a more seamless experience and deliver all the same value? So, we’re somewhere in between the consumption model of public cloud with the cost predictability and security and reliance of traditional datacenter infrastructure. So, we’re taking the best of both worlds and combining them without losing the value and benefits of either, but not being contained into the downsides of each of those models.

Max: [04.04] I like the term ‘time to value’. The traditional datacenter space and world… It’s not necessarily so much the provisioning of the datacentre, or the services, especially in distributed environments, where you’re talking about geographically dispersed locations, it becomes a long-term maintenance that’s – you know, a lot of enterprises struggle with. How do you actually support equipment replacements and cycles? You know, motherboard failures and hard drive swaps, and those sorts of things? So, the utility becomes really nice – so when you’re talking about providing a utility platform, Cyxtera owns all those pieces; the enterprise doesn’t have to worry about who’s supporting this hardware in the datacenter – wherever it happens to be in the world. But then, what I really like about this is, it’s predictable consumption, you know? You’re not talking – I mean, a lot of people get cloud bills and they’re shocked when they see how expensive these things get very quickly, and in the Cyxtera world, you know, you have how many resources I want, like – and this is my bill: my bill’s going to be this each month. And… It’s really actually a neat offering – and then in that case also, you’re not dictating what people are running on the hardware, right? I mean, how do you work with the enterprise, how do you work with the customer to decide what deploys? Do you even have that conversation, or are they just doing everything themselves?

Russell: [05.15] Yeah so, the beauty of what we’re doing is the fact that customers no longer have to care about being the infrastructure managers. So, kind of going back to what you said previously, you’re absolutely right in that we also take on now the burden of owning and managing the hardware, and so customers – I mean let’s be honest – customers don’t want to be in the datacenter management business, they don’t want to be in the infrastructure management business, or the hardware business; they want to focus on the business applications that are bringing value to their internal or external customers. They want to focus on running their business, not to – you know, which traditionally, the cost of doing business, it’s a cost-center that they have to have to support their business. So, what we’ve been able to do is we’ve now gone a little further up the stack than a traditional datacenter provider, in that we now provision and own the hardware, but we still make it available to customers in a dedicated fashion. They have direct access to the lights out board on servers, so they have full control. While we do have conversations with customers about the types of workloads that they’re running in their environment to help them size the environment appropriately, they still have the full flexibility to run whatever they would run if they had gone out and bought the hardware themselves, and put it into their datacentre or into third-party colocation, and they can operate it and treat it just like it’s their own hardware, and their own software that they’re running, and all we’re doing at that point is monitoring for a heartbeat on the servers themselves, and we’re managing the multi-tenant network that’s laying underneath. And so, customers have this full level of control, but they don’t have to engage with all that comes entailed with managing the underlying infrastructure and worrying about you know, the procurement and provisioning, and the monitoring of that hardware.

Max: [07.28] For an enterprise that already has a datacenter or has already moved into public cloud or is on-prem thinking of moving off-prem… What is the ‘aha’ moment for them to look at Cyxtera? What triggers that conversation, and what do you find is the most successful version of that, of that transition? 

Russell: [07.49] Yeah, there are two components that really set Cyxtera apart from any other option or alternative that are out there. One of them is purely datacenter interconnection and capability from a global platform perspective. So, Cyxtera is one of a very small handful of global datacenter providers. So, truly datacenter as a global platform – there are very few providers out there that have the footprint that Cyxtera has of high-quality, amino-certified datacenter assets. So, we’ve got an incredible fleet of sixty-two datacenters around the world, in twenty-nine key markets that… Customers are always looking for ways to reach their customer, where their customer is, and so Cyxtera can provide that on a scale that most other providers can’t do. And in addition to our core benefit and value that we have and we bring to the market, we also have the innovation. So what sets us apart from the traditional datacenter provider that really hasn’t changed in twenty years, is the spirit of innovation, and the fact that we have brought in our own in-house development organization, led by Jason Lockhead, our CTO, who’s the brainchild behind things like Terremark Enterprise Cloud and behind VMware’s foundation portfolio. We have built and developed from the ground up, this green field idea of CXD, and really delivered on something that – you know, before we launched it wasn’t ever found anywhere in the market, especially from a datacenter and provider. So, when customers begin to look at their options of either cloud repatriation or they’re looking at datacenter consolidation and they’re focusing on the attribution of these new mandates in the era of digital transformation and the cloud-first mandates… We are able to deliver on the core datacenter value that you would look for in a major global datacenter provider, but also the innovation that you would find in a much smaller, much more agile start-up type of environment, and we’re able to combine those in a way that – you know, when customers are beginning to do their evaluation, to them we’re speaking in all the right cues, we’re ticking all those boxes that customers have when they’re going down that checklist of who makes the right provider; not just today, but who’s going to grow and scale and meet the challenges that they’re going to face down the road.

Max: [10.36] Is this conversation being driven by the CFO of you know… “Our cloud bill’s too expensive, let’s do something different,” I mean, is this a CISO driving a security conversation, is this an IT Department, you know, and a CIO saying, “I’m looking for a better performance envelope.” I mean, what is that entry point into that discussion with Cyxtera?

Russell: [10.53] Yeah, you’ve just hit on the three key pillars that this splits into in the discussion, right? The CFO is looking for, “I need to get out of the CAPEX game, right? I need to be looking at OPEX, I need to be figuring out how to do subscription-based, I need to understand how to get out of these huge assets on my balance sheet.” They CISO is looking at the dangers, or security concerns, or exposure and risk that they have moving to wholly new security postures for enterprise applications, moving off-prem or moving into the cloud, and so they’re looking for, “How do I get the same value and security around my dedicated private infrastructure?” And then the CIO is challenged with adopting these new strategies for the new modern era of hybrid IT, and you know, “How do I focus on this cloud-first mandate that is coming down, and how do I really transform my legacy infrastructure into something modern that is going to meet the demands of my business unit?” So, we actually have all three of those conversations with all three of those pillars in enterprise, and we’re able to deliver and solve the challenges of all three. So, we really get engaged at – there are so many different entry points into any of those three pillars, but those are always the three pillars of the conversation that we end up having with an enterprise, that allow them to say, “Yep, this is what makes sense to me, this is really how I deliver on the problems I’m having every day, the challenges that I’m tasked with solving.”

Max: [12.30] Cyxtera is a relatively new brand with very old assets underneath it. Can you talk a little about the formation of Cyxtera, and what actually these underlying assets are in your lineage, because if you look at Cyxtera as a three year old company, it’s very young, but if you look at Cyxtera as an asset base, it’s very sophisticated and very old.

Russell: [12.50] That’s right, so Cyxtera was built in 2017, is when we formed the company, with a procurement of the CenturyLink datacenter assets, so our lineage there for the assets themselves, and if you know anything about the history of CenturyLink, it’s actually a combination now of things like Exodus and Savvis that were combined and grown over a very long time, and there was a huge investment into ensuring that these assets were some of the best-in-class, making sure they were amino-certified across the board. So, the average experience of our datacenter operations staff is something like fifteen-plus years, so there’s a huge quality to the – not just the assets – but how we operate them and manage them, and we’ve made huge investments in improving and expanding that footprint, and the quality of those assets that we have. So, we actually combined from BC partners with Medina Capital and Medina Capital is the – you know, comes with the full brain trust of the folks who brought data return and eventually Terremark that was sold to Verizon back in 2011. And, you know, that combination of long history of cloud and datacenter and managed services and managed hosting experience combined with the, you know, the great assets that we acquired from the CenturyLink datacenter business, and combining those together to mesh this new story. So, while the name is new and the brand is new, the experience and the lineage is in this space, and bringing quality to enterprise for solving real challenges in a modern way is just the perfect combination for our customers.

Max: [14.43] Who are your customers? I mean, when you look at your portfolio, let’s say – is it industry, is it geography, is it business segment, is it size, like… Who makes up your customers, and who’s your ideal customer that you’re talking to?

Russell: [14.53] Yeah – the majority of our customers are enterprise customers. So, we have some SMB, some commercial, but the vast majority is enterprise, to global enterprise. So, those are the customers that are really looking for a datacenter as a global platform, those customers who are looking for multi-site deployments working with a single provider; that’s really who our customer is. Now, when you look at it from an industry or a vertical perspective, it really is across the board. Now, we have a high number of financial services, high-tech, healthcare, government… We’ve got some of those key verticals: global retailers, law, education. We see a number of different verticals, but they’re really across the board in terms of where they’re geographically dispersed. You can think obviously, London and New York – those datacenter metros, we have high numbers of financial services. So, it can be a little more distributed by the market that we’re operating in, but from a vertical or industry space it really crosses the board.

Max: [16.02] In the datacenter world, the evaluation is space and power. How much space do I need, how much power do I need, that influences what I’m going to be paying. For somebody looking into a budget cycle around a CXD platform, what are those levers that they would be looking at to start down the road of thinking about, is this the right selection for us, is this the right path for us; what they expect and should be prepared for? 

Russell: [16.27] Yeah so, as customers are beginning to make their evaluation, they’re thinking from a budget perspective about the space and power that they’re going to need for the size of the infrastructure. The traditional buying pattern of a customer and budgeting is for the next peak in demand, right? So, they’re trying to look at how much space and power am I going to need, and in what markets, and traditionally they would go out and they would work with various datacenter providers to actually understand the market rates, and the markets that they want to be in, and then they would begin to look at how much they’re actually going to need and how much contiguous space can I get? And obviously there are some markets that have much more saturation of datacenter providers, so there’s much more available space, and cost is generally lower, and then there are very hot markets that are, you know, there’s not a lot of available inventory in terms of space and power. And, you know, that’s actually one of the reasons that we built CXD, was to enable customers to not have to think about the way that they do it today, so the traditional customer might say, “I need two hundred kilowatts of space and power, and I need that all to be in a contiguous space, so that I don’t have to deploy network infrastructure and compute and storage infrastructure across multiple different caged environments.” And CXD is one of the reasons customers no longer have to think about that with Cyxtera, in that it doesn’t matter if that space is contiguous, in that for all intents and purposes, they can programmatically and seamlessly – via web portal or API – stretch their layer to networks and high-prolo latency speeds, to have what a multi – even within multiple datacenters in a metro – can stretch their network flat across all of those datacenters, and turn it into a single pool of space and power. So, we’re working within the bounds of what our customers are traditional thinking of whenever they’re going out to identify how much space and power they need, and what the cost of the space and power would be, but also being able to take away some of the constraints that they would have normally had in thinking, “Well I might only need a hundred killowatts of power now, but I’m going to need another hundred in twelve months, eighteen months, so I’d better buy it now.” And allowing our customers to get out of that cycle of thinking, “I’ve got to do that,” whereas they can only buy what they need from us now, not worry about paying for that additional hundred k-dub that’s going to sit there idle for the next twelve to eighteen months, and when it comes time to acquire what they need, it can be anywhere in that metro, and for all intents and purposes, they can use and leverage the capabilities from CXD to stretch the network so that it feels like a single, contiguous space for them.

Max: [19.23] Awesome. Russell, thank you so much for your time.

Russell: [19.25] Absolutely, thank you.

OUTRO: [19.28] Thanks for joining the Tech in 20 Minutes podcast. At ITBroker.com, we believe tech should make your life better, searching Google is a waste of time, and the right vendor is often one you haven’t heard of before. We can help you buy the right tech for your business, visit us at ITBroker.com to schedule an intro call.