Cologix: the value of data centre interconnectivity
With 26 data centre facilities across nine markets in North America housing up to 450 network service providers and more than 250 cloud service providers, Cologix is a data centre and interconnection company that stands at the centre of a rapidly growing industry.
“Cologix focuses on the part of the data centre industry that is sensitive to, and finds value in, interconnection and connectivity,” says Grant van Rooyen, the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO). “Within most of our markets, we operate either a primary or secondary meet-me-room offering the broadest choice of network and cloud service providers within those markets.”
As a network neutral data centre and interconnection company, Cologix prides itself on its “interconnection ecosystem” made up of a range of communities of interest that include: enterprises, media/content companies and financial institutions.
“These businesses are attracted to our facilities because they have the option to choose from many different network providers and cloud service providers,” says van Rooyen. “This choice provides them with cost savings and scalability and the peace of mind knowing that if their strategy changes suddenly, they can switch providers as simply as changing a cross connect.”
The true value in Cologix’s data centre facilities lies in the interconnection and access to that ecosystem, as it enables customers to access substantially lower switching costs and a greater choice of providers.
Cologix operates in markets that van Rooyen considers as “alternatives” to the largest Tier I markets. Instead of New York City, Chicago and Miami, Cologix hosts facilities in New Jersey, Minneapolis, Columbus and Jacksonville. For example, Columbus is a key, rapidly expanding market for Cologix, as the company has two large existing data centres there and is currently building a third – Columbus 3.
At 160,000-SQF, housing four 20,000 sq ft halls with a capability of 20MW, Columbus 3 will be the most significant facility in Cologix’s current portfolio and the largest and most advanced multi-tenant data centre in the region.
“Columbus is a fibre crossroads, where networks come together,” says van Rooyen. “Columbus 3 will not only be the most connected facility in Ohio, but will also enable the lowest latency onramp to Amazon Web Services (AWS) Direct Connect.”
AWS Direct Connect enables customers connect their infrastructure via a secure and private connection to the AWS Cloud to improve performance and reduce costs compared to onramps via the public Internet.
Columbus 3 is earmarked for construction completion by December later this year.
The facility sits on the same 8 acre campus as both of Cologix’s existing data centres, Columbus 1 and Columbus 2. Cologix purchased the land next to these facilities in order to create a campus that could provide scalability to the company’s existing customer base.
“It keeps all the connectivity within the family,” says van Rooyen. “Any carriers and cloud providers in our existing facilities will be immediately available to our customers using the Columbus 3 facility.”
A changing market
Columbus 3 was born from the recognition of three major trends across the data centre industry, trends that Cologix needed to take advantage of in order to grow further.
Large network service companies such as Google and Netflix are placing servers and switches closer and closer to the end users in edge markets – opting to choose locations such as Columbus as opposed to the larger cities in order to provide lower latency and performance.
“This allows them to distribute content more effectively and creates huge demand for us as a business,” says van Rooyen.
As these large network providers are moving closer, there has been an increase in cloud service providers and enterprises outsourcing their data centre operations.
Cloud service providers are proving to be the fastest growing segment in the industry, and they turn to Cologix because their data centres allow these companies to tap into the greatest reach in their markets.
“Taking space in a data centre is a significant commitment, as the minute you bolt down servers to grow and connect them to networks you are committed to that location,” adds van Rooyen. “But what if something changes in their strategy? Trying to move a data centre is a very hard, painful and expensive process.”
By using Cologix’s data centres, customers are exposed to the broadest supply of network and cloud providers. Should they require a new network provider, they do not have to move data centres or rip up those servers. This, van Rooyen believes, adds true value to what Cologix can offer.
Spared no expense
Columbus 3 will not only be the most connected data centre facility in Columbus and the broader Ohio region, but it will also utilise some of the most innovative technology solutions in the data centre space.
One of the biggest challenges for any data centre provider and operator revolves around the issue of energy usage and the cooling systems in place. Cooling and heat has been identified as the largest source of energy usage.
For Cologix, Columbus 3 has an answer for that.
“Every location where we build a data centre has a unique cooling application,” says Mike Putnicki, Vice President of Construction.
“We have chosen an extremely scalable, efficient cooling application which we can easily increase capacity. We don’t have to operate a huge cooling plant and that provides substantial savings on upfront capital cost and energy usage.”
Columbus 3 will feature a cooling system that allows for free cooling several months of the year.
“It’s strictly dependent on the environment, so we pick the right solution for that environment,” says Putnicki. “For Columbus 3 we’ve used new technology that uses air cooled pumped refrigerant systems. It really is the most efficient scalable solution as it enables us to take advantage of the months of free cooling in Columbus.
One of the specifications of Columbus 3 that may raise an eyebrow is its ability to withstand an EF4 tornado. Not the first thought that springs to mind when considering a data centre facility, but it is this exact mind-set that van Rooyen believes can make the difference.
There is no other EF4 rated data centre in Ohio and in a market where customers place mission critical infrastructure with Cologix, this rating represents much more than simply tornado resistance.
“Cologix’s philosophy is to go above and beyond to offer that extra degree of confidence for our customers,” says van Rooyen.
“We’ve spared no expense because we understand that ultimately, our customers choose use because they trust us to keep their critical business infrastructure safe. That philosophy has transferred right through to Columbus 3.”
The future of Cologix
With construction well under way, and users and network providers already lined up to populate Columbus 3, Cologix can turn to the future. With year over year of consistent growth that has seen major expansion across multiple geographies, supporting up to 1,600 customers to date, what’s next for the company?
For van Rooyen, turning to tomorrow starts with looking back.
“The best indicator of the future is the past. We are a company which has grown in equal parts by acquisition and organic build, which will only continue into new markets,” he says.
“I also expect a robust construction platform to continue whereby in every one of our markets we have completed major projects. Our first responsibility for our customers is ensuring they continue to have capacity to grow into, and that is a huge part of our construction capability.
“Our builds are going to be larger in scale than they have in the past and that’s a reflection of the confidence and demand in our markets, and the efficiencies we can gain by building faster.”