Equinix seeking to expand partner sales with interconnect story

Dick O’Hara, ‎Senior Director, Worldwide Partner Programs at Equinix

Interconnect and colocation provider Equinix has been broadening out its formerly direct model over the last two years. While the strategy was ad hoc at first, it has become increasingly disciplined, with more emphasis on partners who can build a solution on top of Equinix’s interconnect capabilities.

Equinix has recently drawn media buzz for its $3.6 billion acquisition of Verizon data centres in the U.S. and Latin America, which just closed today. However, while this deal will significantly enhance Equinix’s colocation capabilities, that isn’t what they want from their channel.

“We have been clear from the middle of last year that we don’t want colo resellers,” said Dick O’Hara, ‎Senior Director, Worldwide Partner Programs at Equinix. “We can do that ourselves. We want solution resellers, who understand what they are trying to deliver for your customers, and who can best leverage our facilities and interconnects to build a solution that encompasses those things together.” For instance, Equinix just launched a partnership with enterprise cloud solution provider Unitas Global, which combines Unitas Global’s managed cloud design and deployment services together with Equinix’s colocation and interconnection solutions, including Performance Hub and Equinix Cloud Exchange.

O’Hara said that Equinix has now had twelve consecutive quarters of growth with the partner community, although not all of that has been with a systematic strategy.

“It goes back to when we attempted to become channel friendly,” he said. “At the beginning of that, three years ago, it was really the Wild West when it came to channel. If you had a heartbeat and Web access you could be a partner. Q2 of 2015 was when we started to put some definition about what we were doing together, and we introduced a standardized partner program across the globe in March 2015.”

O’Hara said the partnering philosophy has shifted since the program as well.

‘After starting with the Wild West, with the program we went to swim lanes, where we wanted partners in specific lanes,” he said. “Now it’s much more about partnering the way you want to partner.”

O’Hara acknowledged, however, that there is still some friction with some of their direct people.

“It’s often very difficult to move a historically direct company into working with partners,” he said. “It’s still a challenge. There are a lot of legacy folks who you have to train every time they work with a partner.”

In addition to Equinix’s base with large alliance partners, MSPs have become a significant part of their channel, as well as traditional resellers like New Signature, and former telco agents.

“We have an agent community that was historically telecom, but which started to get into cloud and colo more recently,” O’Hara said. “They have been a great lead engine for hundreds of colo opportunities, but if we train them to ask a few more questions, instead of bring us a colo opportunity, they bring an end-to-end solutions opportunity, so we aren’t just selling space and power. Everybody wins.”

The amount of business done through partners is relatively small, but it is significant in new logo acquisition.

“16 per cent of new bookings this fiscal year were channel, up from 15 per cent last year, but 40 per cent of new logos came through channel partners,” O’Hara said. “That’s extremely significant because the company is laser-focused on new logos. New logo customers may only start with a revenue stream of a few thousand a month, but down the road, it’s a lot more. We really believe in a ‘land and expand’ strategy. So given this, it’s likely that our channel business will do nothing but accelerate.”

O’Hara said that even referrals brought to them by partners close at a comparatively high rate.

“I’ve been at companies where a five per cent close rate on opportunities brought to us by partners was very good news,” he said. “We close closer to 30 per cent of opportunities brought to us by partners.”

O’Hara said the case for interconnectivity makes increasing sense for their customer base, where more than 80 per cent are in ore than one metro area – and 58 per cent are in three regions – typically Americas, Europe and APAC . That changing nature of customer demand is increasing the emphasis on partner ability to go beyond colo.

“Customers don’t look at Equinix any more as just a place to put their IT infrastructure,” he said. “It’s more an interconnectivity story involving clouds, locations and people. I just listened to a Gartner webinar for our internal folks, and there was a strong emphasis on customers today wanting to get out of the data centre. That’s when you get to tell the interconnect story. And for the partner community, it’s about the growing opportunity to meet more of your customers’ needs.”