Equinix Expands to 'Emerging True Edge' With Packet Acquisition

Packet will enable Equinix to go beyond its traditional data center footprint to put compute in central offices, tower basestations and other edge locations.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

January 15, 2020

3 Min Read
Equinix Expands to 'Emerging True Edge' With Packet Acquisition

With its acquisition of Packet, Equinix picks up the assets needed to expand to the "emerging true edge opportunity" -- beyond Equinix's existing data center footprint to central offices, tower basestations and centralized radio access network (C-RAN) hubs, according to analysts from Cowen Equity Research.

Equinix said Tuesday it signed a "definitive agreement" to acquire network-edge bare-metal provider Packet, to enhance multicloud and edge services for its enterprise customers.

Packet provides bare-metal computing-as-a-service (BMCaaS?) from more than 20 data center locations worldwide. Its estate will complement Equinix's existing assets, more than 200 big data centers worldwide that comprise its International Business Exchange.

The primary customers of the edge data centers won't be enterprises, the Cowen researchers say. Instead they'll be "enablers," including public cloud providers, private cloud and bare-metal providers, and content delivery networks.

Learn more about how edge networking is transforming service providers at Light Reading's Edge content channel.

The Packet acquisition announcement "is in our view indicative of a new model that for Equinix will integrate back with its core model," Cowen says. That core model gives Equinix "dominant market share position" for "cloud on-ramps." While not all aspects of an edge application or workload "will be hosted in the public cloud, the odds are certain aspects will, whether that's at the edge location or back in the core, and with Packet, Equinix will be able to further integrate itself as part of the solution. This ultimately should drive more demand for Equinix's core business, although it will take time to play out, and is a good example of Equinix's current strategy to invest back into its business to further expand its growth opportunity," Cowen says.

An application or workload would interact with an edge device, such as a smart city device, located somewhere the field, Cowen says. "Equinix would then provide some type of backhaul … to one of its core IBX facilities." There, the data could interact with other tenants of the Equinix facility, such as network providers, third party clouds, or the customer's partners.

Packet is "more than just bare metal," 451 Research analyst Eric Hanselman tells Light Reading. Packet specializes in "dispersed computing" -- distributing compute needs to the edge, data center and wherever it's needed for the application. "One of the the larger issues is understanding how to do the orchestration to place the right workloads in the right places for different tasks or functions," Hanselman says. "We need to get really good at distributing smaller chunks of compute capacity for a whole bunch of applications. You've got to get good at projecting your compute environment wherever it's needed." And that's Packet's specialty.

A similar need -- to drive compute to the edge -- is underpinning hypercloud strategies, Hanselman says. Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers Outposts for edge computing, he noted.

And AWS partnered with Verizon, Vodafone, SK Telecom and KDDI in December to run compute on those service providers' 5G networks, using the new AWS Wavelength 5G edge computing platform.

Microsoft provides AzureStack as its edge compute technology.

Cowen notes that Google has its own edge solution, Anthos: Google provided a quote endorsing the Packet deal in Equinix's press release.

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About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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