To Serve & Protect
Neutral Colos Hawk
peace of mind
By Khali Henderson
THE REALITIES OF THE POST-SEPT. 11
world have been visited on numerous businesses, perhaps none more so than the IT
and telecom infrastructure providers that keep us connected to each other and to
our critical business data and applications. Purveyors of neutral colocation
facilities and services have found themselves in a unique position to placate
service providers’ and end user customers’ fears that their infrastructure is
It isn’t so much that these
companies have stepped up security to fill a void — in fact, for the most part,
they haven’t. It’s that clients and prospects now are weighing the security
aspects of offers more heavily in buying decisions and disaster planning.
Concerns range from physical and procedural security at the site to the
diversity of networks and providers that could be incapacitated by terrorism,
natural disasters or a financial implosion.
"Over the last nine months what
has become most important to the customer is the viability of our business and
how secure our facility is," says Mario Galvez, vice president of marketing
at neutral colo provider Switch and Data. "It used to be location and
connectivity. They still look at that, but it’s secondary."
Adds Jay Adelson, founder and CTO of
Equinix Inc., "Post 9/11 [business continuity] meant not just ensuring
availability, but securing against threat."
Equinix, a neutral colo provider
serving about 90 percent of the world’s Internet networks with peering, transit
and traffic exchange requirements, has created the Internet Business Exchange (IBX)
Security System, which manages the human traffic in its IBXs. For example, all
employees and customer employees have background checks and maintain profiles on
site for live security guards to access. Further, biometric hand geometry scans
are required for entry at every door. Mantraps — so named for the procedure of
closing the door behind a person before allowing them to open the door ahead —
prevent unauthorized personnel from tagging along. Surveillance cameras watch
every square inch and are monitored in real time by security personnel. Cabinets
and cages are secured with kinetic locks. On top of that, a security guard
patrols the data center.
While this is just a partial list of
the physical/procedural controls in place, you get the idea they’re worthy of
the likes of Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt.
These types of controls in varying
degrees were cited as part of the arsenals of other neutral colo providers, like
Switch and Data, which operates 30 centers nationwide, and eXchange Colocation
LLC, which serves about 30 carriers in its facility at 200 Paul Ave. in San
Mark R. Hansen, director of
operations and colocation services for eXchange, concurs with Galvez and Adelson
that customers have intensified their security assessments. "Customers
always have been concerned about basic security (e.g. protecting their data),
but now they are more interested in the physical security." They have
caught customers "testing" the system, he adds. "Our procedures
work," Hansen says.
eXchange owns the building and the
property where its colo facility resides, allowing it to control common areas,
the exterior of the building and the grounds. Perimeter fencing, surveillance
cameras and a manned gate are among the additional security measures eXchange
has employed, says William Wilde, vice president and CTO.
And, post-9/11, eXchange has closed
its loading docks and implemented tight controls over equipment deliveries. For
its part, Switch and Data is upgrading its security program with remote
monitoring of the surveillance cameras, enabling its NOCs to see inside other
colo facilities as a backup.
While these measures would be missed
if they weren’t in place, ultimately there is only so much a network service
provider can do to ensure the physical security of its equipment, says Adelson.
"9/11 showed us the limits to how useful physical security can be. A harder
question is what are you doing to make sure it’s not gone," he says,
referring to the hypothetical destruction of the data center or provider
From that vantage, it is easy to see
why both carriers and enterprise users are flocking to neutral providers that
can offer them the option of redundant facilities for their equipment, as well
as a choice of network providers. eXchange President and CEO John O. Wilson says
its primary base of service provider customers now want to connect to three or
four carriers, up from just two pre-9/11.
eXchange offers a choice of 30
carriers, with forecasts for 50 by the end of 2003. Switch and Data connects to
120 carriers, and Equinix connects to 75 carriers.
In addition to carrier choice,
eXchange offers diverse fiber entrances into its facility. If one of its
termination rooms catches fire, as an example, there would still be service from
the other direction.
Equinix’s Adelson says geographic
diversity also has become important to carrier and enterprise clients. He says
Equinix has helped carriers add multihoming services for Web hosting clients
concerned about the risks of single sourcing.
The demand has its limits. Besides
diverse routes, Wilde says eXchange anticipated in 1998 that customers would
become concerned about redundant facilities. "Almost no one was concerned
about that," he says.
And after Sept. 11, the company is
seeing demand for disaster recovery facilities among companies in the financial
sector, but, says Wilson, "Candidly, they are reluctant to spend the money
now because of the downturn." The company has backup space in Santa Clara,
but so far no one is using it.
Switch and Data’s Galvez says
customers are looking at more than one site for primary and secondary data and
even backup in two locations — however, many are still in the planning phases
and implementation is a next step.
|Equinix Inc. www.equinix.com
eXchange Colocation LLC www.exchangecolo.com
Switch and Data www.switchanddata.com