Q&A: Greg McCulloch, MD, Interxion

Interxion is one of Europe’s leading provider of premium carrier-neutral data centres and managed services. Established in 1998 in The Netherlands, Interxion expanded rapidly, achieving recognition for having the largest reach across Europe. Today Interxion manages 28 sites, covering 13 cities in 11 countries. The company delivers a full range of data centre, co-location and managed services solutions to more than 1,100 customers, including enterprises, content providers, mobile service providers and hosting and telecommunications companies. We spoke to Greg McCulloch, UK MD, Interxion, to discuss how data centres are fast becoming the fabric for all online content.

Tell us a little about your role in Interxion
As Interxion’s UK Managing Director I’m tasked with overseeing all areas of the business from sales and marketing to HR and operations. My main objectives are to ensure we continue to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations and also drive the business forward both in terms of expansion and revenue growth.

Have businesses’ attitudes towards data centres changed?
If you are asking me about colocation data centres then the answer is yes, there has been a huge amount of change. Originally it was about providing a secure environment for customers to house their data; I guess you could say we were seen a bit like a utility. Now, the data centre offers so much more. A perfect example of this would be the Content Hubs we’ve created within in our data centres. These offer ultra-secure and connected physical spaces with high-density power, allowing our digital media customers to interconnect with large and growing communities of interest, helping them to optimise distribution while also managing costs and building network resiliency via an extensive choice of content delivery partners.

By having a large and growing community of CDNs, ISPs, Carriers and Internet Exchanges our customers are able to achieve the best possible deals on content delivery rates, private peering arrangements, leased lines, upstream IP-connectivity, and physical cabling to keep costs low and business productivity high. So in summary, I think it’s fair to say that businesses’ attitudes have changed and they are now starting to see colocation data centres as marketplaces where they can generate revenue, form partnerships and become more agile.

Are your customers realistic about their data needs?
Yes they are. We work closely with our customers to provide them with the best fit for their business. Our goal is to ensure that our customers have no surprises when they partner with us. We want to make sure they understand all issues regarding their data. We want to be seen to be working hand-in-glove with them.

According to analyst firm GigaOm Pro, the digital media market is set to increase from £10.8bn in 2009, to £23.20bn by 2014. Such a strong forecast underlines the strength and demand for premium quality content to be delivered. How can this demand be met?
There is no doubt that the demands being seen for premium quality online content is creating fantastic opportunities for the digital media sector. In order to meet these demands digital content providers need to be in a position to offer and have in place the best IT infrastructure possible. This must include improved availability, scalability and flexibility. A lot of IT departments do not posses the physical space, financial capacity and bandwidth to offer this infrastructure. As a result we are now seeing digital companies turning to colocation data centres, such as ours to feed the consumers insatiable appetite for real-time online content.

What does the explosive growth for on-demand and increasingly, real-time online content mean for businesses and the digital community?
The explosive growth for on-demand and increasingly, real-time online content is very exciting for the digital media sector. Users are now demanding more online content and in real time. This has now put huge pressures on content providers to not only manage this increase but also offer the highest level of content availability and performance.

For a lot of content providers they simply don’t have the IT infrastructure in place to support this. These firms are now being forced to make a choice. One option is to invest heavily in an IT infrastructure that will allow them to scale as digital content increases. The problem with this approach is the cost associated can be huge and with the effects of the financial crisis still being felt, this can put huge strains on a business. The other option is to outsource their IT infrastructure, and in this instance colocation data centres provide the ultimate solution.

There is now a rush from content owners to capitalise on this market. However, with issues surrounding speed, performance and data storage, in-house data centres simply do not have the infrastructure to support this. What’s the solution?
Colocation data centres. Through colocation data centres users are able to manage the content aggregation and distribution of digital media, while taking advantage of improved availability, scalability and a flexible IT infrastructure. At Interxion, one of the things we have been able to develop is a new centralised Digital Media Content Hub. The initiative allows us to raise the standards of the data centre offering to a more strategic level. We have been able to create an online community of interest for content aggregators and distributors. The community provides an ideal environment for effective aggregation, exchange, storage and management, with excellent proximity to audiences and industry peers.

Traditionally, colocation data centres are known for housing, connecting, monitoring and maintaining IT equipment and data. Today though, industry perceptions are changing. Do you agree?
Absolutely. 19 years ago when I first started in the industry, the idea of a data centre was purely for storing data and protecting against threat. The industry has moved on so much and so have the demands and needs of the customer. Today, customers are looking into speed, connectivity and latency issues. They want to be in close proximity to their key markets, have access to high bandwidth and ultra low-latency. Critically, they are also looking for strong communities, which they can colocate in and reduce costs, increase revenue and form strategic partnerships.

Is cloud computing the future of computing or a flash in the pan? What’s your role in this market?
Well I can certainly say that cloud computing is not a ‘flash-in-the-pan’. The IT industry is evolving and cloud computing is definitely part of that evolvement. The important thing to realise is that to some degree it is still in its infancy, with a lot of companies taking baby steps moving low-hanging fruit applications such as CRM and email onto the cloud, while keeping key applications in-house. At Interxion, our role can be classified as ‘layer zero’. We provide the foundation for cloud computing offerings in the form of large data centres that can scale and benefit from enhanced connectivity and operational excellence. We do not build cloud services. Our role is to support the cloud environment by providing large data centres with reliable infrastructures and superior connectivity across multiple fail-safe networks.

What are the future goals of the company?
We want to continue driving established and emerging technologies, such as the cloud, streaming media and algorithmic trading, helping our customer to be more nimble and achieve greater revenues. Our aim is to be seen as a marketplace where organisations can come together and take advantage of our communities of interest, coverage and connectivity.

Christian Harris is editor and publisher of BCW. Christian has over 20 years' publishing experience and in that time has contributed to most major IT magazines and Web sites in the UK. He launched BCW in 2009 as he felt there was a need for honest and personal commentary on a wide range of business computing issues. Christian has a BA (Hons) in Publishing from the London College of Communication. In his spare time Christian can be found in a gym, supporting his 8-year-old son from a football pitch sideline, or more likely obsessing over the latest tower defence game.

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