PODCAST: How Cyxtera came to bring a security-first approach to colocation datacenters

By Byron V. Acohido

Cyxtera is a colocation datacenter business with a fascinating pedigree and a new, security-first,  approach to datacenter services. I spent some time with Randy Rowland, Chief Product Officer at Black Hat 2017 in Las Vegas to hear more about the trajectory of the business to date. Colocation data centers are facilities where businesses can rent space for servers and other computing hardware.

Rowland himself was an early pioneer of cloud services. In 2007, he was running product development at technology hosting business, Data Return. Data Return had built a cloud computing fabric into its Dallas datacenter which allowed customers to log on over a portal and deploy computing systems online.

Cuban immigrant to cloud pioneer

This drew the attention of Manuel D. “Manny” Medina of rapidly expanding Miami-based managed IT infrastructure business Terremark, which subsequently acquired Data Return for $85 million.

Medina was, by that time, CEO of what would become of $2 billion business. He already had a track record of spotting industry trends, having invested in the Network Access Point (NAP) of the Americas in 2001.

Medina had come to the US on a boat from Cuba with his family at the age of 13. The family had settled in Miami and Medina went on to get an accounting degree. However, he left accounting to become a real estate developer in Miami, Florida, and, later, overseas. Rowland reports that Medina has described his decision to get a CPA as the second-best decision he ever made; the best being to get out of accounting.

Having won the contract to build the NAP of the Americas in Miami, a datacenter of full city-block proportions where all the undersea cables from Latin America and Europe would converge, Medina “fell in love” with the Internet.

In 2001, he acquired NAP and his Terremark infrastructure company evolved into a datacenter business. 13 acquisitions later, Terremark was one of the leading Cloud and datacenter providers in the USA. Medina sold it to Verizon in 2011 for $1.4 billion.

Pursuing a ripe opportunity

Here, Rowland picks up the tale: “He told me he worked very hard at taking a one-year vacation. But he’s a serial entrepreneur and it’s in his blood. There was no way he wasn’t going to continue to build and create.”

Having seen that the Internet would explode, Medina was fascinated with virtualization, the technology that underpins cloud computing. He founded a new investment firm called Medina Capital that would invest in up-and-coming technology businesses and invited Rowland to join him as a partner.

Rowland and Acohido

The partners were all former Terremark executives, so deep operational experience runs through the management team. Rowland says: “Even though we run an investment firm, we are still operators at heart.”

Having seen the way datacenters were evolving, Medina and his team began looking at ways of securing the virtualized cloud piece in the same way that securing the physical infrastructure of the datacenter had once been a traditional core operational objective. Of the seven investments made to date, one has been sold already, and four are cyber security software companies.

When an opportunity arose to add datacenter real estate to their portfolio, it was the kernel of a new technology business: Cyxtera.

Rowland explains: “The vision behind Cyxtera is the acquisition of former Savvis datacenter spaces from CenturyLink, which is one of the top-tier datacenter footprints in the world, and combine it with some of the portfolio companies we had at Medina capital, the cyber security software businesses, with the goal of creating a new business completely focused on securing infrastructure.”

By building the security fabric directly into their facilities, Cyxtera hopes to capture the trend of Hybrid IT and to secure it.

Addressing capacity and security

Rowland outlined the industry trends that have led to the Cyxtera vision:

Very few organizations are building internal datacenters anymore; they’re either moving to third-party datacenters or into the public cloud

From a physical plant perspective, organizations can’t build datacenters as high-quality, resilient, redundant, as    those a specialist operator can provide.

This logic extends to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) operators, who are also running their businesses in third-party datacenters and/or the public cloud

Security now needs to extend not only around the datacenter perimeter, but extend into public clouds and be as mobile and flexible as workload

•Hybrid IT is continuing to grow; people are leveraging multiple different external datacenter options.

The security threat is real, growing, and constantly evolving; organizations need to secure their systems and data.

In response to these trends, the Cyxtera team has built a portfolio of solutions that can answer the security challenge. As Rowland outlined for me in our conversation, these include software-defined perimeter solutions; security analytics; and anti-fraud and user-authentication systems.

Cyxtera solutions provide software defined perimeter technology that is embedded directly in the datacenter. So, when businesses move into the datacenter, they get access to Cyxtera’s security software – effectively a security spine that allows them to feel secure as they move their workloads into Cyxtera’s facilities.

Rowland said, “This means that it is not only secure from a physical perspective, it’s also secure from a network perspective because we have that spine that works across all different cloud deployments.”

For a deeper drill down, please listen to the accompanying podcast.

 

 

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