Equinix gets heavy metal automation with Packet purchase

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Data center services provider Equinix is fortifying its edge computing strategy with the acquisition of Packet, a provider of bare metal automation technology and infrastructure services. The deal will provide Equinix with technology and expertise in rapidly deploying hybrid cloud and edge compute for customers.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020, according to Equinix. Terms of the deal were not announced, though the companies said more details would forthcoming at the end of the quarter.

Packet, which was formed in 2014, has 130 employees. The company has raised a reported$33.6m, with investors including Dell Technologies Capital, Samsung Next, Softbank Corp., Battery Ventures and JA Mitsui Leasing.

Equinix has an extensive track record of acquisition of data center providers and facilities, including Telecity Group for $3.6B in 2016, but has rarely ventured outside of the core arena of space and power. The company did acquire Nimbo, a professional services company, in 2015 in an effort to help enterprise customers with cloud migration.

The acquisition of Packet represents a move in a different direction-one which enables the company to help enterprises migrate workloads between on-premise, access and aggregation edge, and core cloud resources.

Central to this capability is Packet’s technology for automation of bare metal servers as well as network resources. “Bare metal” refers to a server computer system without an operating system or applications installed on it. The term also typically refers to a system that is deployed as a single-tenant environment, meaning there are no other users sharing system resources, as with public cloud systems.

Equinix said Packet will enable customers to “build and deploy low-latency services at the edge either through their choice of owned physical deployments or by utilizing the combined offering, which leverages as-a-service consumption to reduce CAPEX and resource requirements.”

Control over where and when resources are deployed will be key to enterprise IT plans as hybrid cloud moves from an on-premise/core cloud deployment model to a model that includes a range of intermediate locations that could include cell towers, smart buildings and smaller regional data centers (including those that aren’t a part of the Equinix portfolio).

Packet’s focus is on lower level physical server control, as well as the supply chain coordinated needed to put equipment in place. Equinix isn’t moving to compete against cloud IaaS vendors as much as enable them to provide services in many more locations. Cloud vendors like Google and VMware, which provide tools for running and migrating workloads, support the move:

Kevin Ichhpurani, corporate vice president, Global Ecosystem, Google Cloud, said in a statement “The addition of Packet bare metal will enable Equinix to deliver even more customer choice, accelerating their digital transformations while connecting workloads seamlessly from on-prem to cloud using technologies such as Google Anthos.”

Noting that VMware and Equinix have been partners working on hybrid cloud enablement for nearly, Susan Nash, Senior vice president, Strategic Alliances, VMware said “The continued expansion of Platform Equinix will further enable our mutual customers to easily and more securely power their applications from the edge to the cloud.”

While a push into enterprise accounts is an ongoing initiative for Equinix, the company also expands its platform play. Packet’s existing customer base consists of a number of service providers of edge services that can be used by enterprises. Packet’s relationship with wireless provider Sprint is an example. Sprint’s Curiosity IoT platform is both a compute platform (Curiosity OS) and a virtualized wireless Evolved Packet Core (EPC) deployment. Sprint has partnered with Packet to run its Curiosity platform on Packet’s bare metal edge cloud infrastructure in markets such as Detroit, Michigan.

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