Data Center Operator Typology

Communications service providers are (still?) the largest players in the data center interconnect ecosystem.  They own the vast majority of the fiber plant worldwide (both terrestrial and submarine) and have a very long history in the design, building, and operation of optical networks, including subsea systems.  In addition to having their own network nodes, they have established PoPs in thousands of carrier-neutral facilities, greatly expanding reach.  Carrier-neutral data center operators often differentiate their data centers based on how many communications service providers’ networks have points of presence in their facilities.


Internet content providers approach the market from a content-first perspective.  They do not have a long history of operating networks and are not burdened with the same regulations and embedded legacy base of networking equipment as the communications service providers are.  Internet content providers do not have deep telecom roots.  However they do have a good track record for innovation, internal software development strengths (they may decide in the future to purchase optical networking product hardware and use their own software to manage it), and an eye for cost reduction (as illustrated in the evolution of technology for optical transceiver modules).  They are acquiring fiber, equipment, and expertise that allows them to design, build and operate their own networks, to which the large-scale Internet content providers continue to add capacity and reach.


Carrier-neutral providers (or multi-tenant data center operators) are multisite, terabit-scale data center operators primarily focused on providing rea estate, co-location, power, and interconnect functionality enabling rich connectivity ecosystems for communications service providers, Internet content providers, cloud providers, IT service providers, and enterprises.  Communications service providers bring fiber and bandwidth services in and out of these data centers at terabit scale to interconnect customers within the data center.  Some of the larger carrier-neutral provider tenants will secure their own fiber and purchase their own optical gear, while others will rely on leased bandwidth from communications service providers.