Redwood City, Calif.-based Equinix has rolled out testing and validation environments at eight of its colocation facilities around the world, with an eye on not only demonstrating the performance advantages of its own environments, but also on enabling customers to test and adopt new technologies and validate the readiness of applications. Equinix also will market the centers to vendors looking to develop prototypes of new technologies in a high-performance setting.
The new validation centers are located in Amsterdam, London, Miami, New York, Singapore, Silicon Valley, Sydney and Washington, D.C. Equinix plans to open four additional centers in 2014.
Jennifer Koppy, a research manager with IDC, said she's not aware of any other colocation providers offering dedicated testing and validation resources, making Equinix's new centers a potential advantage in a brutally competitive market.
"Colos in general are really upping the ante, so to speak, in how they deliver value to their clients and respond to their needs," Koppy said via email. "Offerings such as this that can respond to customers' needs for flexible infrastructure and management help the co-los stand out."
Equinix is putting its test center engagements in the hands of a team of more than 20 of its architects spread across its various facilities. The company said it's already worked with partners like Box, Desktone, McGraw-Hill and NetApp to test a variety of deployments, including cloud architectures running on Amazon Web Services, WAN aggregation and software-defined networking use cases.
[Read what technologies will drive market growth as data centers become increasingly virtualized in "Data Center Networking Market to Reach $21.85 Billion By 2018: Report."]
Koppy said that while the centers add long-term strategic value to Equinix's service, she expects initial demand for testing and validation services to come from existing customers. Eventually, however, she said such services would appeal to a wider array of companies, especially as they move toward software-defined architectures that enable them to more flexibly manage hybrid environments. Those efforts will be aided by the ability to test loads, see how they perform, and mitigate risk.
"Most organizations are a long way off from a true software-defined environment, but that is the end goal -- to get to highly agile and efficient resources that deliver IT as a service to customers," Koppy said. "The ability to work with a partner that you already trust will accelerate this process."
Equinix's move is reflective of the evolving role of data centers, which have become more complex as they've adapted to trends such as cloud computing, mobile and big data. Koppy said Equinix is responding to the pressures its clients are feeling to move compute loads closer to their customers.
"A data center isn't just a place where companies put their servers and storage," she said. "It's really the first point of contact with customers."