What CenturyLink is Getting with Savvis

I scribbled off a quick blog post on the CenturyLink acquisition of Savvis but didn’t have time to delve into it in detail at the time. This is a bit of a follow-up.

Savvis has three core businesses:

  • Coloation: Savvis has carrier-diverse (though not strictly-speaking carrier neutral), high-quality colocation in data centers around the world. It is one of the most significant players in retail colocation for enterprises. It also has a substantial financial vertical play in its proximity hosting for low-latency trading.
  • Managed Hosting: Savvis is among the market share leaders in managed hosting. It is a highly capable provider, ranked for years as a Leader (and at or near the top of the pack) in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for the market.
  • Networking: Although Savvis has a history as an ISP, their significant acquisition of networking assets came with the acquisition of Cable and Wireless North America’s assets (which included a substantial amount of MCI assets that had to be divested in the MCI-WorldCom acquisition), which they did in order to get Exodus. The networking business has been in slow decline for years, although it has some usefulness in competing with BT Radiance, in the proximity hosting context.

As part of their managed hosting business, Savvis has built a significant portfolio of cloud IaaS products. Savvis has historically had a tendency to overcomplicate their product lines, and cloud has been no exception to this rule. The most significant elements in the portfolio are Virtual Intelligent Hosting (utility managed hosting, equivalent to Terremark Infinistructure, AT&T Synaptic Hosting, etc.), and Symphony VPDC (self-service public cloud, equivalent to Terremark Enterprise Cloud, AT&T Synaptic CaaS, Verizon CaaS, NaviSite NaviCloud, etc.), which is divided into tiers of service quality. Savvis also has an array of private cloud services.

We consider Savvis to be highly competitive in enterprise-class cloud IaaS. They do not necessarily have the best service, featurewise, and they are a relatively expensive option, but they have done a credible job of incorporating security into their architecture, emphasized in RFP responses, in a way that customers respond to very strongly. Savvis has also done a good job layering managed services on top of their cloud offerings, and has begun to compete quite aggressively in the cloud-enabled data center outsourcing market segment, targeting mid-market companies.

In short, CenturyLink is buying a very high-quality set of assets. Qwest has a colocation business, but it is marred by poor customer service (it’s pretty hard to deliver poor customer service in a business as simple as colocation, but Qwest has historically managed to do this, although quality varies per-data-center). Qwest also has a managed hosting business, but it’s historically been sub-par to the market and well behind the hosting businesses of AT&T and Verizon. Qwest’s forays into cloud computing are embryonic. Consequently, CenturyLink is vastly accelerating its entry into this business with the Savvis acquisition. Also, given the capabilities gap between CenturyLink and Savvis, customers can probably expect little if any disruption from the acquisition.

It’s clear that carriers, even the less visionary ones, now feel that they need to have solutions to address data center needs, not just networking needs. While some carriers were able to articulate a vision around this relatively early on — AT&T notably — all the other network operators are quickly falling in line, albeit with varying degrees of vision and commitment.

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Posted on April 27, 2011, in Industry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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