COLOTRAQ: data center sourcing made simple

Dany Bouchedid, CEO of COLOTRAQ, on his vision to provide colocation, managed hosting, cloud, network and data center services globally

John O'Hanlon
|Jul 31|magazine20 min read

Great businesses often spring from very small seeds: the seed that grew into COLOTRAQ was a lecture, one of a series, from an early .com entrepreneur to a final year 'ecommerce' class at NYU’s Stern School of Business in 1999. The internet was largely unexplored territory to the students of management including Dany Bouchedid, who approached the entrepreneur at the end of his talk, expressing his interest and asking him for a tip. After a moment's thought, Jeff Bezos (for it was he) answered: “Infrastructure.” The class hadn't yet tackled this subject but Bouchedid was sufficiently interested to ask his professor for a reading list. “I never looked back,” he says. After thoroughly acquainting himself with the data center infrastructure that supports the expanding internet, he founded COLOTRAQ as a full-service consultancy to help companies and institutions source data center colocation. 

This proved a winning business model, and today COLOTRAQ uses a global network of data centers from over 400 service providers and has helped more than 10,000 clients, giving them access to upwards of 3,000 colocation and managed hosting facilities. Its custom-built cloud-based software DCITRAQ allows them to instantly identify, with granular detail, the best data center infrastructure (DCI) to deliver their business goals. It also lets them compare, in real time, the technical specs of the different options facing them. 

DCITRAQ was launched five years ago, and has evolved since then with new features. It is available to customers, their consultants or agents to dynamically compare and source data center services such as physical or wholesale colocation, managed hosting, cloud and cybersecurity, he explains. “You can have multiple vendors compete for your business through DCITRAQ.” 

Essentially, DCITRAQ is a reverse auction model for the data center industry, costing the client nothing to gain a transparent view of the physical, virtualized and hybrid offerings available from a huge pool of providers. It gives the client all the information they need about a provider from their physical facilities to their software capabilities and carriers. “The power of DCITRAQ lies in 21 years of experience and thousands of projects. All this information is collected to an intuitive dashboard – all your deal history, communications all fully integrated with COLOTRAQ's cloud based enterprise accounting platform – and that information is always up to date.”

Though the rise of the internet was clearly going to drive demand for data center services and be the basis for his business expansion plan, Bouchedid did wonder at first how someone who seemed no more than a clever online bookseller should have set such a store on infrastructure. “It wasn't till Amazon launched AWS almost a decade after Bezos gave that talk that his master plan became clear: he had been the retail king but now he was the infrastructure king!” 

When the corporate flight to the cloud started, Bouchedid heard people say the colocation business might suffer as people started to abandon on-premise solutions and put their data and their operations in the hands of AWS, Oracle, Azure and the like. Far from it, he soon realized: “When it comes to the whole as-a-service concept, where does the rubber meet the road? It's in the data center!” For COLOTRAQ, the effect has been that the lower value, high churn business did reduce as small business clients moved to the cloud, but that was good news. Its biggest market is now among mid-market to large enterprises as well as the providers of services over IP, such as VoIP, UCaaS, IaaS and a host of services driven by technologies like IoT or blockchain. Large enterprises do tend to favor a hybrid approach: good news for COLOTRAQ, which is uniquely placed to help them navigate these waters.

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Quotables

When it comes to the whole as-a-service concept, where does the rubber meet the road? It's in the data center.

Dany Bouchedid | CEO, COLOTRAQ

For 21 years COLOTRAQ has been pitching digital transformation, virtualization and outsourcing. Suddenly the arrival of a global pandemic has meant that instead of a phased introduction, corporations are faced with an urgent need to move to a distributed workforce and off-prem systems as an immediate survival strategy. As an example, he cites telecoms: “You'd be surprised at the number of organizations that still retain PBX systems: we are seeing an unprecedented take-up of UCaaS.” For 10 years COLOTRAQ has maintained its core systems including its DCITRAQ platform in the cloud so it experienced no disruption whatever when lockdown came in. 

Many businesses were totally unprepared for the pandemic. One of COLOTRAQ's biggest projects currently involves digitizing a large law firm's entire caseload and building an enterprise portal enabling them to virtualize all the complex information that litigation requires, work on the case and present it at a Zoom court session through screen sharing. “Law is just one vertical that is still quite archaic in many ways, with lawyers showing up at court with piles of papers – that is not much use at a Zoom meeting. The many firms who have not done so will be urgently virtualizing their entire value chain.” 

So called 'traditional' industries like law or real-estate may be racing to catch up, but the need of tech-based verticals is just as pressing, for slightly different reasons. Another big current project involves a very popular online gaming company: “They are expanding their footprint like crazy, and they need to get to the edge. Edge computing has been a huge driver: any business where there's consumption of streaming content or which is bandwidth-intensive like streaming media, music or online gaming needs to push its network out to the edge, closer to its end users and subscribers. That is good news for colocation because with edge computing you need to control the location of your data center equipment.” The mantra of ubiquity, where it no longer matters where the physical equipment is as long as you have access to your application, does not work for edge computing architecture he noted. “Many businesses of this nature are moving towards hybrid models now. 20 years ago it was all about location, then it shifted to the notion of ubiquity: now we've come full circle.”

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Blockchain is another major disruptor, he continued. “You can't have your blockchain nodes on a public cloud platform: the whole point is to have the controls in place for all the different blockchain nodes, and the only way to do that is by having racks in each of your key markets, with geo-redundancy.” Edge computing and blockchain are developments where a one-size-fits-all approach won't answer in the post-Covid world. 

Looking ahead the company is keeping a close eye on the internet of things (IoT), in particular industrial IoT or IIoT. “We have seen only the tip of the iceberg: as manufacturing and logistics really starts to implement IIoT devices throughout the supply chain it will create so much big data, for storage and to have the computing power at the edge, to be able to feed back data in real time to those devices. This will escalate the demand for colocation, create more 'sprawl' and get us closer to the edge, where customers and subscribers actually live and work. Many data center providers to my knowledge are investing in expanding their footprint.” The industry has come full circle when even AWS and VMware have gone physical for the first time ever with their recently launched Outposts, an integrated hardware rack that seamlessly connects to Amazon's public cloud.

COLOTRAQ is a company that thrives on change, and nothing drives change like a pandemic. Every client he speaks with is scrutinizing its IT infrastructure and architecture like never before, and that presents opportunities in every aspect of the IT value chain from their data center infrastructure to their communications and their networks. Security is again at the forefront: “Hackers are having a field day thanks to the lockdown, where businesses secured their offices but not their employees' home networks, so we are seeing cybersecurity projects coming in relating to the post-pandemic world.” The terrible economic and human cost of the crisis will accelerate the pace of change. Already the data center industry was predicted to grow at an annual rate of 25% over the next five years. “It's vital for any entrepreneur to make sure he is not outpaced by the market he is in. For COLOTRAQ, if we feel we can't handle demand at this scale we may raise a capital growth round and staff up – it will be a great problem to have!”

It would be nice if the realization that IT consumes far more energy worldwide than any other activity would drive the greening of the industry, but in Dany Bouchedid's opinion that goal will more probably be reached though economic pressure. “All operators are under pressure from their shareholders to lower their operating expenditure, and energy is the biggest part of that. And that OpEx is passed on to customers. There's a direct correlation between better energy management and competitive pricing.” All of these metrics are made visible by DCITRAQ – it's a good case where the triple bottom line is driven by profitability as well as social pressure to combat climate change.

Meanwhile COLOTRAQ is happy to share access to its platforms with the many entrepreneurial players entering the colocation space, and work with them. “There will be more than enough space for everyone, and I see new entrants as co-opetition rather than competition.”

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