Box, the SaaS storage provider, partnered with Equinix to build a private backbone to support Box's growth in major markets around the world.
Box, a growing Software as a Services (SaaS) storage provider, partnered with Equinix to launch the Box Accelerator, a global data transfer network that offers their worldwide customers up to a 10x boost in upload speeds. The launch of the Box Accelerator is also seen by some industry observers as part of the company better positioning itself for an eventual Initial Public Offering (IPO).
The Box Accelerator takes advantage of Equinix data centers in locations strategic to Box customers. This enables Box to achieve a 60 percent increase in performance with the Box Accelerator, making its new products available to users across the globe and access revenue opportunities in new markets.
Box, the company, is in the process of rebranding Box Accelerator sites in Equinix locations as the Box Global Data Transfer Network.
Chris Sharp, Equinix's General Manager, Cloud and Content gave a brief history of the project's start:
"We had some of Box's business. They had some facilities with another colocation provider but they really didn't understand the networks in order to extract the most value out of the deployment. They had become another customer of Equinix looking for another colocation provider to give them the ability to expand a little bit."Combining deep SaaS expertise and a major backbone provider had its challenges. However, Equinix and Box found a common ground based on their respective areas of expertise. Sharp explains "We brought them into an EBC (Executive Briefing Center) and what we did there was to leverage some of the tools we have been working on for some time. One of which is called the colocation planner, which allows you to visually understand how location can solve for latency and how much you can solve for." Figure A shows an example of the Colocation Planner:
Equinix Colocation Planner
The Colocation Planner is a very visual tool, which builds a heat map based on various data center-hosting scenarios. According to Sharp, "You can choose different Equinix facilities. You can also set a parameter by which you set your latency requirements. You can Pick a 100 ms, 150 ms, whatever that may be, and then here are my current colo facilities and here are my planned ones. You can pick and choose Paris, Amsterdam. You can pick Tokyo, Hong Kong and then it changes the map Red, Yellow, Green based upon your latency requirements."
Sharp talks about the moment where Box saw the benefits of the Equinix approach:
"We exposed them to the different kinds of network providers in those markets," says Sharp. "This is where we spend a lot of time talking with customers letting them know where their customers are originating from. No two networks are the same. That single network provider doesn't serve the entire world."
As they evolved and moved into those seven global markets, Equinix made sure Box was connected to the right network. That's where they started to understand. Equinix didn't have to do a flow analysis for Box, since they already knew where some of their traffic was originating by evaluating their data flow. But they do flow analyses for a lot of other customers.
Generally, Equinix sees a 30% performance improvement when providers service customers on their originating backbone by eliminating public/private peering nodes between networks and removing service hops out of the actual service segment. This is why Equinix worked with Box to move them to this service model and sees an uptick in other SaaS providers making similar moves.
Now with Equinix as a partner, and after developing a comprehensive strategy, Box is deployed in Equinix data centers where it leverages the network connections in the Equinix IX exchange points, according to Sharp. The deployments are based on a network performance hub (NPH) type setup with security edge and WAN acceleration, small footprints one or two cabinets, in multiple cities around the world. Box has added infrastructure in Equinix data centers including:
- Ashburn, VA (Washington, DC area)
- Hong Kong
These Equinix data centers offer Box compliance with Statement on Auditing Standards (SAS) No. 70 with mature process and physical security in place to secure access to customer cage areas.
Equinix even helps Box extend to outer-reaching markets by setting up network nodes. Sharp says, "Some of these other outer-reaching markets set up what we call network nodes. They don't need to replicate their entire infrastructure there. What they do is stand up a network node where they can leverage network density in a private circuit back to where their major infrastructure resides. That's the deployment of the most advanced SaaS operators such as Box."
The private backbone established by Equinix for Box takes much of Box's operations infrastructure above the public Internet, which takes out the hops that can hamper performance for customer file uploads and transfers. Sharp mentioned that Equinix has over 900+ networks in their facility where Box and others can purchase private Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity, as well as get connected directly to network carriers servicing local markets.
"Location matters" advises Sharp and now Box infrastructure is closer to their consumer and enterprise customers. They are no longer trying to serve their growing worldwide customer base merely through facilities in one market but rather have the infrastructure located in their major customer markets for maximum performance advantages.
The secure and scalable global infrastructure that this partnership built is an example of the future of SaaS deployments where application and network providers come together to service customers across geographic markets using location for performance advantages. It's easy to see that the Box Accelerator is going to play a key element in Box's future growth and help it attract new enterprise customers.