Equinix (NASDAQ: EQIX) is expanding beyond data center and interconnection services, into hardware product offerings, with the company’s most notable solution being called Equinix Metal, which helps facilitate hybrid and multi-cloud deployments at Equinix’s data centers by using bare metal – which is just another way of referring to a physical server. Albeit small, with Equinix Metal generating slightly over $50m of revenue annually, this hardware product offering is a distinct shift into a new market area for Equinix, which is considered an infrastructure provider.
Equinix’s CEO, Charles Meyers, states that Equinix Metal has the opportunity to be a $1bn+ business for the company, over time. Therefore, could the unit be a significant component of Equinix’s business in the future? Or is Equinix’s goal, through its bare metal offering, to remove barriers for customers to access and utilize its core colocation and interconnection services?
Dgtl Infra provides an overview of Equinix Metal, including where it is available, as well as its value proposition, pricing, and customers. Additionally, we assess Equinix’s positioning vis-à-vis cloud service providers and managed service providers.
What is Equinix Metal and Bare Metal as-a-service?
Equinix Metal is a bare metal as-a-service (BMaaS) offering which allows customers to rapidly and virtually provision physical servers at Equinix’s data centers. In other words, Equinix Metal can be thought of as automated colocation where a customer receives dedicated hardware with APIs and DevOps / orchestration that allow for dynamic provisioning.
Through this bare metal offering, Equinix purchases physical servers and allows its customers to run their cloud applications on these servers – either on-demand or under month-to-month, 1-year, or 3-year commitments.
Overall, Equinix is positioning its bare metal offering to sit between colocation, a controllable infrastructure product, and the cloud, a consumption-based infrastructure product.
Presently, Equinix Metal is live in 19 Tier-1 and Tier-2 data center markets globally, with the company expanding to 25 metros in the second-half of 2022. More precisely, Equinix’s bare metal offering availability, by region, is as follows:
Americas – Equinix Metal Locations
|New York||New York||Live|
Europe (EMEA) – Equinix Metal Locations
Asia-Pacific – Equinix Metal Locations
Initially, Equinix has launched or is planning to make Equinix Metal available in its densest interconnection markets globally. Typically, a customer’s Equinix Metal deployment size will be <10 cabinets in these data centers.
Long-term, Equinix plans to make its bare metal as-a-service (BMaaS) offering available at all of its IBX (retail colocation) data centers worldwide.
Equinix Metal targets enterprises, software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, and service providers that cannot or do not want to deploy physical servers across a number of different locations. Instead, these companies can utilize Equinix Metal’s bare metal infrastructure (i.e., dedicated physical servers).
For customers, Equinix Metal’s value proposition centers on time to market, overhead reductions, cloud-like consumption, and integration with other Equinix services.
Time to Market
Enterprises, SaaS companies, and service providers often seek to deploy their infrastructure broadly and rapidly. As such, Equinix Metal is an alternative to colocation when time to market is critical.
Equinix Metal allows these companies to provision interconnected bare metal resources in minutes. In contrast, colocation deployments require time – often months – to provision space, purchase equipment, and mount servers onto their racks.
Equinix Metal can reduce capital expenditures and operational requirements, as well as make operating expenses more predictable for enterprises. Indeed, with customers not owning or maintaining their physical hardware, Equinix Metal delivers on the low overhead value proposition of the cloud.
Equinix Metal enables enterprises to secure dedicated, high-performance servers that can be deployed via on-demand, reserved, or spot market (i.e., users bid) capacity in Equinix’s global data centers. As such, the service allows customers to address rapid changes in their resource requirements based on computing demands.
Additionally, similar to the cloud, Equinix Metal facilitates self-service ordering for customers that want to virtually provision resources globally.
Equinix considers Equinix Metal to be differentiated from other bare metal as-a-service (BMaaS) offerings given its integration with the company’s interconnection services. Particularly, Equinix Metal benefits from integration with Equinix Fabric, a software-defined interconnection service, and the connectivity from being within Equinix’s ecosystem (e.g., 2k+ networks).
Equinix Metal’s pricing structure varies whether customers provision on-demand, reserved (on-contract), or spot market capacity. Specifically, the offering’s two main pricing types are as follows:
- On-Demand: dynamic, usage-based pricing which is billed on an hourly basis
- On-Contract: billed on a monthly basis under fixed duration contracts, including month-to-month, 1-year, and 3-year contract terms
While Equinix’s on-demand pricing is defined by a pricing matrix (see below) the company offers term discounts, ranging from 10% to 50%, depending on a customer’s contract length and server configuration.
To this end, Equinix states that the public cloud service providers all price in similar ways to Equinix Metal. Furthermore, per a recent blog post, Equinix indicates that it has designed its compute pricing to be competitive with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. Finally, Equinix has introduced pricing zones, which reflect regional pricing variances – another common practice of public cloud service providers.
Beginning on June 1, 2022, Equinix’s compute pricing, by the hour, for on-demand server configurations will be as follows:
|Server Type||Server Config||Billing|
|C3.MEDIUM.X86||Standard Gen3||$1.50 per hour|
|C3.LARGE.ARM64||Standard Gen3||$2.50 per hour|
|M3.LARGE.X86||Standard Gen3||$3.10 per hour|
|S3.XLARGE.X86||Standard Gen3||$2.95 per hour|
|M3.SMALL.X86||Standard Gen3||$1.05 per hour|
|N3.XLARGE.X86||Standard Gen3||$4.50 per hour|
|A3.LARGE.X86||Standard Gen3||$7.50 per hour|
|C3.SMALL.X86||Legacy Generation||$0.75 per hour|
|N2.XLARGE.X86||Legacy Generation||$3.25 per hour|
Note that the above table reflects Equinix Metal’s Zone 1 or United States pricing region, as Zone 2 (EMEA/Canada), Zone 3 (Asia-Pacific), and Zone 4 (Brazil) are priced at a premium to Zone 1.
Below are Equinix Metal’s discount rates, based on contract term and server configuration, effective June 1, 2022:
|Term||Small Configs||Large Configs|
Equinix Metal targets customers that want to deploy compute capacity without making the operational and financial commitment to a colocation environment. At the same time, the offering serves customers that need to react to rapid changes in their computing resource requirements (e.g., burst capacity).
For example, customers of Equinix Metal include Bison Trails, Clear Street, Comscore, Dizzion, HUMAN (White Ops), Infiot, Render, Restream, Solana Foundation, Super League Gaming, Vissensa, and Yottaa. Below are further details on three of these customers:
- HUMAN: cybersecurity company that utilizes Equinix Metal to get closer to their customers with ultra-low latency networking
- Solana Foundation: blockchain protocol which deliver new nodes on-demand to its global end users on the Solana blockchain in minutes with Equinix Metal
- Super League Gaming: gaming community and content platform which uses Equinix Metal to deliver real-time content and live video streaming to millions of users globally. Equinix Metal allows Super League Gaming to focus on their core competency and not on shipping and installing servers wherever they need capacity around the world
Assessing Equinix Metal’s Positioning
In March 2020, Equinix acquired Packet Host, Inc., a bare metal automation company, in a $336.6m transaction, which became the foundation for the Equinix Metal business. Specifically, the deal was comprised of $290.3m in purchase consideration, $16.1m for vesting of Packet equity awards, and $30.2m in newly issued Equinix restricted stock awards (RSAs).
At the time of Equinix’s acquisition, Packet generated run-rate revenue of ~$36m annually and would reach a ~$40m run-rate at year-end 2020. Indeed, this implies that Equinix paid around 8x to 9x revenue to acquire the Packet business.
During full-year 2021, Equinix Metal generated revenue of ~$50m, growing ~25% year-over-year. Although the unit is growing quickly, it still comprises less than 1% of Equinix’s total revenues, which stood at $6.64bn for 2021.
With this background, there are certain strategic considerations for Equinix as it plans to build Equinix Metal into a $1bn+ business, over time.
Cloud Service Providers
Equinix states that its positioning for Equinix Metal is to sit between colocation and the cloud. However, many of the characteristics of the product offering, including its cloud-like consumption model and pricing structure, place Equinix Metal either in competition or as a gateway to the cloud. In turn, this puts Equinix in a competitive situation with some of its most important customers – cloud service providers including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.
Equinix Metal’s bare metal as-a-service (BMaaS) product enables enterprises to deploy physical servers at an Equinix data center, with those servers able to operate on the cloud, providing customers cloud functionality. Yet, once an enterprise customer places its data on the cloud, the customer can easily transition to using a cloud service provider like AWS. Indeed, this risk of service provider substitution can result in customers leaving Equinix Metal, making it a gateway to the cloud.
Managed Service Providers (MSPs)
Historically, managed service providers (MSPs) leased space in colocation facilities, such as Equinix’s, and provided hardware products to their clients. However, with Equinix Metal’s bare metal as-a-service (BMaaS) offering, Equinix, as a colocation provider, is effectively competing with its managed service provider tenants.
Purchasing physical servers to provide bare metal services is a capital-intensive way for Equinix to generate revenue. While Equinix’s CEO, Charles Meyers, states that Equinix Metal produces a return on invested capital (ROIC) that is “as good or better than our traditional data center services”, the business comes with higher server refresh and maintenance costs. Furthermore, the ongoing maintenance profile and desirability of owning physical servers is materially different than Equinix’s core business, which is more real estate or infrastructure-like.