Equinix and Colotraq: joint data centre pioneers
Jules Johnston is Vice President, Americas Partner Sales at data centre company Equinix. Having joined in early 2016, she has overseen a move to new sales channels as part of the company’s work. “The team we've put together in the last few years has helped the company go from what was single digits in terms of partner-connected selling to something greater than 30% of our bookings globally,” she says. “We're on a committed path to do the majority of our business with partners, so it's been very exciting to be part of that. The team I lead today is the 40-person Americas partner sales organisation, and our job is to work with partners and enable their collaboration with our field and inside sellers to jointly serve shared customers.”
While Equinix is renowned as a co-location and data centre organisation, Johnston is clear that the company takes a broader view. “We really think of ourselves as an interconnection company and as the global platform for digital business. When companies build their digital infrastructure and platforms within Equinix, what they're able to do is dynamically connect to the world's largest ecosystem of clouds, data, suppliers and customers.” Constructing such an ecosystem has required a significant amount of infrastructure. “Equinix has invested in over 210 data centres around the world, or international business exchanges, IBXs, as we call them. That allows Equinix to be able to consistently deliver on the digital strategy needs of any company who is either global today or aspires to be.”
Equinix works closely with colocation broker Colotraq, with the organisation having been one of Equinix’s master agents for around fifteen years. “Colotraq is a fellow pioneer in the data center space,” says Johnston. “As one of the oldest master agents in telecom, they’ve intersected with us naturally. Equinix started as a place for the world's networks to come together in a neutral fashion and Colotraq also prides itself on being network neutral.”
The partnership extends far beyond the surface level, with Colotraq agents and Equinix solutions architects jointly meeting with customers to advise on digital edge strategy briefings. “One of the places that we collaborate is in helping customers with their network optimisation strategies,” says Johnston. “We have the largest collection of networks in the world in Equinix data centers, and Colotraq advises companies on optimising their network strategies and spend. We've had a really long, productive association given that overlap.”
Incoming trends such as 5G, AI, IoT, blockchain and more all signal a bright future for Equinix and its cloud offering, with the company continuing to prove invaluable for customers even during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Equinix was able to help a global financial powerhouse stand up 120,000 employees remotely in just three days. In this current climate, companies have a real need for that sort of flexibility and we're able to use our digital platform to help companies make those kinds of moves.”
Amazon test new technology to improve employee safety
At the Amazon Robotics and Advanced Technology labs in Boston, and Northern Italy, team members are testing and developing new technologies in order to help to make employees’ jobs safer, these include technologies that help move carts and packages through Amazon facilities.
Recently the safety of Amazon's warehouses has drawn scrutiny. On June 1, the Washington Post's Jay Greene and Chris Alcantara published findings from an analysis of Occupational Safety and Health Administration data showing Amazon's serious injury rates are nearly double those at other companies' facilities.
A spokesperson from Amazon said the company spent more than $1 billion last year on safety measures, and hired more than 6,200 employees to a group dedicated to workplace health and safety.
One innovation being tested by Amazon, which is in early development, is the use of motion-capture technology to assess the movement of volunteer employees in a lab setting. These employees perform tasks that are common in many Amazon facilities, such as the movement of totes, which carry products through robotic fulfillment centers.
The motion-capture software enables Amazon scientists and researchers to more accurately compare data captured in a lab environment to industry standards rather than other modelling tools traditionally used by ergonomists.
“With this data, visualisations, and employee feedback, we are looking to identify relatively simple changes that can make a big impact,” said Kevin Keck, worldwide director of Advanced Technology at Amazon. “Something as simple as changing the position of handles on totes may help lower the risk of injuries to our employees at a massive scale.”
Autonomous Robots creating new paths to safety
In order to reduce the need for employees to reach up or bend down when retrieving items, Amazon is testing a new workstation system called “Ernie.” According to the company Ernie takes totes off of a robotic shelf and uses a robotic arm to deliver it to employees, so they can remain in a more comfortable and stable position.
“We’re known for being passionate about innovating for customers, but being able to innovate with robotics for our employees is something that gives me an extra kick of motivation each day,” said Keck. “The innovation with a robot like Ernie is interesting because while it doesn’t make the process go any faster, we’re optimistic, based on our testing, it can make our facilities safer for employees.”
“Bert” is one of Amazon’s first Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), and is being tested to autonomously navigate through facilities with Amazon-developed advanced safety, perception, and navigation technology. In the future, it is thought that an employee would be able to summon Bert to carry items across a facility.
‘Scooter’ and ‘Kermit’ are two other robots that also operate autonomously, and are both transport cars. The carts are used to carry empty totes and packages through our facilities.
In a blog post the company said: ‘By having Autonomously Guided Carts (AGCs) like Scooter and Kermit perform physical tasks, we believe we can make our facilities safer and enable our employees to focus on jobs that require their critical thinking skills. In addition, using an AGC like Scooter to pull carts through our facilities reduces the risk of strains on our employees, or even collisions. We currently plan to deploy Scooter to at least one Amazon facility this year.’
Amazon began using robotics in its facilities in 2012, and since then they have added more than 1 million jobs worldwide while simultaneously deploying 350,000 mobile drive unit robots.
“The role robotics and advanced technology can play in not only innovating for customers, but helping make our facilities safer, is a massive motivation for me and my team,” said Keck. “The health and safety of our employees is our number one priority. By listening to them, innovating on their behalf, and driving new technologies into our facilities over the coming months and years, I’m confident we’ll make a big contribution to our goal of reducing recordable incidents by 50% by 2025.”