June 25, 2003
Almost Like Old Times
Back in February of 2001, an overflow crowd of more than 600 people packed a Manhattan meeting room at an IMN conference to discuss the business of carrier hotels. It was probably the high-water mark for data center conferences, as subsequent industry events drew progressively smaller crowds.
Fast-forward to Tuesday's TelX Customer Business Exchange. An overflow crowd of more than 400 packed a Manhattan meeting room at 60 Hudson Street to discuss doing business in carrier hotels.
As the event got underway, TelX CEO Rory Cutaia welcomed the cell phones ringing during his comments. "We're here to do business," he said. "Leave the cell phones on."
There was something in the air, and it was more then the beeping and chirping of cell phones. It was excitement, and that's something that's been sorely missing from this sector.
It's understandable if a "bunker mentality" has prevailed in recent years. The order of the day has been bankruptcies, stock price collapses and RIFs - short for "reduction in force" and the successor to "rightsizing" as the euphemism of choice for layoffs. Positive trends bring mixed emotions, with a healthy dose of skepticism accompanying any optimism.
There was room for that at the TelX event. More folks were selling than buying. The sales cycle remains lengthy, as companies take time to consider their options and seek broad internal approvals on spending. And competition on pricing is fierce, with customers willing to play one provider off another in pursuit of the best deal.
But there was also plenty of evidence of a modest revival. Most people I spoke with said they've seen a discernable uptick in activity in the past three months. Building owners say they're seeing requests for larger chunks of space than six months ago (a trend we've also seen in site location inquiries at Node Com).
And as we note in our story today, stocks of hosting and network services firms have soared in recent weeks. Savvy value investors like Warren Buffett, Carl Icahn and Wilbur Ross are plowing hundreds of millions of dollars into telecom. Huge financial firms are also driving demand for data center sales.
At Tuesday's event, Cutaia joked that a roving video camera was on hand to film a new reality series. "It's called Telecom Survivor," he joked.
There were plenty of Telecom Survivors at 60 Hudson Tuesday, and there's plenty more that read this site. You've hung in there for the same reason as the "castaways" on the CBS reality show - the belief that if you're tough enough and determined enough for long enough, there's a reward ahead.