September 26, 2001
OK, Now What?
Exodus' Chapter 11 filing today ends months of speculation about bankruptcy. Now that all the guesswork is over, what will this event mean for our industry - for Exodus' landlords, customers, business partners and investors?
The company hasn't filled in many of the blanks. The one substantial nugget of news was the $200 million in debtor financing from GE Capital. While making a vague reference to employee reductions, Exodus said it was "about the right size" and apparently plans no dramatic steps to further reduce expenses. Is $200 million enough, especially in this market?
Some companies emerge from bankruptcy. Layer One, for example, did it earlier this summer. Can Exodus follow suit? Or is its management deluding itself in predicting a quick trip through Chapter 11, with support from creditors and bondholders?
Is this likely to become a remarkable turnaround story? Or yet another court-supervised fire sale for cents on the dollar?
We want to hear from you. Add your comments below. Let's try to keep the sales pitches to a minimum.
September 20, 2001
Navigating, In The Aftermath
We work in an industry in which hypothetical future disasters are a regular topic of discussion. In recent months, Internet data centers have safeguarded digital data through major earthquakes, floods and power outages, validating the importance of these services.
So how do we respond when real life turns apocalyptic?
I think many of us are struggling with this question. We are a traumatized nation. Few Americans are untouched by the devastation and human tragedies in New York and Washington. Everyone has a story of someone they knew who either survived or perished.
We long for life to be "normal" again, so we resume our daily routines. But living in the shadow of the Trade Center disaster, business seems pretty small. Before Sept. 11, we arose each morning eager to provide a valuable service to our clients - and support ourselves and our family by doing so. It's a new day in many ways, when these old motivations sometimes don't seem noble enough anymore.
And yet, data center operators and web hosting firms are uniquely positioned to assist companies at a critical juncture. No one wants to appear opportunistic at a moment such as this. But as all of us look for some way to help, we look first to what we know.
In that regard, the Internet infrastructure industry has something to offer. Many firms have offered free services to companies affected by the terrorist attacks. These include Inflow, AccessColo, Gateway Colo, Internap, Telseon and Yipes, as well as Node Com, a business affiliate of CarrierHotels.com.
At some point, these short-term assistance efforts could evolve into long-term business relationships. With renewed emphasis on disaster recovery and videoconferencing, there's no escaping the fact that this tragic event may accelerate demand for some web services. This reality can leave us grappling with a minor form of "survivor's guilt" as we encounter these situations.
Navigating in this environment requires sensitivity to the moment, the customer and the circumstances. We applaud the companies who have made the effort to help.
No, Nostradamus didn't predict the World Trade Center tragedy.
Every now and again, an eclectic bit of personal expertise comes in handy. In my case, it involves a 1999 newspaper assignment to write about Nostradamus, which required a thankfully brief immersion in the online network of Nostradamus enthusiasts.
Why is this timely? Believe it or not, for the week ended Sept. 17, "Nostradamus" was the most requested search term on the Internet, according to Google. This resulted from e-mail driven rumors that Nostradamus had predicted the World Trade center disaster in a quatrain written in 1654.
There's only one problem. In 1654, Nostradamus had been dead for nearly a hundred years. There are at least four different versions of alleged Nostradamus quatrains circulating regarding Sept. 11, all of which are either fraudulent or misquoted.
For a fuller exploration of the current Nostradamus rumors, you can visit these web sites:
Did Nostradamus Predict The World Trade Center Attack?
Nostradamus NYC FAQ
For those who are new to the subject, Michel Nostradamus was a physician and astrologer widely believed to have predicted future events. His writings have been used to support a wide range of other prophecies and are a favorite topic of supermarket tabloid headlines.
His supporters say Nostradamus predicted the rise of Napoleon and Hitler with
uncanny accuracy and foresaw events, including the space shuttle disaster
and math-processing problems with the Pentium computer chip. His detractors say he was a mediocre 16th-century astrologer with no special gifts, whose vague writings have been wildly overinterpreted by prophecy enthusiasts.
One of the sources I spoke with in 1999 was James Randi, an illusionist who has made a career of debunking Nostradamus and other supernatural interests he believes qualify as urban myths.
"People are hungry for this kind of thing," Randi told me. "Knowledge of the future represents power, and people are looking for power, so they pay money to astrologers and 1-900 numbers, not realizing that if the astrologers and operators of the 1-900 service really had all this power, they'd use it for themselves and not have to do all this marketing to others."
September 10, 2001
The Vertical Play
With the colocation business in the doldrums and the managed hosting arena getting more crowded by the moment, how does a provider differentiate itself?
One strategy, highlighted by Yankee Group analyst Andrew Efstathiou in a July report, is to target a vertical market and offer a customized suite of managed hosting services.
In the past several weeks we've seen announcements of "vertical plays" by several providers targeting particular industries.
On Aug. 30, Qwest said it would team with GE Medical Systems to transport and store massive amounts of electronic medical data. In GE Medical, Qwest found a partner with established relationships with more than 50 hospitals across the country. As medical offices go paperless, those records need to go somewhere. Qwest thinks their data centers will make a fine destination.
Then today Inflow announced an initiative targeting the trucking and shipping industries, and said it had signed two major customers in the sector, Truckload Management Inc. and CarrierPoint. The companies provide electronic document management and logistics applications to help trucker fleets go paperless.
Got an example of a vertical play by a provider? What vertical markets make the most sense as managed hosting plays? Share your experience and comments below.