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Providing secure communications in the Bay Area.

John Keagy, co-founder and president of San Francisco-based colocation service ColoServe, recently talked about the company.

How did ColoServe get started?

ColoServe is a division of ServePath, a Web hosting company. We operate our own San Francisco data center, a facility that was originally built but never uses as expansion space for MCI. We were really lucky to acquire this data center when WorldCom went bankrupt, so we decided to expand from dedicated server hosting to provide colocation and data center services.

Once we had the space, it was easy to go from there and start ColoServe, because we already knew that there was a demand for a conveniently located San Francisco colocation center.

Not only we were really fortunate to get our hands on this facility to begin with, but MCI still operates the electrical and cooling infrastructure for our facility, because they lease the three floors above our data center. Local phone service (and therefore 911 service) is routed through the building, which makes it an “essential” facility. There are dual 2-megawatt generators and 20,000 gallons of diesel on site plus other infrastructure improvements.

What got you personally interested in doing this work?

One of my first adventures into the business was an ISP that I founded in the 1990s, and my partner David Hecht and I turned it into the most profitable ISP on the West Coast.

After I sold the business in 1999, I tried my luck with other stuff during the dot-com bubble, but in the end David and I decided to return to the ISP business that we knew and loved. We realized that there were people out there making a lot of money providing Web hosting services, so we figured why not us?

Why do you feel there’s a need for what you provide?

For some of our customers it’s about having their own specialized equipment and the ability to actually get their hands on their gear whenever they want to. Dedicated server hosting is often less expensive than buying your own hardware, but for the customers who live in the area it is reassuring to know that if something happens to their servers, they can immediately come here and fix the problem.

There’s also a growing awareness among business owners of the importance of secure facilities. Living and working in San Francisco and the Bay Area you have to be prepared for that inevitable earthquake, and although most buildings in the city have been retrofitted to withstand a sizeable earthquake, not many buildings are as secure and reinforced as our data center.

What types of services do you think ColoServe will be adding in the future?

We’re expanding our data center to accommodate our growing client base. We’re also working on some new Ethernet data services products, which are very exciting because metropolitan Ethernet networks are finally reaching high levels of penetration in terms of their availability to the business community.

Companies will be able to replace expensive T-1 lines and other connections with high-speed Ethernet lines that run over local fiber loops throughout the Bay Area, which will really improve the performance of their Internet connections and make lots of other Internet services available to them.

Disaster recovery and data replication for backups are two major services lots of companies are looking at, especially given the number of natural disasters in 2005, and Ethernet data services eliminate some of the bottlenecks to make these work better.

What kinds of challenges are there in providing your services?

One of the most challenging things facing ColoServe today is the increase in electricity prices. As equipment becomes smaller physically, it is possible to fit more of them into the same space, which then requires more power.

For instance, a lot of the new types of high-density blade servers have extremely high power requirements. That’s why we are expanding data center in the next year and adapting it to the new power requirements.

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