Netrality Eyes Expansion, Sharpens Focus on Connected Carrier Hotels

Data Center Frontier

February 7th, 2020

Rich Miller


Netrality has new owners, but remains focused on building out a national network of connectivity-rich carrier hotels in major metros. Only at an even larger scale.

“The business remains the same,” said Josh Maes, the Chief Operating Officer for Netrality. “We’re going to continue to focus on adding dots on the map and bringing data centers into our portfolio.”

Netrality will have more resources to put behind that strategy as a result of its acquisition by Macquarie Infrastructure Partners (MIP) in August. Macquarie is an Australian firm that invests in major infrastructure projects, which has a depth of financial resources and operating experience.

“Having the Macquarie team behind us is incredibly helpful,” said Maes. “The infrastructure investors moving into this space is validating this strategy.”

Netrality operates carrier hotel buildings in Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, Kansas City and St. Louis. Carrier hotels are multi-tenant data centers located in the central business districts of major cities, serving as critical connectivity hubs.

The company, named for its focus on networks and neutrality, is creating advanced meet-me rooms in each property to enable customers to easily exchange network traffic. The existing management team continues, including Maes and CEO Gerald Marshall. Netrality recently announced the addition of Amber Caramella as Chief Revenue Officer.

Prior to joining Netrality, Caramella served as Senior Vice President of Sales at Zayo, where she built the company’s global data center vertical team. She brings vast industry experience, previously holding a variety of sales and leadership roles at Level 3 Communications (now CenturyLink), XO Communications and Allegiance Telecom.

“It’s an exciting time to be joining the Netrality team,” said Caramella. “I look forward to contributing to its success.”

“Amber’s wealth of industry knowledge is the perfect complement to our C-suite as we venture forward on an aggressive path of growth, both organic and via acquisition,” said Marshall.

Cornerstones of the Internet Economy

Netrality was launched in 2015, with a vision for acquiring carrier hotels and upgrading their interconnection infrastructure to boost the flow of data between carriers, network operators and content specialists. Carrier hotels became the early cornerstones of the Internet economy, and some of the most successful properties in the colocation industry. A key piece of the business model is the meet-me room, a common area where providers can make connections between their networks.

Netrality’s formula is a real estate strategy built atop the enduring power of the cross connect – the physical connection between networks that knits the Internet together

The company sees plenty of opportunity to both build and buy. On the organic growth front, Netrality is adding tenants and continuing improvements to the Meet-Me Room and building infrastructure at its properties.

“We’re seeing growth and building out new capacity in all of our markets,” said Maes. “Demand has been super strong everywhere. There’s a really interesting opportunity with 5G platforms.”

Indeed, the emergence of 5G wireless and smart cities that integrate information technology into the fabric of city life, using analytics and sensors to better manage cities and make urban life safer, more efficient and sustainable. The long-term future for smart cities brings together the Internet of Things, BigData, artificial intelligence and self-driving cars to change the way we live and do business in major urban centers.

Acquisitions on the Roadmap

That’s the sweet spot for Netrality’s offerings, which include colocation, powered shell, and wholesale data center solutions. Its portfolio includes six data centers in five markets: 210 North Tucker and 900 Walnut in St. Louis, 1102 Grand in Kansas City, 1301 Fannin in Houston, 401 North Broad in Philadelphia and 717 South Wells in Chicago. Some of the buildings are large enough to have their own zip codes.

Acquisitions are also part of the Netrality playbook, and an area where Macquarie’s sponsorship brings the ability to finance growth.  MIP is part of Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA) which manages $129 billion in assets, including 155 portfolio businesses.

Macquarie is also a major investor in Aligned Energy, providing the financial resources to help the company expand its data center footprint and executive team, and innovate in data center construction and sustainability.

It is bringing similar capabilities to Netrality. In addition to hiring Caramella, the company recently appointed Phill Lawson-Shanks, the Chief Innovation Officer at Aligned Energy, to the Netrality board of directors.  His 25-year career spans leadership roles at EdgeConneX, Virtacore, Alcatel-Lucent, Savvis (now CenturyLink), MCI (now Verizon Digital Media) and Compaq.

“I am pleased to join Netrality’s board of directors and look forward to leveraging my experience to help guide the company’s vision to create a more robust platform of distributed point of network interconnection and strategic on-ramps,” said Lawson-Shanks.

Marshall said Lawson-Shanks’ “extensive background in data center infrastructure, network architecture and cloud solutions will be invaluable for the next phase of growth for Netrality.”