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Merger of two US-based hosting companies SoftLayer and The Planet has been completed, creating a strong competitor to the large hosting provider Rackspace. GI Partners, a private investment firm that owns SoftLayer and a controlling interest in The Planet, announced completion of the merger on Wednesday.

The combined company, which will operate under the SoftLayer brand, will serve about 24,000 customers in 110 countries, operating 13 facilities in US and Europe that support about 76,000 servers, according to a GI news release. The company will provide dedicated and managed hosting, cloud-based services and colocation.

Richard Magnuson, executive managing director at GI, said his company, an active investor in the data center space, was looking forward to building an even stronger company together with SoftLayer CEO Lance Crosby – who will continue to lead the new entity – and his team.

“The combination of these two powerful platforms creates a global leader with improved scale, accelerated innovation, broader product offerings, complementary strengths and unparalleled management depth,” Magnuson said in a statement.

GI bought all SoftLayer equity in partnership with the company’s management team in August 2010. It has had controlling interest in The Planet since 2006. The company’s other investments in the data center sector include wholesale provider Digital Realty Trust in 2002 and retail providers Telx and ViaWest in 2006 and 2010, respectively.

Crosby told DatacenterDynamics in August that in addition to increasing the data center footprint and customer portfolio of SoftLayer, the merger would expand its product portfolio, adding colocation and managed services, as well as achieve network synergies. The merger also creates one of the largest networks in North America, he said.

Doug Erwin, then CEO of The Planet, said the combined company would also have more financial strength than either of the firms did alone. “It increases our financial viability and borrowing power to allow us to expand at a faster rate than we could’ve expanded if we stayed separate,” he said.