Data Center Pioneer Christian Belady To Advise DigitalBridge On Cloud, AI Investment, Expansion

Feb. 13, 2024
In his new role at DigitalBridge, Belady will provide strategic counsel in support of the continued development of the firm’s global data center portfolio, which it says is now positioned to meet "unprecedented demand" driven by investment in cloud and AI.

As investors put billions in capital to work in digital infrastructure, it's important that the sector's most experienced and innovative thinkers help to guide this effort. Data center pioneer Christian Belady this month joining DigitalBridge Group, Inc. (NYSE: DBRG) as a senior advisor is a great example of this trend. 

Belady is a distinguished industry veteran with over four decades of experience in data center and infrastructure management and development on a global scale. Prior to joining DigitalBridge, he served as Vice President of Data Center Research and Development for Microsoft’s Cloud Infrastructure Organization. 

In that role, from which he recently retired, Belady led a team developing new technologies to transform the sector while addressing the challenges of scaling the cloud and AI. In previous roles at Microsoft, Belady led global server and data center development, including research, engineering, construction, and operations for Microsoft’s data center portfolio. He also developed and led the company's energy team during this period.

Notably, Belady is credited with creating the data center industry's ubiquitous power usage effectiveness (PUE) metric while at server maker HP, as noted by the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC), who presented its 2024 Data Center Icon Award to the former vice president and distinguished engineer at Microsoft.

“I am pleased to join DigitalBridge,” said Belady, adding, “I have long been impressed by the firm’s approach to global digital infrastructure investing. I look forward to working closely with the management team and learning from our combined experience and knowledge.”

Belady has been a founder or key contributor to a number of industry organizations and standards, including ASHRAE (The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers), The Green Grid, and the iMasons Climate Accord (ICA), where he helped to develop new industry metrics and guidelines to foster sustainability and efficiency, as noted by a DigitalBridge press release. 

This year, Belady's contributions to the data center industry have been recognized with two prestigious industry awards: Election to the National Academy of Engineering; and the Data Center Icon Award from the North Virginia Technology Council. Belady has received numerous other industry accolades over his career, and holds over 150 U.S. and international patents related to both data center and server design.

Jon Mauck, Senior Managing Director of DigitalBridge, who leads the company’s data center investment strategy, remarked:

“We are thrilled to welcome Christian to DigitalBridge and look forward to benefiting from his unparalleled expertise in data center design, development and management. Christian is a distinguished technologist whose innovations have changed the industry’s metrics and led to substantial energy efficiency gains globally. As part of DigitalBridge, Christian will continue to advance the sector and, specifically, drive energy efficiency and design improvements to better meet the demands for AI workloads.”

In his new role at DigitalBridge, Belady will provide strategic counsel to the global alternative asset manager -- whose explicit specialty is investing in digital infrastructure -- in support of the continued development of the firm’s expansive global data center portfolio, which it contends is now optimally positioned to meet unprecedented demand driven by investment in cloud and AI. 

Major North American operators in the DigitalBridge portfolio include global hyperscale campus specialist Vantage Data Centers; DataBank, whose bailiwick is enterprise and edge data centers; and Switch, an operator of private cloud data centers.

 

Vantage Data Centers Touts Historic 2023

Vantage Data Centers reported that it experienced "unprecedented growth" in 2023, driven by global demand for AI and cloud computing. In securing $10 billion in incremental funding last year, the company noted that it significantly accelerated its expansion roadmap, entering two new markets and breaking ground on a host of new campuses while opening numerous new facilities around the world.

Vantage Data Centers said it raised a record $10 billion in incremental debt and equity financing throughout 2023 to support the growing demand from the world’s largest hyperscalers. The capital raised supported record leasing, added the company. Vantage said it leveraged the new investments throughout the year to serve its customers in key markets, while supporting the global development of digital infrastructure and technology hubs. 

Driving the expansion of the company’s international platform, the influx of capital came as demand for hyperscale cloud services and generative AI soared, with projections expected to reach $535 billion by 2028, according to Structure Research; and $1.3 trillion by 2032, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, respectively, as cited by Vantage.

Sureel Choksi, president and CEO of Vantage Data Centers, commented:

“In 2023, we entered emerging and high-demand data center markets to meet the needs of our customers as artificial intelligence and other innovative technologies continue to advance. By aligning our strategic roadmap with our customers’ needs and forging partnerships with leading international investors, we continued our rapid growth in 2023, and we will continue to build on this momentum in 2024 and beyond.”

In 2023, Vantage entered the London and Taipei data center markets, in addition to breaking ground on seven campuses across North America, EMEA and APAC, and opening ten new data centers globally.

Select North American highlights for Vantage Data Centers last year included:

  • Quincy, Washington: Vantage delivered its third and final facility on its 89 MW WA1 campus in Quincy, Washington. Since entering the Quincy market in 2011, Vantage notes it has invested more than $1 billion into the campus and created hundreds of long-term, high-paying jobs. The tax revenue generated by Vantage has contributed to the development of a new modern hospital and a state-of-the-art high school for the area.
  • Phoenix, Arizona: Vantage last year celebrated the topping out of Phase II construction on its $1.5 billion, 176 MW AZ1 campus in Goodyear, scheduled to be operational by spring of 2024. The construction and operation of the facility is expected to create about 3,000 jobs, noted the company.

 

DataBank On Fast Track for AI Data Center Development

Recently listed as one of the fastest-growing companies in North America in the 2023 Deloitte Technology Fast 500 ranking (which cited a 234% jump in revenue for the data center operator last year), DataBank got off to a running start in 2024 with its January announcement of a second expansion of its SLC6 data center in Bluffdale, Utah near Salt Lake City. 

Positioned to help support the growing technology ecosystem in the western U.S., the new development will add 25,000 square feet (SF) of raised floor space and 5 MW of critical power, inclusive of a dedicated catcher reserve block for SLC6, which is designed to accommodate AI deployments as well as traditional IT environments.

Expected to be completed in Q1 of 2024, this second expansion further supplements a previously announced 25,000 SF of additional raised floor space and 6 MW of critical power that DataBank is also currently adding. Once the two expansions are completed, SLC6 will feature 88,250 SF of raised floor space and 2 2 MW of critical power.

“The SLC6 expansions sync with how the data center market in the Salt Lake area is expanding rapidly,” observed DataBank Vice President of Construction, Tony Qorri. “We’re ready to support large enterprises, software developers, social media platforms, and hardware manufacturers that need extra data center capacity to run their operations.”

Located on the “Silicon Slopes” of Utah—at 14870 South Pony Express Road in Bluffdale—SLC6 opened in 2023 and is on the Granite Point Campus, which consists of four other DataBank data centers. The campus is 25 minutes from another DataBank data center in downtown Salt Lake City.

SLC6 features N+1 power and cooling redundancies to assure uptime for customer compute resources, and a 66 MW substation for additional power capacity. 13 telecommunications carriers have established a presence at SLC6 for DataBank customers to connect to; and the colocation facility complies with SSAE 18, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, ISO 27001, and GDPR standards and regulations.

As rightly noted by DataBank, Salt Lake City is rapidly becoming a go-to destination for data centers and is one of the fastest-growing technology hubs in the country, appealing to innovators and also as an alternative to expensive data centers in California. The region's technology appeal is demonstrated by the newly created Utah Innovation Fund, which financially embodies the state’s dedication to nurturing nascent technology companies, and is helping Utah to become arguably the fastest-growing startup and entrepreneurial economy in the U.S.

Last November, DataBank announced its raising of $533 million in debt and equity to finance new data center developments. The operator said it would use the capital to fund new and expansion facilities to meet the "unprecedented demand" for data center capacity being driven by AI. 

DataBank said the new financing consisted of two separate transactions: $188 million in equity raised from existing and new investors, and a $345 million construction loan for new data centers being developed in the Atlanta market, where DataBank last fall also announced it acquired nearly 100 acres of land for a new data center campus. The operator said its Atlanta development will support up to 1 million square feet data center space and 180 MW of power to meet runaway demand for colocation of AI, hyperscale and enterprise workloads.

Last November, DataBank also announced the expansion of its MSP3 data center in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota to expand its support for the growing technology ecosystem in the greater Minneapolis area. The new development will add 15,000 SF of raised floor space and 4.5 MW of critical power. Powered by an Xcel Energy substation, MSP3 offers connectivity to other DataBank data centers -- including the MSP4 carrier hotel in downtown Minneapolis and interconnect hubs at MSP2 in East Twin Cities -- and currently features N+1 power and cooling designs along with a 9 MW critical IT load.

Capping off last November, DataBank announced its purchase of 85 acres of land in Northern Virginia for a new data center campus. The 85 acres of land DataBank acquired in Culpeper, Virginia will become home to the company's new “Culpeper Campus,” hosting up to three 2-story data centers that are expected to add 1.4 million gross SF of space. 

The site will also include a 300 MW onsite substation from Dominion Energy capable of delivering 192 MW of critical IT power when fully deployed. Culpeper, which has increasingly become a vital addition to the Northern Virginia data center market, has also designated the DataBank location as one of only a handful of sites in the city considered a “technology zone” eligible for tax incentives.

The new campus, and the facilities ultimately built there, will leverage DataBank’s recently announced Universal Data Hall Design (UDHD), which the operator notes will ensure capacity can be quickly deployed to meet the wide-ranging sustainability and performance requirements of all customers ranging from enterprises, hyperscale cloud providers, and emerging AI applications that need the highest possible power and cooling density.

“Northern Virginia continues to be one of the most important data center markets in the world,” said Raul K. Martynek, DataBank’s CEO. “As the market continues to grow, we expect data center development to expand southward, and Culpeper is an ideal location given the plentiful land, utility capacity, and existing fiber and data center infrastructure in the region.”

 

Switch Forges Ahead with Ambitious Plans for Sustainable Growth 

In December of 2022, DigitalBridge and IFM Investors completed their $11 billion "take-private" acquisition of Switch, operator of the famed Supernap data center in Las Vegas. 

Last year, Switch issued its 2022 Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Report, which highlighted the operator's leadership and accomplishments in environmental stewardship, social commitment and sound corporate governance.  

“We must do our part to enhance human productivity and drive economic prosperity,” said Switch Founder and CEO Rob Roy. "My vision for Switch is to sustainably power the future of the connected world by providing the most secure, energy-efficient technology ecosystems to facilitate digital commerce now and for the next 100 years."

Last year, Switch was once again named by Newsweek magazine as one of “America’s Most Responsible Companies,” reflecting its commitment to the tenets of ESG, corporate social responsibility, sustainability and overall corporate citizenship.

As noted by the operator, all Switch data centers run on 100% renewable energy and have been achieving this extraordinary milestone since 2016. Further, in recognition of the company’s efforts in solar energy, the Solar Energy Industries Association recently named Switch one of the top five companies for solar use in the U.S.

Last November, Switch announced its appointment of Madonna Park to the position of Chief Financial Officer. As CFO, Park is responsible for financial management of the company, including leading its accounting, finance, internal audit and investor relations teams, while also partnering with the executive team to drive Switch’s ambitious growth plans.

 

Bringing more than 20 years of experience as an investment banker and equity research analyst, Park joined Switch after more than 17 years with RBC Capital Markets, where she most recently served as Managing Director and Global Head of Communications Infrastructure.

In this role, she was focused on providing companies in the data center and fiber sectors with comprehensive financial advisory services including mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, recapitalizations and equity and debt underwriting. Park has successfully led and executed numerous high-profile M&A and capital market transactions in the data center space across North America, Europe and Asia.

“We are excited to welcome Madonna to the executive team of Switch," said Jon Mauck, Senior Managing Director and Head of Data Center Investments at DigitalBridge. "Her experience in the digital infrastructure sector and expertise across capital markets are a perfect match to support Switch’s rapid growth, increasingly driven by demand for core enterprise outsourcing and AI workloads.” 

Finally, as reported this month by Datacenter Dynamics, Switch is currently planning to further expand its data center campus footprint in Austin, Texas, as it maneuvers in wake of its $420 million acquisition of Data Foundry in 2021.

Ed. Note. -- DigitalBridge is also the investor behind the major LATAM hyperscale developer Scala Data Centers, who DCF recently profiled. 

 

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About the Author

Matt Vincent

A B2B technology journalist and editor with more than two decades of experience, Matt Vincent is Editor in Chief of Data Center Frontier.

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