Executive Insights: Shannon Hulbert from Opus Interactive

The Data Center Frontier Executive Roundtable features insights from industry executives with lengthy experience in the data center industry. Here’s a look at the insights from Shannon Hulbert of Opus […]

The Data Center Frontier Executive Roundtable features insights from industry executives with lengthy experience in the data center industry. Here’s a look at the insights from Shannon Hulbert of Opus Interactive.

SHANNON HULBERT, Opus Interactive.

Shannon Hulbert, CEO of Opus Interactive, was recently named to Mirror Review’s Top 10 Most Prominent Leaders in Cloud Computing. With a footprint in Iron Mountain’s FISMA-High facility in Manassas, the hybrid cloud and colocation company has achieved 30% growth year over year since 2012 and was included in the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in the nation for the past 2 years. The company was named to the 2019 CRN Next-Gen 250 List, annual list that recognizes standout IT solution providers that embrace emerging technologies to adapt to an evolving marketplace. A recipient of NCAIED’s Native American 40 Under 40, Shannon brings over 20 years of strategy, marketing, and brand development expertise and currently holds memberships in Infrastructure Masons, Portland Business Journal Leadership Trust, and the Pacific Northwest Defense Coalition.

Prior to her work with Opus Interactive, Shannon headed a marketing services company and specialized in federal, state, tribal, and private initiatives in the energy, tech, and health industries. Her experience includes over 7 years marketing utility energy-efficiency programs across the nation spanning lighting, products, residential, commercial commissioning and retrocommissioning, grocer and multi-family programs, including lead design work for 6 ENERGY STAR award winning programs.

Shannon is also founder of Redbridge Foundation, 501c3 host of the Energy & Tech Tour. The Tour is the first road tour/summer camp committed to educating underserved youth on STEM-related careers in energy and tech. She is an advocate for women in tech, STEM, sustainable energy, and rural connectivity.

Here’s the full text of Shannon Hulbert’s insights from our Executive Roundtable:

Data Center Frontier: Is liquid cooling gaining traction? What are the key factors that will guide whether liquid cooling technologies see greater adoption?

The market for liquid cooling is forecasting a CAGR of 20% annually to reach 7 billion by 2028. The demand for liquid cooling is driven by data growth and increased energy use. As data and energy consumption grow, the need to find ways to improve efficiencies increases. Right now, global data traffic more than doubles every 4 years. A billion more people coming online in developing countries, the Internet of Things (IoT), driverless cars, robots, and artificial intelligence (AI) is why US researchers expect global power consumption to triple in the next 5 years.

Today, datacenters consume close to 2% of the world’s energy. It’s estimated that the information and communications technology (ITC) sector will use 20% of all the world’s electricity by 2025 – emitting up to 5.5% of all carbon emissions. This is driving a search for alternative energy sources as well as improvement of energy efficiency across the space from edge to cloud.

Similar to the way the data center and cloud industries are moving to hybrid approaches, different regions and different use cases will likely determine where and how we see adoption. Considerations might be, warm regions vs cold, high energy cost vs lower, high performance compute vs cold storage. Additionally, the technology of the liquid cooling is happening at multiple levels from facility to equipment to architecture.

Either way, safe to say we’ll see demand and innovation continue to grow in the market.

Data Center Frontier: Cloud, colo, on-premises and edge … deployment options abound. What trends are you seeing in where customers are deploying workloads, and how are these decisions changing?

The biggest trend is …. there is no “one size fits all” and the customer is savvier than they’ve ever been. The industry is maturing. Every business is different, operating with a plethora of applications and systems. Every application has its own requirements for storage, access, process, and compute. Even microservices within the application are being parsed out to enable individual elements to scale and update separately.

Solutions are evolving at every level of datacenter and cloud to meet a range of workload criteria. 63% of workloads in 2022 are off-prem and deployed across a landscape of environments by workload type and more. Factors that impact how decisions for where workloads reside include:

  • Security & Compliance
  • Budget
  • Performance
  • Latency
  • Storage access
  • Data governance
  • Evolution of storage offerings to accommodate access needs requiring hot, warm, and cold storage are driving hybrid storage strategies similar to how cloud offerings are being sourced
  • Evolution of service offerings for customer data services at the edge

Opus Interactive CEO Shannon Hulbert in one of the company’s data centers. (Photo: Opus Interactive)

Data Center Frontier: After several years of active discussion of diversity and inclusion, how is the data center industry doing? What additional steps are needed to make a bigger difference?

To be in the data center and cloud industry of today is to be a pioneer of connectivity. The information superhighway is currently under construction and driven by a culture of innovation. This new era, where traffic is doubling every four years is constantly looking for faster, more efficient, more resilient solutions – so change is a welcome constant because change is how you get faster, more efficient, and more resilient. This adoption of cloud is happening at a similar pace around the world, with the understanding that different regions have different needs. Different people have different needs. In relation to that, the industry has recognized very early on that you need a diverse workforce to solve for our growing global community.

Of course we can do better! I have 3 key focuses:

  • Expand awareness and adoption of allyship. We all have a unique path that took us ‘to the cloud”. The diversity of roles, education, upbringing, and culture bring a unique set of skills to every role that is filled.
  • Increase STEM education. Kids in STEM become team members in Tech.
  • Support for women in tech. Women represent just 25% of the roles in the industry.

Data Center Frontier: Will microgrids play a larger role as the data center industry addresses power constraints in some key markets? What problems could they address?

Similar to how demand for liquid cooling for certain areas and use cases are growing, the demand for microgrids also has its place in the connectivity landscape. Whether it’s a region that experiences harsh or unpredictable weather, or fluctuating energy costs, or wild land fires – there is a growing need to have the ability to generate efficient power onsite as needed. In the interim, there will likely be transitory solutions that help to address power constraints – whether that’s continuing with generators or exploration of nuclear power.

Long term, the mix for power could include microgrids with renewables, energy storage, and building as a system monitoring and management that utilizes ML for predictive analytics. The region and use case will likely play a role in where and how these technologies are adopted. Areas with high energy costs and high renewable potential could be early adopters. Rural areas where power access is limited could see microgrids paired with satellite connectivity and drone delivery and surveillance. As the edge gains adoption, demand for micro grids that ensure redundant power for onsite edge deployments will likely also see an uptick.

As a former energy professional, I can now say … and this is what it’s like when worlds collide. Go planet!