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 Tim Shaheen of Aligned.
Tim Shaheen has over 20 years of sales and sales leadership experience in the data center and IT sectors. As the EVP of Strategy & Development for Aligned, he is responsible for driving all aspects of build-to-suit data center projects. Before joining Aligned, Tim spent seven years at EdgeConneX, leading hyperscale and cloud provider segments and executing strategic and build-to-suit deals from concept through deployment in the U.S., Europe and South America. Prior to EdgeConneX, he held leadership positions at Windstream, XO Communications, Ciena, and Abovenet.
Here’s the full text of Tim Shaheen’s insights from our Executive Roundtable:
Data Center Frontier: Several hyperscale operators have indicated they expect to boost capital investment in digital infrastructure in coming years. What’s the outlook for hyperscale computing in 2021, and what will this mean for data center developers and service providers?
Tim Shaheen: Synergy Research Group recently reported that the number of hyperscale data centers globally has nearly doubled since 2016. The pipeline in North America shows no signs of slowing down and we are seeing quarter versus quarter growth from traditional and non traditional buyers primed to meet growing demand driven by tech, cloud, and content providers. This upturn in hyperscale activity will translate to an increase in hyperscale & cloud companies turning to providers for colocation and build to suit options as well as constructing their own facilities to support this level of scale.
Amongst others, there will be an increased focus from the providers’ part on:
- securing land / having available capacity / patient, sophisticated capital to fund expansion at a rapid pace;
- mitigating supply shortages by having critical, long-lead finished goods in inventory;
- having a meaningful strategy to support scale and power allocation;
- addressing highly accelerated timelines and creative economic incentives;
- having a strategy to help these customers meet specific sustainability goals, with a heavy focus on energy efficiency and reducing water use; and
- retaining great teams to drive design and operational excellence amid an industry-wide labor shortage.
Additionally, providers will need to have the ability to be flexible, construct adaptive infrastructure and be able to problem-solve to meet requirements with speed and precision.
Data Center Frontier: Enterprise IT spending appears to be rebounding after subdued spending in 2020. What are the most important trends you’re seeing in enterprise demand, and how might they impact the data center business in 2022?
Tim Shaheen: COVID-19 has certainly accelerated digitization, prompting many businesses to reap the many benefits of public cloud. What we are seeing on the enterprise side now is that some of those companies operating at scale are reassessing their “all-in” cloud strategies and considering a more hybrid approach to IT operations – what the industry has dubbed “cloud repatriation.”
Whether that shift is driven by cost, security, availability, or in-house skills, we see a potential impact to the data center business as these companies begin to bring back workloads from public clouds into their own controlled resources.
Strategically located data centers such as Aligned can offer colocation or build to suit options that can provide that added level of control without negatively impacting latency and while still providing access to public and private clouds for select applications. This option may also be able to offer more predictable IT costs (even at scale), while addressing growing density).
Both options offer many advantages; their selection will come down to specific business needs.
Data Center Frontier: Cooling is a hot topic, as data center operators seek to balance growing use of AI hardware with commitments on sustainability and water use. What do you expect will be the key themes in data center cooling in the next several years?
Tim Shaheen: Power density will continue to be critical metric when it comes to data center cooling due to customer requirements pushing the limits of legacy data center design. How densification translates to lower TCO, minimized CapEx investment, better efficiencies and lower PUE versus adding more data center space will be a critical talking point as well, especially as securing land for expansion continues to become a challenge in legacy Tier 1 markets and regions. A standardized cooling system that can handle rising densities and enable customers to scale in place without needing to move to exotic cooling solutions proves critical as sophisticated customers require more.
Water scarcity and data center sustainability will also continue to be key themes in the next several years. Collectively, data centers are among the top-ten water consuming industrial or commercial industries in the U.S. One-fifth of legacy data center servers’ direct water footprint comes from moderately to highly water-stressed watersheds, while nearly half of servers are fully or partially powered by power plants located within water-stressed regions. In order to support the density demands brought about by next-generation tech, data center infrastructure and cooling systems must become more adaptive, efficient, and environmentally responsible—and that extends to cooling systems with the flexibility to go waterless or connect to water-cooled systems, as necessary—in an increasingly water-stressed world.
Data Center Frontier: What might increased adoption of “metaverse” virtual worlds mean for digital infrastructure and the data center industry?
Tim Shaheen: All digital and virtual capabilities are rooted in physical infrastructure, so increased adoption of Metaverse will inevitably mean more data centers. It will also mean an increased focus on enhancing network connectivity, reducing latency, additional power allocation, more efficient data center cooling, and above all – scalability and the ability to expand on demand.