Data Center Insights: Jim Buie of Involta

Sept. 22, 2023
Involta's President and CEO concludes that harmony among data center investors, operators, and customers is found in being in the right location at the right time.

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 Jim Buie, President and CEO of Involta.

James (Jim) Buie, President and Chief Executive Officer of Involta, has been a driving force in accelerating Involta’s growth trajectory throughout the country. Jim has built a cohesive operations, sales, and marketing culture that models his motivation and enthusiasm for the business. Jim joined Involta in 2016 as Chief Financial Officer, and steadily took on more responsibility to help the company grow profitably while expanding nationally.

Jim served as President from 2020-2022 and was instrumental in the acquisition of the company by global investment firm, Carlyle. He’s also transformed the company’s hybrid cloud, security and strategic consulting offerings through the strategic acquisitions and partnerships. From his start at Involta, he has been very active in Involta Cares, the company’s philanthropic platform that extends resources across the communities Involta serves.

Before joining Involta, Jim held executive roles at ViaWest, Comcast and AT&T. During his tenure, ViaWest became one of the largest privately held data center infrastructure, cloud and managed IT providers in North America.

Jim serves on the boards of the Idaho Tech Council and the Sun Corridor, the economic development leader in southern Arizona. He also stays active in numerous other industry and regional technology organizations focused on developing the technology workforce, deepening tech community relationships, and driving public policy to protect innovation.

Jim graduated from Florida State University and earned a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Colorado.

Here's the full text of Jim Buie's insights from our Executive Roundtable:

Data Center Frontier:  As data center builds and leasing in locations such as No. Va. And Silicon Valley remain increasingly challenged, the prognosis for industry growth in 2nd and 3rd tier U.S. data center markets continues to improve. What are your top 3 most attractive 2nd or 3rd tier data center markets in terms of power, cost, construction, operational, geographic or other advantages?

Jim Buie, Involta:  We like our existing presence in Ohio, Idaho, and Pittsburgh for all of the factors above.

We are expanding significantly in all markets and expect to have close to 40MW online in these markets over the next 5 years, all capable of supporting high density (up to 100kw per cabinet).

The Midwest generally continues to lead on costs, with several markets outside of the east and west coast attractive for cost, geography, and economic development support (data center tax incentives).

Data Center Frontier:  Given the rapid acceleration of AI technology momentum this year, what’s your 12-24 month outlook for planning or spending by hyperscale and colocation providers on any type of data center AI technology upgrades related to workload management and demand uptake from enterprise and consumer cloud customers?

Jim Buie, Involta:  We are currently bidding on over 100MW of demand related to these high density workloads.

AI will be the next growth driver for the industry with hundreds of millions, to billions, in capital building the next generation of data centers.

There is a long tail and need for the lower density data centers that exist today to host critical applications. However, the future is about high density, ability to cool efficiently, and connectivity.

Data Center Frontier:  The Russian author Leo Tolstoy once famously wrote, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Across the spectrum of colocation and hyperscale data center construction, expansion and operations, there’s a plurality of investors, builders and providers. What does each party optimally look for in the other to ensure a ‘happy family’? On the flip side, what factors could make for an ‘unhappy family?’

Jim Buie, Involta:  The harmony of investors, operators, and customers is found in being in the right location at the right time.

Current supply shortage and increasing demands make for an unhappy family, which will be solved over time as construction catches up to the business needs.

Not unlike other industries like wireless and fiber, construction is playing catch-up for a period of time, at least in the United States.

Today customers are having to shoehorn deployments into less than ideal facilities until the next generation of data centers come online.

As operators and investors, we are striving to project and meet this demand, but we are thinking in terms of years, not months. 

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