Data Center Insights: Allen Rounds, Kohler

July 3, 2024
Kohler Sales Executive Allen Rounds feels that the biggest consideration for any new data center these days, especially a MegaCampus, is access to grid-supplied power.

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 Allen Rounds, Sales Executive for Kohler.

Allen Rounds started with Kohler in 2007 as a design engineer. Focusing on standby generators, Allen worked closely with engineers and operations to ensure product was delivered to the customer as expected. He has also held titles of process engineer, operations manager and program manager during his 17 year career.

He has supported the sales and delivery of several hundred megawatts of standby capacity. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Milwaukee School Of Engineering University (MSOE), Bachelor's Degree in Management Systems from (MSOE), and an Executive Masters in Business Administration from Marquette University. 

Here's the full text of Allen Rounds' insights from our Executive Roundtable:

Data Center Frontier:  To open the Second Quarter of 2024, Data Center Frontier's Founder and Editor at Large Rich Miller doubled down on a definitive call originally made in his annual industry trends forecast: The age of the gigawatt data center MegaCampus is truly upon us. From your perspective, what are the most pertinent front-of-mind considerations, whether geographic, regulatory or otherwise, for MegaCampus stakeholders including investors, developers, operators, partners, vendors, and customers?  

Allen Rounds, Kohler:  The biggest consideration for any new data center these days, especially a MegaCampus, is accessing grid-supplied power. 

Simply put, the country’s power grid wasn’t built to provide the kind of volume that these new facilities require. This manifests itself in a couple of important ways. 

For one, power is unavailable in many markets so interconnection wait times are years long and only getting longer. 

For another, the grids themselves are becoming less reliable as they are pushed to new limits, so the frequency and duration of outages and disruptions are both getting longer. 

These factors and more are contributing to the exploration of alternative power sources, new ways of working with utility providers, and an enhanced importance on bridging and backup power solutions. This is the primary challenge of developing a MegaCampus now and in the future. 

Data Center Frontier:  In the industry's now ongoing level-up to global net zero and decarbonization goals, what processes should data center developers and operators be prioritizing for a proactive approach to building greener data centers and fostering resilient sustainability practices, especially in the face of the exponential future power demands associated with AI and GPU-based computing?

Allen Rounds, Kohler: The most important step for data centers’ environmental initiatives is identifying relevant metrics, measuring them accurately, and using that data to set goals. 

Whether you’re managing your facility’s emissions, reducing carbon-based inputs, or increasing internal efficiency, you can’t understand your consumption until you start tracking it. 

From internal stakeholders like shareholders, investors, and employees to external parties like lawmakers, regulatory agencies, and customers, reporting on sustainability metrics is the most definitive way to drive improvements, and, sadly, many data centers simply aren’t doing it. 

As more data centers implement tracking systems, the metrics and measurements will become more standardized, and that’s the path to significant industry-wide change toward a more sustainable way of doing business in the data center sector. 

Data Center Frontier:  From your view of the data center industry, what are the top opportunities for any type of modular design innovation within or adjacent to hyperscale or colocation facilities, the better to measure up to escalating compute as well as grid and on-site power requirements for meeting the expected, ongoing rise in demand for ultra-cloud, HPC and AI/ML workloads?  

Allen Rounds, Kohler: In my view, the biggest advantage of modular design is that it improves speed to market for new data centers or data centers undergoing upgrades. 

For data center vendors, modularity allows components to be more easily customized, supporting more rapid manufacturing and quicker adaptability for changing demands and technological advancements. 

For example, different parts and features of a backup power generator can be modules that allow for easy swapping or upgrades as needed. 

Modularity also simplifies the manufacturing process, as the components can be produced in parallel, reducing lead times and improving efficiency. In the context of an entire facility, modularity affects the speed and ease of installing data center systems. 

For instance, power and cooling units can be manufactured off-site and then quickly assembled on-site for a faster and easier construction or upgrade process. 

Overall, new workloads like AI demand more (and more capable) facilities, and the industry can facilitate this faster with a modular approach to design, construction, and installation.

Data Center Frontier:  What are some data points or anecdotes people persistently seem to get wrong or misbelieve about your area of the data center sector?  

Allen Rounds, Kohler: I think it’s important to understand that public opinion is not an obstacle to overcome or an opponent to defeat. 

These are the people we serve with our networks and connectivity services, and their ongoing ability to ask questions and express worries is an important part of these business and operational relationships. 

For us, it’s important to maintain congenial relationships with the media or public, because this is our space to engage in open, productive, necessary dialogue—and for readers and communities to participate in that dialogue. 

There are some misconceptions, sure, but concerns about risks and threats come from a healthy place. After all, we all want to live in a safe community. If there are negative sentiments then it's our job as an industry job to engage in a collaborative way to calm concerns, not fight back with claims of ignorance or ill-will. 

We're all in this together, so we need to work together with various stakeholders to listen, gain trust, and create a better situation in an open and honest way—something that won’t be helped by hammering on data points or anecdotes. 

Data centers, AI, and the like have a major role to play in shaping our collective future, so it's our task to shape it in a positive way. 

This certainly is not a perfect industry with everything figured out, but open discussion and innovation is the way forward, not an impingement for those that truly have the global community's best interests at heart.


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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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