DCF Podcast Episode 1 – Understanding the Hyperscale Data Center

Sept. 16, 2019
The first episode of the Data Center Frontier Show podcast focuses on hyperscale data centers, along with an introduction to the podcast, our web site and host, and what you’ll hear about in coming episodes.

Welcome to our new Data Center Frontier Show podcast, telling the story of the data center industry and its future. Our podcast is hosted by Rich Miller, editor of Data Center Frontier, who is your guide to the ongoing digital transformation, explaining how next-generation technologies are changing our world, and the critical role the data center industry plays in creating this extraordinary future.

Podcast Episode 1 – Understanding the Hyperscale Data Center

We start with a look at the world of hyperscale data centers, and an introduction to the podcast, including a brief history of Data Center Frontier and editor Rich Miller’s “data center story.” Rich also offers a preview of the season ahead.

Be sure to subscribe to the Data Center Frontier show on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you find quality podcasts. You can also subscribe using our RSS feed, and tell your friends and colleagues about our podcast!

Sponorship and Contacts:

Our first season of the Data Center Frontier Show is sponsored by T5 Data Centers. For future advertising opportunities, contact Kevin Normandeau at [email protected]. For feedback and questions about the podcast, contact Rich Miller at [email protected].

Episode 1 Podcast Transcript


I believe everyone has a story. For many of you who are listening, that story probably involves a data center.

My data center story began in the year 2000, when I walked into a data center for the first time, and encountered this incredible facility filled with racks and racks of servers and blinking lights. It was chilly, and as I looked around, I saw network cabling and power equipment – all the invisible infrastructure needed to power the Internet.

As I walked back out into the sunshine, I was consumed with a single thought: “We’re going to need these EVERYWHERE!”

I’ve spent nearly every day since writing about data centers and how they are changing the world.

My name is Rich Miller, and I’m the founder and editor of Data Center Frontier, and I’d like to welcome you to the first episode of the Data Center Frontier Show. This podcast is all about building the digital economy of the future, where it will live, and how it will change our work and our lives.

Almost no one is using less data today than they did yesterday. We will all probably consume even more data tomorrow. Data is the foundation of the new economy, and this growing tsunami of data has to live somewhere.

This is our world here at Data Center Frontier. I’m glad you’re here, because I believe this is one of the most important topics in business today. Now, many of you are already familiar with Data Center. But if you’re just discovering the world of data centers and cloud computing, welcome to the show. You are in the right place, because I love talking about data centers, and there is a LOT to talk about.

On today’s show we’ll cover three topics.

  • First, I’d like to share some background about Data Center Frontier, because I think it’s important for you to understand my story, and how it’s led to this podcast.
  • Second, we’ll talk some about hyperscale computing, which is driving big changes that are sweeping the technology landscape. It’s an important starting point for talking about the digital transformation.
  • Lastly, we’ll give a sneak preview of what you can expect from this show. We’ll talk about the topics we are tracking, why we believe they are important, and their potential impact in the months and years ahead.

First, a little about Data Center Frontier We are a news site that charts the future of data centers and cloud computing. We use the data center as our lens to write about what’s next for the Internet, and the innovations that will take us there. Our belief is that the facilities that power the cloud tell us a lot about the Internet and its where it’s headed.

Data Center Frontier is the fulfillment of a larger vision that has guided my journey – the idea that a single journalist could become a publisher to the world. It seemed like a crazy idea back in 2000, especially for a guy who spent two decades working at newspapers, which at the time involved huge newsrooms and expensive printing presses and fleets of delivery trucks.
But the power of the Internet made crazy things seem possible.

At the time, I had already been a working journalist for nearly 20 years. I started out as a sportswriter, but during the 1980s and 1990s I got to work in pretty much every part of the newsroom. I covered sports, business, features and religion, as well as an investigative reporting team.

It was 1994 when I had my first experience with the Internet. I logged on, and realized that you could use America Online to create web pages that could be read by anyone in the world. It was clear to me that the Internet would be a powerful publishing tool, and could eliminate most of the things that newspapers spend money on – those printing presses and trucks. So I began learning HTML and how to create web content.

At the time I was working at a newspaper in Trenton, New Jersey, and I spent much of the next five years trying to point the way toward that future, and help the newspaper make the transition to the Internet. It proved to be a frustrating experience, because like much of the newspaper industry, the leadership at the paper underestimated the impact of the Internet. So I started looking for opportunities to work online.

Then came that first visit to a data center, and within a matter of weeks, I had quite my newspaper job and started writing news for CarrierHotels.com, which covered carrier hotels and data centers. I later moved on and founded Data Center Knowledge, which became the leading source of data center news during a period of massive growth for the Internet, and was acquired in 2012 and is now part of the Informa content and trade show empire. In 2015 I founded Data Center Frontier to focus on the road ahead, and how to build the Internet of the Future.

Over the years I’ve talked to a lot of folks who had a similar “light bulb moment” when they walked into a data center for the first time. This is a young business, and few people started their careers thinking about a future in the data center industry. But it has been an amazing ride.

On one level, data centers are just bricks and mortar and power and cooling. The bigger story is that data centers power the digital economy that is transforming our world and our lives.

Sure, the Internet delivers tweets and status updates and cat pictures. But data centers also provide the mission-critical infrastructure powering 911 systems, the financial markets, global payment processing and government operations. It’s a compelling story, and one that has a long way to run.


If you want to understand the trends shaping the data center industry, you need to start with hyperscale computing. The hyperscale data center has become the physical form factor to power the digital transformation. In the process, it is bringing significant change to the data center industry.

The rise of hyperscale computing is part of a larger story about businesses, and their relationships with their data and IT operations. Data storage is shifting out of computer rooms and IT closets inside office campuses. Servers and storage equipment are moving into massive centralized data center hubs. Companies don’t want to spend millions of dollars to build and operate data centers. For most companies, it’s not their core competency.

Enter cloud computing, which allows to house their IT operations in a remote data center, and run them from a mobile application or web browser.

As the cloud model has gained momentum, IT workloads are being concentrated in the world’s largest and most efficient data center facilities, which are designed to easily add more servers and power as they grow.

This trend will not only feature bigger data centers. It will also mean data centers in many new places. Digital infrastructure will become distributed, with IT equipment living from the core of the cloud to the edge of the network. In the process, hyperscale companies have become the largest customers for the data center industry, which is giving them huge influence over how data centers are built and sold.

Prior to 2016, wholesale data center leases rarely involved more than 10 megawatts of capacity. In 2018, market research from Jim Kerrigan at North American Data Centers found that were 11 deals of 10 MWs of more, including a whopping 72 MW lease in Northern Virginia. As you can imagine, these deal sizes require different approaches.

For many years, data center providers built turn-key data suites of slightly more than 1 megawatt of IT capacity and sized at about 10,000 to 12,000 square feet. Nowadays we see providers offering data halls ranging from 30,000 to 60,000 square feet.

This trend super-sizing of data halls is prompting some companies to optimize their construction process and supply chain to compete for these huge hyperscale deals., Others are targeting more traditional enterprise wholesale requirements – say in the 1 megawatt to 4 megawatt range – while retail colocation players are focusing on interconnection and cloud on-ramps

So how many hyperscale facilities are there? Synergy Research estimates that there are 440 hyperscale data centers worldwide. They probably represent less than 10 percent of all data centers, but they comprise an outsized share of the investment coming into the industry.

One way to measure data center spending is the capital expenditures reported by public companies. In 2018, the capital expenditures for the 20 largest global hyperscale providers grew by more than 40 percent $120 billion. Meanwhile, about 30 percent of all servers sold in the first quarter of 2019 were for hyperscale operators.

I’ve visited a lot of these huge cloud data centers, and in the process I’ve driven through some really remote parts of Oregon and western North Carolina. Server farms used to be closer to cows than cities, because that’s where developers could find cheapo land and power.

That’s starting to change. A growing number of applications work best on low-latency connections, which tends to push data storage closer to end users.

That’s why more huge data centers are coming to the suburbs, shifting servers closer to consumers. We believe this shift in architecture will gain momentum in coming years, boosting hyperscale capacity near major cities like Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago, and Washington DC.

These massive cloud campuses will be supported by subsea cables, cable landing stations, network nodes, and edge data centers, all of which become part of the strategic conversation for hyperscale computing.

These trends are best summarized in two overarching themes:

We’ll see Innovation on the front end, as technology companies and service providers race to deploy and commercialize new technologies like AI, the Internet of Things, augmented reality, 5G wireless and autonomous vehicles.

Industrialization on the back end, as new investment streamlines the global supply chain, bringing new levels of speed and efficiency to the delivery of hyperscale capacity. There will be business opportunities driven by scale, and others driven by specialization.

How do you keep track of it all? At Data Center Frontier we go Beyond the Podcast, so we’ve put together a free report for our listeners that’s all about hyperscale data centers. It provides a deep dive into how hyperscale data centers have changed how we compute, and has altered the supply chain for digital infrastructure. We also share our take on how hyperscale computing will evolve.

We’ll have a link to this report on the front page of the Data Center Frontier web site, or you can find a link in our show notes, which can always be found at datacenterfrontier.com/podcast. Again, this is a completely free resource.


This podcast is a bit of a new adventure for me. I’m a reporter and writer, and those used to be jobs that could keep you away from microphones and podiums and stages. But if I learned anything when I was making the transition from newspapers to the Internet, it’s that you have to be flexible, be aware of how media is changing, and follow your audience.

And for a growing number of you, podcasts have become an important way to stay informed on subjects that matter.
Over time we plan to bring you different types of discussions, including some of my takes on industry trends, Q&A from our listeners, and interviews with industry executives.

For our initial season, we’re starting with five episodes examining the foundations of data center growth, and how it develops.

  • Data Center Alley: Data centers develop in clusters, and no cluster is bigger than Northern Virginia. we’ll look at why “Data Center Alley” has become the Home of the Cloud, and how Ashburn illustrates how data center markets grow, and how they may evolve in the future.
  • The AI Disruption: “Software is Eating the World.” In the process of digital transformation, sensors are gathering data about nearly every aspect of daily life, and algorithms and analytics are using that data to make decisions. AI is transforming our world, and it will be powered by digital infrastructure. We’ll look at how AI is changing the world, and shaping the world of IT hardware and the data centers that house it.
  • 5G and the Low-Latency Future: The 5G transition will gradually deliver faster wireless service. We discusses the timetable for 5G, the infrastructure required to support it, and what 5G might mean for data-driven services and data center demand.
  • The Edge Revolution: Edge computing will reshape the way applications are built and delivered. We’ll dig into the many flavors and layers of edge computing, and what this transition will look like.

Ultimately, we are here for you. Each day we’re working to understand the latest trends driving the data center industry, and share those insights with our readers and listeners, to help you succeed in building our digital future. I am glad to have you along for the journey on the Data Center Frontier Show, as we tell the story of the data center industry, One Podcast at a Time.

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