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 Andrew Schaap, CEO of Aligned.
Andrew is a data center, IT, private equity and real estate executive with over 20 years of complex transactional experience and multi-disciplinary senior leadership. As CEO of Aligned, he is dedicated to accelerating business growth by driving the delivery of data center solutions with industry-leading technology and adaptive infrastructure. Prior to joining Aligned, Andrew held numerous leadership positions over an 11-year period with Digital Realty Trust (NYSE: DLR). Most recently serving as Senior Vice President, he was responsible for global large-scale, client-driven data center builds and was part of the executive leadership team that grew revenue to $2 billion. He also oversaw all major international transactions, including the successful negotiation and execution of projects in Osaka, Singapore, Hong Kong and Sydney. Prior to Digital Realty Trust, Andrew held leadership roles at Sterling Network Services and Sysix Technologies.
Andrew is the Founder and Board Member of DC Delta, an advisory council comprised of global data center end-users and innovators, connectivity providers and sustainability thought-leaders focused on improving data center efficiency and sustainability. He also sits on the Infrastructure Masons Advisory Council, an organization that provides infrastructure executives and technical professionals an independent forum to connect, grow and give back. Additionally, Andrew serves as a mentor for Great Minds in STEM, an association dedicated to keeping America technologically strong by promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math careers, especially in underserved communities. He holds a B.A. in Business Administration and Marketing from Cornerstone University, in addition to completing graduate programs in Executive Negotiations and Management Training at Harvard University.
Here’s the full text of Andrew Schaap’s insights from our Executive Roundtable:
Data Center Frontier: What is the current state of data center rack density, and what lies ahead for cooling as more users put artificial intelligence to work in their applications?
Andrew Schaap: The growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and other compute-intensive workloads are driving higher densities in racks. According to Uptime Institute, the mean average density was 8.4kW per rack; however, many of today’s AI applications and high-performance computing (HPC) environments can draw 30kW to 50kW per rack or more.
Traditional cooling methods won’t be able to scale under these processing demands of these applications, and they are less likely to meet the requirements of today’s efficiency-conscious customers. The key to overcoming rising rack densities is rethinking legacy design and cooling methodologies. This includes doing away with configuration at static densities, removing heat from its source versus simply making outside air cold and blowing it into the data center, and making infrastructure more adaptive to that it dynamically adapts to IT loads without the need to reconfigure the entire environment or strand capacity.
As AI continues to proliferate and becomes widely used in cooling, I think we’ll continue to see not only gains in energy efficiency and data center sustainability, but also in automation and speed-to-market.
Data Center Frontier: Many industries are experiencing difficulty finding enough skilled workers. What’s the outlook for data center staffing, and what are the key strategies for finding talented staff?
Andrew Schaap: Data center recruitment needs are expected to rise steadily in the coming years. Uptime Institute predicts them to grow to nearly 2.3 million full-time employee equivalents (FTEs) by 2025. Couple that with a large portion of employees in mature data center markets like the U.S. and EU set to retire in the next few years, and the outlook for data center staffing can appear challenging. At Aligned, we don’t see this as a difficulty, but prefer to look at it as an opportunity to promote and develop internal employees, bring on the best talent possible by expanding our sourcing strategies, and further build, manage and promote workplace diversity.
To meet our hiring needs and continue to effectively grow out workforce as we scale the business, we’ve implemented a multifaceted approach across each of our internal organizations. Some of these key strategies include robust internal training and development programs, internship programs, veteran recruitment initiatives, and continued involvement with groups like Infrastructure Masons and the Data Center Coalition to fund infrastructure-focused scholarships and conduct educational outreach.
Data Center Frontier: How have enterprise data center needs evolved during the pandemic? What do you expect for 2021?
Andrew Schaap: While many predicted larger enterprises to hit a temporary pause on deployments due to COVID-19, we saw an uptick in the funnel. Additionally, we saw sustainability and efficiency as key demand drivers.
We expect this uptick in demand and data center investment to continue in 2021 onwards, as more enterprises move towards digitization and weigh the benefits and challenges of colocation against cloud-first.
Data Center Frontier: Edge computing continues to be a hot topic. How is this sector evolving, and what use cases and applications are gaining the most traction with customers?
Andrew Schaap: I think trends such as continued 5G adoption, AI/ML, and autonomous vehicles will continue to gain traction in the coming years, and lend themselves well to edge deployments. Along with the sector, I think that the definition of edge computing itself is also somewhat evolving.
The edge shouldn’t be defined by the physical size of a data center, but by the application and its latency to a specific end point. The nature of what the application actually is dictates the physical size and location of the data center, as well as its proximity to the device or person using it. So, if you’re streaming content, you want to be as close as possible to a cable headend or cell phone C-RAN. If you’re doing mailer messaging or machine learning computation, that edge might be a multi- megawatt, adaptive data center in a metropolitan area.