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 Eric Ballard of Stream Data Centers.
As Vice President, Network & Cloud, Eric Ballard oversees interconnection and cloud services for Stream Data Centers. Eric has extensive experience in network design, peering, cloud initiatives, compute, storage, and virtualization and is focused on bringing the highest level of network and cloud options to our data centers as well as consulting with our customers to achieve best solutions. Eric joins Stream from Equinix, where he served the role of Solutions Architect for Equinix’s global customer base. Prior to Equinix, Eric spent 10+ years in the cable MSO industry focusing on building nationwide backbone networks for IP, video and telecommunication services. Eric holds multiple Cisco certifications and is a graduate of LeTourneau University.
Here’s the full text of Eric Ballard’s insights from our Executive Roundtable:
Data Center Frontier: The long-predicted migration of enterprise IT workloads into third-party data centers appears to be gaining momentum. A key argument for keeping data and applications on-premises has been security. With the ongoing series of corporate data compromises, can service provider facilities – whether cloud or colocation – now make the case that they are more secure than the on-premises data center?
Eric Ballard: Over the past couple of years, we no longer hear business suggesting that the decision for data center space is between building their own vs. colocation. The decisions now are all around colocation and cloud and what the future enterprise strategy looks like. We have seen companies move from a CapEx heavy model to an OpEx model. With this move, service providers have to prove that they are more secure and will provide the level of services that are required by the enterprise. As a premier colocation provider, security is one of our core competencies and we are believers that companies should focus on their core competencies. We craft our internal policies and procedures and then validate them using multiple third-party auditors to achieve a multitude of certifications such as SOC2-Type2, PCI-DSS, HIPPA, ISO 27001, etc.
With a focus on physical security and a rigid enforcement and testing of security policy and procedure we can absolutely make the case that we are more secure.
Data Center Frontier: Cloud platforms are seeking to expand at an accelerated rate. What has this meant to the data center supply chain and construction practices? What are the areas where data center developers can innovate to further improve the speed of deployment (and help address the capacity planning challenge)? Or have we reached our “speed limit” for data center deployment?
Eric Ballard: Today cloud platforms are expanding and consuming much of the available data center space in certain data center markets and also creating new locations for data centers that had not even been on the road map. As a result, this has put pressure on the data center inventory in many locations and has required developers to accelerate their growth in these locations. Some of the larger constraints are on the needed infrastructure for data centers that comes from suppliers. Depending on demand, these suppliers can get backlogged. Also, natural disasters in other parts of the world can stress demand for these products, and all of this has to be taken into consideration.
Data center developers continue to innovate and to optimize the supply chain, and will continue to improve how we do things. Even taking a day or two out of delivery window can be significant for a project. More innovation will also continue on modular building of data centers, where more and more infrastructure will be built and integrated offsite. Often this work that used to have to wait until one phase of a project completed to begin can be done in parallel, and could also be done inside a plant offsite that is not subject to weather days or site constraints. These technologies and innovations will help the industry to continue to move faster and deliver in faster intervals. We continue to break the speed limit and find new ways to accelerate the design/build process.
Data Center Frontier: The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has finally arrived. What have been the most significant issues in the transition for data center providers and their customers? Are we likely to see similar privacy regulation in the U.S., and if so, what are the implications for the data center industry?
Eric Ballard: GDPR has been another opportunity to validate that the process and procedures that we already had in place were ready to tackle GDPR with minimal tweaks, more on the reporting side. With the advent of more and more information being available on people and their lives (whether it be shared by them or being gathered via their activities by third parties), the regulation landscape will change and become more rigid.
Governments are just starting to figure out what many of us have known for a long time, and with some very public exposures of user data it has created a distrust of providers and how they safeguard data that they control. This will all lead to a more transparent view of what is collected and stored, and hopefully how it is used. For the data center industry, there will be additional regulations to follow, and additional audits and verifications to achieve, but we are already ahead of the game versus many industries.
Data Center Frontier: All our “Things” are getting smarter and more powerful, bringing the computing power of the cloud into devices in our pockets. As more workloads begin to move to the edge of the network, how will it change how – and where – we deploy infrastructure?
Eric Ballard: For the last 20 years, the vast majority of data center consumption has been in aggregated markets around the globe, creating major data center hubs like Ashburn, New York, Dallas, Chicago, Silicon Valley, etc. in the USA and locations like London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, etc. in other parts of the world. The exceptions to this were where enterprises built their own data center in locations that made geographic sense to them or were at or near their headquarters.
The major data center hubs have continued to grow and expand and have shown no signs of slowing down in their growth, but as we create more and more data and content and latency requirements evolve based on applications such as autonomous vehicles, augmented reality and others this data will need to live closer to the consumer and devices. We have seen a lot of movement in the edge data center market in the past couple of years, and will continue to see innovation and a reimagination of what the edge is.
Over the next year or two you will see the edge more into smaller cities and towns than what it is today, but after that it will start to move toward the true edge which is the neighborhood, the base of cell phone towers, or office buildings. These facilities will be smaller than many of the data centers we know today, and there will be additional evolutions around automation in these facilities. Today we are used to having a team of data center engineers inside of building, but at the edge you will have a team that will take care of a large number of facilities spread across a larger geography. We as an industry will continue to learn about how to remotely manage and maintain facilities and will continue to innovate and to develop new technologies to assist the teams.