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 Boonstra from Iron Mountain.
Eric Boonstra joined Iron Mountain in 2018 after the acquisition of EvoSwitch and currently serves as Vice President & General Manager of the Data Center business. Prior to this role, Eric was the CEO for EvoSwitch for 10 years, and was instrumental in the company’s recent M&A activity. Prior to joining EvoSwitch, Eric was in several management positions at Siemens, ABN Amro and Staples.
Here’s the full text of Eric Boonstra’s insights from our Executive Roundtable:
Data Center Frontier: This year we have seen strong demand for data center space in international markets. What are the biggest opportunities and challenges for data center companies in operating at global scale and working with multi-national clients?
Eric Boonstra: We’ve seen huge growth in the FLAP (Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris) regions in Europe. These are traditionally the four biggest data center/digital economy regions in Europe. And they are still growing fast.
Demand is growing, but the composition of that demand is changing. Hyperscalers were responsible for about 70 percent of the colocation space last year in FLAP. That demonstrates the rapid growth of the cloud, and means that data center/colocation providers will have more and more hyperscalers and cloud providers in our facilities.
These days, data center providers accommodate a blend of retail, wholesale and hyperscale customers in their facilities, and each of these three customer groups have different needs and requirements. While we used to have specific wholesale and retail data centers, now we need to offer a blend if we want to attract all three customer groups.
Colocation providers must make a choice – do we want to stay a retail or wholesale provider, or do we want to serve everyone? Many of us, including Iron Mountain, want to serve everyone so we must change things. We need to be more flexible in how we build our data centers, as well as how we set up our contracts and SLA’s, how we finance, etc.
We’re also seeing an increasing demand from our customers to work with them on an international level. They have a need in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Virginia and Singapore, for example. The providers that show flexibility, and that have an international footprint and capacity at the right time and the right place are the ones who will be leading the global data center market.
“Colocation providers must make a choice – do we want to stay a retail or wholesale provider, or do we want to serve everyone? Many of us, including Iron Mountain, want to serve everyone so we must change things.”
Eric Boonstra, Iron Mountain
Data Center Frontier: There’s currently huge interest in interconnection and network services. What are the most significant trends in the network features customers are seeking, and how providers are delivering these services?
Eric Boonstra: In the past, data centers were essentially individual storage blocks connected to users by a simple managed Ethernet or equivalent service. The connection to the customer was normally arranged by one of the service providers present in the DC.
Although this manner of working was manageable, it was also annoying – provisioning of circuits could take weeks and was mostly a manual, labor intensive operation prone to errors. Then cloud arrived. One of the consequences has been to concentrate data in larger facilities that may also be spread out geographically.
This presents cloud users with some questions: first, how do I access the data center; next, how do I access the cloud; and finally, can I scale up (or down)? These are some of the drivers that are causing data centers to look more closely at their ability to provide network services.
It’s not enough to be able to provide connectivity services. In this age of consumable services (everything as a service), customers are asking for the ability to turn on/turn off services whenever they want, to increase/decrease bandwidth whenever they want and to have elastic pricing – the ability to pay only for what is used, no more flat fees or having to contract for one year or longer.
They also want automation – the provisioning of services through a portal, whether their own or white labelled, even on a smart phone paid by credit card. This exists today and data centers must partner with these types of service providers in order to give customers what they expect. This is especially relevant for Iron Mountain as we have 95% of Fortune 1000 and approximately 250,000 enterprise relationships, many of whom are embarking on their digital transformation journey and will need scalable network services to connect to their cloud(s).
Data Center Frontier: The speed of data center deployment is accelerating, with innovation in the supply chain and how facilities are built and leased. What do you see as the most important issues to address to keep pace with the rapid growth of digital infrastructure?
Eric Boonstra: It’s mainly a race against the clock. Who has the capacity to deliver the huge demand and huge volumes that hyperscalers are asking for (10-20 MW) at the right time in the right place? And do you have the right infrastructure and the flexibility to serve hyperscale and retail customers in your campuses.
In order to win the race, you need standardization of build and processes. You need to have your supply chain standardized and ready to go and contracts with your suppliers in place. You need to be able to respond immediately on customer needs and changing requirements and have flexible infrastructure. The companies that have all of that will be the leaders.
Data Center Frontier: What lies ahead for data center automation? What are the key opportunities in using data (and perhaps even AI) to make data centers more efficient and productive?
Eric Boonstra: We are transferring from data center to centers of data. Customer portals are maturing. Real time visibility on operational performance and auto provisioning are considered baseline. AI will be the key enabler of the move to more effective Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM). BMS and AI data will help to optimize cooling systems and efficiency in the data centers. AI will enable operators to optimize preventative maintenance and reduce the amount of infrastructure failures. It will enable operators to work with dynamic capacity forecasting models as well.
We have found that for most enterprises the current benefits of AI are peripheral rather than central to their business. Yet over the coming years, there will be a growing range of opportunities in the cloud-connected data center.
Sector-specific Machine Learning platforms will be revolutionary, and CIOs should be on top of the latest developments. The greatest areas of opportunity reside in the cloud data center. Collaborative data sharing and processing platforms and hubs, typically deploying third-party analytics, will deliver a range of smart services. Machine learning will enhance efficiency in the data center-based compute and connect infrastructure.