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 Erich Sanchack of Digital Realty.
Erich Sanchack is EVP of Operations at Digital Realty, responsible for overseeing global portfolio operations, global construction, colocation and interconnection service implementation as well as supply chain operations. Sanchack has extensive experience in operational and business development roles in the technology and telecommunications industries, including building and operating data centers. He previously served as Senior Vice President, IT Solutions and New Market Development at CenturyLink where he was responsible for global commercial managed services and IT service offerings. At CenturyLink, he also held the title of Senior Vice President and General Manager, Federal, where he was responsible for the company’s government sector portfolio encompassing network operations, cybersecurity and security operations, managed hosting with cloud and data management services, and a wide array of communications and IT services. Prior to CenturyLink, Mr. Sanchack served as an executive at Lockheed Martin for 12 years, where he held various Vice President roles. As Vice President, Competitive Enhancements, he identified and led cost-saving and corporate consolidation initiatives. While Vice President, Corporate Internal Audit, he reported directly to the board of directors and oversaw the company’s risk management and internal control processes governing global operations. He also served as Vice President, Information Technology Services, where he managed large, complex global operations and contracts.
Here’s the full text of Erich Sanchack’s insights from our Executive Roundtable:
Data Center Frontier: The digital transformation of our society is creating enormous volumes of data, even ahead of the mainstream adoption of next-generation technologies like 5G wireless, the Internet of Things, augmented reality and autonomous vehicles. As this deluge of data looms on the horizon, what are the implications for the data center industry, and how and where all this data is stored and analyzed?
Erich Sanchack: The insights that enterprises can derive from the data they are gathering from sensors, web systems and other sources can be incredibly valuable. New tools are moving access to that data and those insights well beyond traditional BI and data analytics teams to business managers across disciplines, giving them drag-and-drop analysis and collaboration capabilities and truly democratizing the discipline. With ease of use comes expansion, of the systems, the data and the transport necessary to facilitate it.
Data center providers like us have a number of opportunities, and a number of responsibilities, relative to this. It’s incumbent on us to really understand the systems that are generating the data and the uses the data is being put to, so that we can truly act as a partner to our enterprise customers. It’s also obviously our responsibility to ensure that our facilities are prepared to support the massive amounts of compute and storage our customers require to take maximum advantage of the opportunities they have related to the data. Last, we need to ensure maximum uptime, so these systems are always available to the growing numbers and types of workers that interact with it.
Data Center Frontier: We’ve recently featured headlines about the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) as a tool in data center management. How do you view the potential for AI to help optimize and automate data centers, and what are the pros and cons of this technology?
Erich Sanchack: Implementation of AI in the data center will move us well beyond current DCIM systems and their limitations. Using AI, we are able to create an environment in which not only are all of our power and facilities decisions and processes completely optimized, but that our resource planning and even advanced functions like dynamic bandwidth and server allocation are fully automated as well.
From the enterprise perspective, management and reporting will change significantly, enabling them to become more focused on the outcomes and the benefits of data center operations than the process and the environment in which it resides.
Data Center Frontier: For some time we have seen predictions that rack power density would begin to increase, prompting wider adoption of liquid cooling and other advanced cooling techniques. What’s the state of rack density in 2018, and is density trending higher at all?
Erich Sanchack: Recent advancements in storage technology are increasing rack density exponentially. We can fit so much more storage into so much less space than we could even a year ago, much less five years ago, and it’s great. That said, the amount and types of data that our customers are generating and using are growing at a similar or even greater pace, meaning that our physical footprint and power/cooling needs and capabilities are trending up, vs. down. We have a very advanced strategy and roadmap that allows us to lead the change, as opposed to falling victim to it, which is why we’ve achieved five 9s uptime for the last 10 years in a row.
There are some limiting factors on how much density can be achieved. Laws of physics do come into play. We may have a terabyte where we used to have a gigabyte, but the power usage is still fairly similar at this point. There will be greater efficiencies when we start to reduce the cooling needs, through the use of quantum computing, storing information deeper in the silicon vs. more broadly on the surface, and adoption of other advanced technologies. Quantum is going to be the part that really, really drives the exponential jump in the density of those racks.
Here’s a fun fact – you could store all the data in the world on a pencil if you stored it in volume versus on the surface of the pencil. All the molecules of the pencil itself could store all the data usage that we use globally. Quantum computers – we have three of them in the United States in three distinct locations – they’re able to store, they’re just not able to retrieve. That’s a little bit of a problem, currently. As we solve for that and other issues, though, we will see these efficiencies increase dramatically.
Data Center Frontier: Data center companies are some of the largest consumers of renewable energy. Are these initiatives by large data center operators making clean energy more available and affordable? Will energy storage become part of the solution anytime soon?
Erich Sanchack: We are always looking at ways to increase the efficiency of our operation from a sustainability perspective. We are the largest buyer of renewable energy among data center providers, and have certified more green buildings than any other data center provider. We doubled Green Power use between 2014 and 2016 and we utilize 100 percent Clean Power in EMEA with 39 percent Green Power Supply globally. We were the largest participant in the US DoE’s Better Buildings Challenge and we exceeded our 20 percent energy efficiency target ahead of schedule. We also executed the data center industry’s first green bond, a nearly half-billion dollar issuance earmarked exclusively for green projects.
When it comes to sustainability, there’s nothing that’s off the table for us. Our adoption and expansion of wind and solar resources is on the rise, and we are planning deployment of new technologies in the coming year that will drive further efficiencies in our sustainability programs. Energy storage is certainly among the areas of technology we are watching closely and would consider when the economics and environmental impact dynamics are aligned.
Check out our entire Data Center Frontier Executive Roundtable for 1Q 2018.