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 James Leach of RagingWire Data Centers for the fourth quarter of 2018.
James Leach is the Vice President Marketing at RagingWire Data Centers. Leach is the overall marketing leader responsible for a data center portfolio of 2 million square feet and 177 megawatts of critical power at three massive campuses in Ashburn, Virginia; Dallas, Texas; and Sacramento, California. Leach has been at the forefront of developing innovative Internet services for enterprises. He was part of the core team that introduced data center colocation, cloud computing solutions, virtual private networks (VPNs) and route optimization, application hosting, content delivery networks (CDNs), Internet registry and Domain Name System (DNS) services, and web performance monitoring and testing.
Leach spent the first 15 years of his career at IBM starting out as an engineer and then moving into sales, business development and marketing. For the last 15 years, he has been a top marketing executive at Savvis, Internap, Neustar, Harris Corporation, and currently RagingWire. As part of NTT, RagingWire’s parent company and one of the largest and most financially strong information and communications technology solutions providers, Leach is part of the global marketing team responsible for 140 data center locations in 20 countries and regions as part of the Nexcenter brand.
Here’s the full text of James Leach’s insights from our Executive Roundtable:
Data Center Frontier: What is the one trend you believe will be most significant in shaping the data center industry in 2019, and why?
James Leach: In 2019, we expect to see the largest data center users, including hyperscale cloud companies and enterprises, optimizing their data centers on a worldwide basis. Increasingly, they will want to partner with a handful of global data center providers that can meet their capacity requirements today and in the future. In this new business model, data center colocation become a critical link in the IT supply chain.
As part of NTT, we have spent years developing a global data center platform that currently extends to 20 countries. What does it mean to be a global data center company? We see the key elements being data center design and engineering, supply chain, operations, capacity, and organizational structure.
Data center buyers are looking for consistent, global design standards for power, cooling, telecommunications, cloud connectivity, and security. They value a robust supply chain that delivers infrastructure components on time, at competitive prices, and with flexibility to ship to construction sites around the world based on adjusted construction schedules. For operations, global data center companies need common procedures, documentation, and talent management. Capacity should be deployed and managed globally with the flexibility to move application workloads as required. Finally, the organization must be structured to run as a global business with an integrated management and go-to-market model. This framework makes it possible for customers to build and manage a worldwide data center portfolio with streamlined resources and at a lower cost.
Data Center Frontier: As the data center industry continues to grow, finding and developing staff is a challenge. What are the key steps to ensuring quality staffing into the future? What’s the appropriate role of automation (and even AI) in scaling?
James Leach: Workforce – attracting, developing, and retaining talent – has become a top priority for data center companies. We are seeing the challenge particularly in mission critical operations, highly specialized trades, and in the cyber security and computing systems skills that our data center customers rely on at the foundation of their businesses.
To attract and develop the next generation of data center professionals, we are focusing on building the pipeline of talent. The U.S. Military has been a great source for our 7×24 operations teams. Our veterans, many of whom have served on nuclear submarines, understand the importance of mission critical operations, processes, and accountability. We are partnering more closely than ever with military employment organizations and programs. In addition, we are working with colleges, universities, and especially our community colleges to develop academic programs to build the unique skills required to run and manage a data center.
We’re also learning a lot about how smart software systems can be used to improve overall operations – there is nothing “artificial” about this intelligence. In fact we see AI as “augmented intelligence” that helps our operators make better decisions and execute with fewer errors by collecting, analyzing, and presenting systems performance and environmental data.
Data Center Frontier: Data center geography continues to be a hot topic. What markets will be strongest in 2019, and why? What are the up-and-coming markets that may make headlines in 2019?
James Leach: Location has always been the number one criteria for data center buyers, but the nature of this requirement is changing. In the past, location meant being within 100 miles of your corporate office or your IT organization. Today, location is about minimizing network latency and optimizing application availability. With this approach, top data center markets are more important than ever. These markets will become hubs to the hundreds, thousands, and potentially millions of edge computing locations.
In the U.S., we see the continued dominance of the data center markets in Ashburn and Northern Virginia as well as Silicon Valley. These are “demand markets” where data center capacity is typically sold before construction is complete. We also like Dallas and Chicago, both top markets that can address network latency because of their location in the middle of the United States. Dallas and Chicago are “supply markets” where capacity is currently available for rapid deployment. Lastly, we see “alternative markets” that offer specific value propositions to a set of buyers. Our data center campus in Sacramento is an example, as it offers a seismically-safe option for companies needing a California data center. We include the Pacific Northwest in this category for buyers that have a requirement for low-cost, renewable energy to power their data centers.
Internationally, the major markets of Asia and Europe should continue to see growth, including Singapore, Hong Kong, and Tokyo in Asia and Frankfurt, London, and Amsterdam in Europe. We’re also excited about the opportunities in India, particularly in Bangalore, known as the Silicon Valley of India, and Mumbai, the financial capital of the country.
Data Center Frontier: Security remains a priority for customers. How are security issues being considered in the data center design and product offerings for service providers? Will this change in 2019?
James Leach: World-class data center designs and solutions have always had security as a key element. In 2019, look for leading data center companies to deploy smart video monitoring systems and expand perimeter security to protect large data center campuses of 50 to 100 acres, or more.
Security at current data centers focuses primarily on access control. Each authorized user of the data center is granted access to specific areas of the facility. This access is controlled through a mix of factors including card readers, personal identification codes, biometrics such as iris and fingerprint scanners, and keylocks. A real-time software and database system tracks and reports on individual access.
“Next-generation data centers will use smart, high-definition video cameras and software to introduce a new level of monitoring to complement current access control systems.”
James Leach, RagingWire Data Centers
Next-generation data centers will use smart, high-definition video cameras and software to introduce a new level of monitoring to complement current access control systems. What makes a video camera smart? The camera “knows” what it’s looking at and tags and stores the images in an online data base for easy, intuitive search. With this system, security officers can conduct investigations faster and more effectively than ever before. Compression technology is used to cost-effectively store years of video as opposed to the current 6-9 months.
The other advancement in data center security is introducing campus security to stop unauthorized entry to the property. Traditionally, data centers were viewed as individual buildings, usually protected by concrete bollards and a single point of entry. With this new approach, a security ring is installed around the entire property to provide the first layer of defense for all the buildings on the campus. Look for anti-climb fences, perimeter checkpoints, roadway paths that limit vehicle entry speeds, and barrier gates that can stop heavy vehicles such as trucks traveling at 30 miles per hour or more.