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 Rob Rockwood of Sabey Data Centers.
Rob Rockwood serves as President of Sabey Data Centers and has been with the company for four years. Prior to joining Sabey, he served at CoreSite from 2001-2014 finishing as a Senior Vice President and General Manager. After graduating from West Point and serving in the US Army, Rob earned masters degrees in construction management and public administration from the University of Illinois and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, respectively. Rob draws on his training and experience as a soldier and business leader to build teams that create the very best opportunities for customers and employees to grow and prosper. He lives with his wife Meg in Northern Virginia.
Here’s the full text of Rob Rockwood’s insights from our Executive Roundtable:
Data Center Frontier: The semiconductor shortage is among the examples of how the supply chain can impact business timetables. How would you assess the state of the data center supply chain, and how it has impacted the industry?
Rob Rockwood: Semiconductors, having found their way into equipment beyond just computers, are affecting the data center supply chain at several levels. For projects initiating in the second half of 2021, the industry is experiencing schedules extended by 5% to 10%. I expect, as suppliers adjust to the situation, that schedules will have returned to pre-shortage levels by the end of 2022.
Having learned from this situation, suppliers will ensure that supply chain shows greater resiliency, with project schedules decreasing to slightly below pre-shortage durations by 2023.
Data Center Frontier: Recent weather-related disasters – including wildfires, winter storms and hurricanes – have tested long-held assumptions about power reliability and air quality in major data center markets. Will this “new normal” require changes in how the data center industry approaches site selection or facility operations?
Rob Rockwood: Site selection has long taken a myriad of risk factors into account, and ultimately decisions will be driven by latency, demand and cost considerations. As such, the most likely changes will be operational in nature rather than geographical. These regions will require equipment and mechanical systems rated higher than previously expected, and as higher standards are developed and incorporated, unit costs will increase.
Data Center Frontier: If “software is eating the world,” what does that look like for the data center industry? What are the opportunities and challenges presented by a world of “software-defined everything”?
Rob Rockwood: We are experiencing the digitalization of the human experience in every respect. Having helped to create this reality, it is perhaps only fair that public cloud providers stand in the best position to reap its rewards. Enterprise demand is also driven by digital transformation, however, so capacity provided to both enterprises and public cloud providers will continue to grow at double-digit CAGR (combined annual growth rate).
Data Center Frontier: As sustainability takes on greater urgency, hyperscale operators are testing new approaches to power infrastructure, including integrating more renewables and innovations in backup power and fuel. What are the most likely advances ahead in data center power?
Rob Rockwood: While weather-related disasters may not affect site selection as much as one may think, certainly the availability of low-cost renewable energy will, and particularly energy with long-term price stability.
Data center providers will replace diesel generators with natural gas generators in the near term, and hydrogen generators in the long term; not just for emergency backup, but market participation as well. Established hydroelectric power will remain a popular choice in certain regions, and behind-the-meter solar power and battery storage will become attractive options.