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 Samir Shah of BASELAYER.
Samir Shah serves as Chief of Staff at BASELAYER. In this role, reports directly to the CEO and is responsible for enterprise sales, corporate brand/marketing, product management, and strategic corporate initiatives. Prior to this role, Samir was VP, Product Management, Marketing and Customer Service responsible for creating BASELAYER’s Intelligent Control platform including platform architecture, roadmap development, marketing, and customer delivery. Prior to BASELAYER, Shah was Group Leader, Product Management for IO. During his time at IO, Samir’s key accomplishments included launching IO’s modular data center platform technology and global deployment of one of IO’s largest enterprise clients Goldman Sachs. Before joining IO, Samir spent 10 years in advanced system integration and R&D for IBM, JDS Uniphase and Hitachi Global Storage Technologies. A native of Chicago, Samir has a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois, and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Here’s the full text of Samir Shah’s insights from our Executive Roundtable:
Data Center Frontier: The largest hyperscale computing players are now seeking dozens of megawatts of power in wholesale data center deals. Is hyperscale now its own market segment, with different criteria and processes? Or can data center developers and the supply chain adapt to the full breadth of requirements in today’s market?
Samir Shah: Looking at how rapid and expansive the demand for data center capacity is, we clearly see “Hyperscale” as a category on its own. Hyperscale data centers are agile, flexible, scalable, and typically homogenous by nature and have different operational parameters as well as hardware and software requirements. Social media, e-commerce, IoT and cloud platforms are the driving forces behind hyperscale computing.
Data center developers, and the supply chain that supports hyperscale, are being counted on to supplement the capacity demand that Webscale brings. We’ve already seen vendors and manufacturers on both the IT and Facilities infrastructure side put out specialized products and solutions for hyperscale. In the last couple of years there have been trade shows and conferences focused on Webscale. Having a separate and dedicated vertical focus on Hyperscale clients will allow industry players to better serve their customers and come up with innovative solutions for this target segment.
Hyperscale will trickle down enterprise level services, security and network to what was formally the retail colocation customers. At the same time, due to the focus on large MW demand from hyperscale, capacity constraints may make “smaller” enterprise deals less appealing for colocation service providers. This might create a boon for smaller regional players in the short term. Hyperscale will drive down margins and make cloud computing more affordable, pushing more non-Webscale clients to the Cloud. We also see a large opportunity for the proliferation of on-premise private cloud.
Data Center Frontier: Enterprises are deploying more workloads in cloud and hybrid cloud scenarios, but most still maintain legacy on-premises data centers. What challenges does this pose for data center management software (DCIM)? How have the software offerings evolved to meet these challenges?
Samir Shah: Data Center Infrastructure Management or DCIM itself is a challenging, crowded and often misunderstood space. There are dozens of DCIM vendors, ranging in capability from PDU monitoring to a complete suite of capacity planning and forecasting. We get customers that are having a difficult time separating the capabilities in what traditionally is called a BMS and what is associated with DCIM.
The hybrid deployment model brings new challenges to the DCIM field. Customers often struggle to define their exact requirements and expectation from a DCIM solution when they have a hybrid environment. DCIMs are evolving to be more open and flexible to integrate cloud infrastructure with on-prem ones, involving multiple 3rd party systems and sometimes proprietary protocols. DCIM has to bridge the gaps between different networking architecture and security protocols that cloud and enterprise data centers have. The processes used to manage and operate cloud vs enterprise data centers must be implemented in DCIM as well. The hybrid architecture is pushing for DCIM to be more robust, secure, scalable, and flexible to integrate several systems from tightly controlled environments.
DCIM providers are also adapting their go-to-market strategy and going after the colocation companies and at the same time adding value at the enterprise level. We’ve also seen a surge in cloud based DCIM solutions by new players and established vendors alike.
Data Center Frontier: There’s growing interest in the use of lithium-ion batteries in data center UPS systems. Are lithium-ion batteries likely to find traction in the data center market? If so, what are the key factors in the rate of adoption?
Samir Shah: We have seen a surge in Li-ion battery demands, which leads us to believe that the market is keen to adopt them. Almost all major manufacturers do provide Li-ion solutions and they are rapidly gaining market share. There are numerous reasons that the time is right.
The popularity of Li-ion batteries in other industries, such as electric cars and smartphones, is improving data center customers’ confidence and acceptance in this technology. Li-ion has clear benefits; is 60-70% smaller than and weighs half that of VRLA. The lifespan of Li-ion battery is 12-15 years as opposed to 7-8 years maximum for a VRLA battery. Then there are operational benefits as Li-ion batteries require less servicing, and maintenance is simpler. Li-Ion batteries can also operate at higher temperatures than their VLRA counterparts.
On the other hand, there are still safety concerns with Li-ion batteries and manufacturers are working around the clock to improve the situation and develop mitigating solutions. On price, Li-ion batteries come with a higher upfront cost, but the Total Cost of Ownership is now at par with VRLA solutions, given the benefits we just discussed. As Li-ion gains greater adoption, cost will come down. We anticipate this will occur in the near future.
It’s exciting to see advancements in this field, with Solid State Batteries around the corner, and several automakers interested in the post Li-ion era electric cars. If this technology can scale to production, it can deliver more capacity and address the safety concerns of Li-ion.
Data Center Frontier: Microsoft is deploying underwater data centers. Is this brilliant or crazy? Also, are there other examples of “outside the box” data center innovation that bear watching?
Samir Shah: By deploying a modular and scalable data center underwater, Microsoft is not only utilizing deep-water cooling, but also solving the problem of finding space close to the end users as nearly half of the population resides within 125 miles of oceans, seas, and lakes. It’s a brilliant idea that solves space, cooling, latency, and sustainability problems of present and future.
Project Natick leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to monitor and operate, and the same innovation can be applied to land-based data centers and help progress the industry in terms of lights out facilities.
From our view, Microsoft’s project pushes the limits of how we build, deliver, and maintain our critical data center infrastructure. In this regard, Microsoft should be applauded for their willingness to “push the envelope” as it relates to enterprise class data centers. From our perspective as a modular data center provider, we see innovation come through in many different aspects of the data center, none more apparent than in the alternative energy integrated with the power distribution. This includes many use cases which integrate natural gas fuel cells, solar arrays, and direct-to-grid deployments. Liquid cooling, underground data center, and cryptocurrency mining data centers are other out-of-the-box designs that we’ve seen gaining traction in recent years.