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 Scott Walker of NTT Global Data Centers.
Scott Walker is Senior Vice President of Sales at NTT Global Data Centers Americas, responsible for enterprise sales, indirect channels, sales engineering, and service delivery. Scott has over 20 years of IT services industry experience in leadership roles where he developed and executed global multi-channel go-to-market plans, sales, and product strategies. Scott’s recent career experience includes leadership positions at Equinix, Ericsson, and Masergy Communications. At Equinix, Scott created the company’s indirect channels program and launched new programs for agents, resellers, and technology partners, generating over $400 million in new revenue during his tenure. At Ericsson, Scott led the Cloud Infrastructure business. As head of global sales and client services at Masergy, Scott spearheaded an effort that doubled the company’s revenue. Walker earned a Bachelor’s degree from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and has completed executive education courses in finance at Notre Dame.
Here’s the full text of Scott Walker’s insights from our Executive Roundtable:
Data Center Frontier: Data center staffing was already a challenge as we entered 2020. What is the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on data center staffing and operations, both in the short-term and long-term?
Scott Walker: I speak for our executive management team when I say that overall, we have not experienced any negative impacts to staffing and are in fact hiring new employees in many departments as we continue building our new data center campuses in Chicago, Hillsboro, and Silicon Valley, as well as our newest data center on our 78-acre Ashburn campus.
All of our non-essential employees were given the appropriate equipment to work productively away from our data centers until further notice. We’re very happy with the cooperative spirit our employees have shown to date. Supervisors are in regular contact with their teams, and all reports have indicated that productivity has not declined during this crisis.
There are some employees who have to continue working at their data center site due to their roles within our operations team. To protect our employees and our customers, we have implemented mandatory social distancing, use of extensive personal protective equipment, high-tech temperature screenings, and standard COVID-19 related questions at the security entrance.
As far as long-term effects from the pandemic, we feel that this crisis has underlined the importance of keeping society connected via remote channels. Data centers play an essential role in that objective. To that end, we anticipate a continued need for talented personnel to keep data centers running smoothly, reliably, and economically. We look forward to continuing to add the best and brightest to our team.
Data Center Frontier: How are enterprises sorting out their data center and cloud options in the shadow of the pandemic? What are the key questions and issues you are hearing in conversations with enterprise customers?
Scott Walker: Enterprises are continuing to focus on hybrid cloud architectures, but have accelerated their consumption of cloud-based communication and collaboration services (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, RingCentral) to handle the work-at-home trend.
When making decisions about infrastructure, key questions continue to center around cost, security, and performance. Cost and security are the topics most cited, as public cloud infrastructure is quite expensive as compared to private infrastructure at scale.
We are starting to see enterprises mimic hyperscale techniques by leveraging expertise from the OEMs and Intel to achieve cost savings. Public cloud performance is becoming a hot topic as well. We’ve heard our customers tell us they have experienced performance problems with their public cloud, thus fueling the trend to proliferate hybrid architectures.
Data Center Frontier: The workforce is suddenly more distributed than ever. What’s your take on the current trajectory of edge computing? Has it been changed in any way by the pandemic?
Scott Walker: Because it is such a great technology, edge computing suffers from premature hype from those who are hopeful of futuristic technology arriving before it is really ready. For instance, edge has long been considered the key for self-driving cars, which many people thought were coming on strong last year. Then an article in the New York Times last July slammed the brakes on that hype. After all, when the CEO of Ford says ““We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles” then you know we have a ways to go.
But as far as the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on edge computing, I’ve read opinions from analysts like ABI Research’s Dimitris Mavrakis, who says that over the course of the next two years the edge computing space (both dedicated and shared edge) will be a very contested topic, and certainly the effects of geopolitics and COVID-19 will accelerate it.
Grand View Research tracks the size of the global edge computing market in great detail, and projects a hockey-stick curve of growth between now and 2027. As Grand View points out, edge computing can help meet demand for data analytics across many industries, overcome the challenges of network latency, and provide immediate real-time insights in crucial situations. With that kind of problem-solving power, there will be an increasing demand for edge computing for a long time to come.
Data Center Frontier: Power and cooling equipment are the heart of any data center. What’s the prognosis for the data center supply chain and the logistics of deploying new data center capacity?
Scott Walker: The good news for data centers is that most – if not all – of our supply chain has been classified as essential businesses. As a result, the supply chain has been minimally affected for us as we continue construction at our data center campus sites in Chicago, Hillsboro (Portland), Silicon Valley, and Ashburn.
Early in the pandemic, there was some concern (and there still is to a limited degree) that second- and third-tier vendors would not be able to provide components. But for the most part, that concern has been mitigated.
We are, however, staying close to our providers to monitor any changes. The biggest challenges we face are the social distancing restrictions put in place by each region’s local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). These restrictions are forcing our contractors to look at staffing in a different way, and could possibly lead to increased costs going forward. Despite these challenges, we are on track to bring new capacity online later this year at affordable price points for customers of all sizes.