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 Steve Smith of CoreSite.
Steven Smith is CoreSite’s Chief Revenue Officer. He is accountable for driving the integration and alignment between all revenue-related functions within the customer revenue journey, to include market definition, demand creation, solution definition, and ultimately customer adoption of CoreSite offerings. He brings over 15 years of direct and indirect sales and sales operations experience from both the software and communications industry. Steve received a BA in Business Marketing and Economics from the University of New Mexico.
Here’s the full text of Steve Smith’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?
Steve Smith: Cross-functional training has always been an essential component of a capable data center operations team. It’s become even more critical as we staff our data centers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data centers are naturally conducive to social distancing practices, thanks to their sizeable square footage compared to the number of people in the building at any given time. However, customers can now monitor equipment and peak loads, and communicate with data center staff remotely via our online portal.
Here at CoreSite, we have a rigorous cross-functional training program for our data center operations staff, which prepared us to have fewer employees on-site and the same broad skillset. This training has been focused on short-term incidents such as hurricanes and floods, but transitioned well to our longer-term predicament. As a result of our flexible staffing model, we have been able to maintain our scheduled maintenance. We are also lucky to employ many veterans in our data centers; veterans staff approximately 50 percent of our mission-critical roles. Our workforce is well versed in problem solving, adaptability and diligence.
The data center industry has predicted a future shortage of a technically-skilled workforce. How do we fill that gap? How do we encourage a younger generation, particularly women, to pursue careers in this industry? It’s an answer we are thinking about in our recruiting efforts.
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?
Steve Smith: In many cases, businesses will need to adjust to thrive, and many will need data and compute capacity above what is used today. Enter hybrid, multi-cloud computing at the edge, allowing high burstable storage adjustments quickly. As needs evolve, enterprises are looking for flexibility to spin up, or down the storage they have available. Enterprises are reviewing, and in some cases, rethinking their business continuity plans to ensure their infrastructure, platform and systems can be accessed from anywhere and offer self-service solutions. Therefore, the cloud is critical but not the complete answer; those looking for cost optimization have realized that it’s prohibitive to put everything in the cloud.
“In many cases, businesses will need to adjust to thrive, and many will need data and compute capacity above what is used today.”
Steve Smith, CoreSite
For many enterprises, they prefer to be able to have their staff on-site as needed; however, some are now not able to travel to the physical space. We’ve been asked often about our Remote Hands service. Our data centers are currently open in a limited capacity to vendors and people outside of CoreSite. With Remote Hands access, our customers can request a variety of services to be performed by our staff on their behalf.
No one knows how long this new normal will last, or what the next normal will include. For instance, we recently spoke with a pharmaceutical company, and they emphasized the importance of focusing their resources on research for a COVID-19 drug, not managing a data center. They prefer to outsource to a colocation facility to ensure their critical systems are available when needed.
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?
Steve Smith: Network technologies, including edge computing and 5G, are now more critical than ever. With a large portion of the US workforce remote and working from home, there has been a significant shift in network traffic. Before, daytime network traffic was high in dense, business districts. Now, most of that traffic is in residential areas. Providers of cable, video conferencing, phone systems, internet and many others, route traffic back to a network-dense data center in key metro areas.
This shift has increased the importance of edge computing. For example, Cisco Webex hosted 20 billion meeting minutes in April, according to the May 14th update on Data Economy’s live COVID-19 page. That kind of network traffic wouldn’t work without edge data center deployments. People expect the same real-time processing speeds at home, as they’re used to having in the office.
As more companies turn to cloud-based virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) services, the focus will shift to interconnection. Edge meets at connectivity. Choosing a data center provider with a rich ecosystem of customers is vital. It seems that remote work is our new reality, and companies might continue this trend as they decrease office space to save on capital expenses.
We see more and more companies speeding up their digitization efforts. In some cases, deployment timelines are decreasing and expected data-processing speeds are increasing. At CoreSite, we have native cloud onramps to major public cloud providers – AWS, Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute, Google Cloud Platform, Oracle Cloud – which allows for multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud IT infrastructure configurations. Additionally, The CoreSite Open Cloud Exchange allows for increased or decreased connectivity in real-time. These are the types of answers that companies need.
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?
Steve Smith: With an unplanned, global health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chains across many industries are affected, including data center infrastructure. If you think about it, all components of a data center are built off-site, delivered, and then installed – there are many opportunities for the supply chain to break. Individual parts of UPSs, CRAH units, among other machines, are sometimes built in different countries or states than where the product will be manufactured. Then getting the unit to and into the data center is a separate process. The number of people, resources and effort to coordinate this process is complex and critical.
In the midst of the pandemic, CoreSite delivered its CH2 data center—the first purpose-built data center in downtown Chicago—on schedule. Thankfully, when the pandemic took effect in March, we were deep in the construction process and didn’t experience a delay. During construction, and due to stay at home orders and social distancing measures, the corporate team wasn’t able to visit the site as often as we typically do. We completed inspections and commissioning virtually, and worked closely with our general contractor to ensure proper installation of equipment.
We are expanding in Los Angeles with LA3 and the Bay Area with SV9 and don’t anticipate supply chain delays at this time. We standardized critical construction and data center products, ensuring speed to delivering to capacity to market. Additionally, we’re able to move these assets, if needed, to accommodate a need elsewhere in our portfolio.