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 Todd Schneider from Chatsworth Products.
Todd Schneider is the Director of Product Management and Hyperscale Business Development at Chatsworth Products, Inc. Todd has over 25 years experience in the data center space covering a wide variety of functional areas including Product Management, Business Development, Sales Engineering and Product Development. His current roles focus on driving standard new product innovation to CPI’s core offerings and delivering customer-centric, customized solutions for Hyperscale Operators. Schneider previously worked at Legrand, Electrorack and Wright Line.
Here’s the full text of Todd Schneider’s insights from our Executive Roundtable:
Data Center Frontier: The COVID-19 pandemic has defined much of 2020. As we enter 2021, what pandemic-related changes are likely to have lasting impact for the data center industry, and why?
Todd Schneider: Continuous operations have always been integral in the data center industry, so most data centers understand what it takes to support customers 24×7. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to shift to work-from-home distributed workforces. This move has driven an increased demand for cloud services that support real-time collaboration and business operations. As a result, we see the need for leased space in multitenant data centers growing significantly. While this shift to an expanded footprint was on most company roadmaps, the pandemic greatly accelerated a more immediate need. As a result, more remote employees, limited travel and additional sites have all made remote power management and control increasingly more important.
Many larger data centers already base their operations on an intelligent power management strategy. This can include UPSs, power distribution units with monitoring capabilities and DCIM software that acts like a viewing window into what is happening on site when workers aren’t present. But now, smaller operators and colocation providers are beginning to understand the full benefits of deploying intelligent power products, which greatly offset the upfront cost investment. A good example is the ability to remotely reboot and commission equipment – even monitor physical access – without the need to send remote-hands service. This can all be controlled, monitored and reported remotely, minimizing the risk of unnecessary exposure to personnel on site.
At the macro level, organizations will continue to rely on a mix of enterprise-owned, cloud-based and edge services. While we expect the trend for cloud services and colocation to keep growing, those who must be on site will likely continue requiring PPE usage, screening and contact tracing methods well into 2021.
Data Center Frontier: Gartner says many enterprise customers are holding off on major IT spending during the pandemic. Will that continue in 2021? Or will the “digital shift” from COVID-19 prompt enterprises to invest in retooling their infrastructure?
Todd Schneider: The data center industry is always evolving to keep pace with the demands of emerging technologies. Pandemic-related initiatives have served more as a catalyst for accelerating digital transformation than as the root cause. With the welcoming news of vaccines on the horizon, enterprises will begin to reassess their IT budgets with the understanding that they must be prepared for future technologies as well as unexpected events.
Businesses will continue to evaluate and prioritize what must remain on-premise, what must be upgraded; and when appropriate, what can shift to the cloud. They can then make the necessary business decisions to proceed accordingly.
Companies will also exercise caution in managing investments until there is more certainty on the pandemic, but given continued progress thus far, I’d expect 2021 to see a renewed interest in infrastructure buildouts and retrofits. Of course, most enterprises will continue to have to spend part of their budgets on cloud or software services for video conferencing, server space, VPN capabilities and the like, all to help further support a remote workforce, which will continue well into 2021 and beyond.
Data Center Frontier: Hyperscale customers are more focused than ever on sustainability and climate change. Will this renewed focus drive meaningful change in the data center industry? If so, what might that look like?
Todd Schneider: The data center industry has long and consistently focused on energy-efficient operational measures, particularly because power consumption improvements positively affect overall revenue and minimize environmental impacts.
This operational focus starts with renewable energy sources like solar and wind, to utilizing higher efficiency IT equipment and power supplies, to more effective ways to keep equipment cool. These would include aisle containment, close-coupled water-cooled solutions such as rear-door heat exchangers, direct-to-chip cooling or even immersion cooling.
Additionally, data center operators are exploring other aspects of sustainability: simplified product sourcing and operations, minimized and effective supply chains and reduced waste wherever possible. Being able to order a server cabinet with preinstalled elements, for example, can drastically reduce shipping and packaging waste.
While the focus has long been and will continue to be on operational efficiencies, the latest meaningful change is a concerted focus on reducing overall carbon footprint, including operational and embodied carbon. The embodied carbon of a building isn’t often thought of, but its components are typically items like those used to construct data centers. From sourcing to final production, building materials like cement and steel have a significant impact on the environment and carbon footprint.
Hyperscale data center operators in particular are starting to track the impact of these decisions more closely, including the sources of these items, and which require specific environmental product declarations from their suppliers. With companies like Microsoft expecting to be carbon negative by 2030, I expect this holistic view on carbon emissions by Hyperscalers to not only continue but become the norm moving forward.
Data Center Frontier: What will be surprised by in 2021? What are the trends you’re following that will make an outsized impact?
Todd Schneider: After 2020, it would be difficult to be surprised by anything. However, we are at an exciting time in terms of what emerging technologies to keep our eyes on. The roll-out of 5G wireless, the need to support edge computing and low-latency applications, the growing popularity of electric and autonomous vehicles, and the promise of blockchain gaining traction within large fintech companies like PayPal and others are all trends that can have major impact in 2021.
Infrastructure buildouts for many will continue to evolve and with the realization of new use cases for data and low-latency applications, digital transformation will move into the next phase, where infrastructure and connection will be truly ubiquitous.