As hyperscale computing transforms the world of Internet infrastructure, new investors and new data center platforms are emerging to focus on the needs of hyperscale players.
The latest is STACK Infrastructure, a new brand formed by investor IPI Data Center Partners with assets acquired from Infomart Data Centers and T5 Data Centers. STACK Infrastructure is launching today with a national footprint of eight data centers in six markets spanning 1.5 million feet of space and 100 megawatts of capacity.
The new company is focused on data center capacity planning for hyperscale operators, who are seeking to manage the rapid growth in cloud computing and social business.
“STACK Infrastructure was created to address the full infrastructure stack of our clients’ needs and requirements for the long-term,” said Brian Cox, the CEO of STACK Infrastructure. “We are building an industry-leading team around this goal. We’re going to address the full hyperscale stack, especially in terms of timing our capacity.”
STACK’s strategy will feature a combination of “rack-ready” wholesale space for immediate delivery, rapid development of data halls for larger requirements, and build-to-suit projects for entire campuses.
The “stack” concept, which is familiar to those in networking or software development, refers to groupings of tools or components that come together to create a complete platform.
“We brought together key elements of two historic brands to create a national footprint with scale and redundancy,” said Cox, who said STACK sees today’s launch as a first step in a more ambitious vision. “In providing your clients with continued scale, there’s an obligation to fund capacity to support their future growth. We’ll have some exciting announcements in the future.”
New Name, Experienced Team
IPI Data Center Partners has been one of the major new investors in the data center industry. The company is backed by Iron Point Partners and Iconiq Capital, a wealth manager to Silicon Valley whose clients reportedly include Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and LinkedIn chairman Reid Hoffman. IPI was created in 2016, and has announced a series of investments in wholesale data center projects.
Iron Point is an experienced player in the industry as an investor in PowerLoft (which was acquired by COPT) and T5 Data Centers. Iconiq’s clients include executives who are familiar with the needs of hyperscale users.
“IPI is a relatively new player,” said Cox. “But the Iron Point and Iconiq partners have been doing this for a long time. We have investors who know what they want in a data center, and have the benefit of their experience. This also brings the ability to think big about forward-looking investment.”
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The STACK Infrastructure team includes two veterans of Digital Realty. Donough Roche will be Chief Operating Officer and Ty Miller will serve as Chief Revenue Officer. Rick Waddle, who has lengthy industry experience with DuPont Fabros and AOL, will be Senior VP of Construction and Development. Cox said the company will soon be announcing additional hires.
“The launch of STACK is an important milestone in the execution of a carefully crafted strategy to bring a unique understanding of the needs of enterprise and hyperscale users to the market”, said Phil Koen, Chairman of the Board of Directors. “The board is incredibly pleased with the momentum that this team has achieved in such a short period of time and we are committed to supporting the business as it capitalizes on the numerous opportunities before it.”
A Focus on Major Markets
The company’s portfolio includes three facilities previously under the Infomart Data Centers brand, located in Northern Virginia (Ashburn), Silicon Valley (San Jose) and Portland (two facilities), along with data centers previously operated by T5 Data Centers in Atlanta, Dallas (two facilities) and Chicago (Elk Grove Village).
Those eight data centers offer more than 100 megawatts of capacity, including about 40 megawatts available for client deployments. Between those properties and adjacent parcels, Stack Infrastructure controls another 88 acres of land that can support another 160 megawatts of data center development.
“The key element about our platform is that we immediately have the ability to operate in six key markets,” said Cox. “These markets are where our clients want to be. We feel we are starting in the right places. I also think we have the right geographic footprint to address national enterprise demand.”
Although it will serve an enterprise audience, the STACK approach is positioned to meet the needs of the largest hyperscale clients. ” I believe there is a defined set of customers whose platforms are growing at a rate where they need to plan for the future,” said Cox. “Those clients have real challenges supporting their hyperscale growth. There’s only a certain amount of providers today that can support that across a national footprint.
“Everything we do is designed to align our offering with our clients’ growth trajectories, so that we are always evolving to provide the solutions they need in the markets where they want to be,” Cox added.
Relationships Matter (And So Does Design)
The hyperscale market typically involves a deeper level of collaboration with tenants, who are now more open about sharing their requirements for future capacity and allowing providers to compete to see who can meet them most effectively.
“The relationship element is important,” said Cox. “People do business with people they trust. This is not a leasing and transaction business. This is a relationship business.”
STACK says it will work closely with clients on facility design and optimization, and is open to innovative approaches to power and cooling.
“There are people in this industry who are extremely efficient, but that can lead to a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Cox. “We believe the infrastructure stack is not one-size-fits-all.
“As an example, a lot of people think having water on the data center floor is a risk, but it’s often what our customers are looking for with the high density they need to support their operations,” he added. “We recognize that’s where our industry needs to go. If you’re just doing a raised floor with a 2N environment, that’s not going to cut it. Bringing together scale and flexibility is a key differentiator. We will look to make that a hallmark of our operation.”
Eyeing Long-Term Growth
STACK has development properties on land parcels in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Portland, and Silicon Valley. The San Jose property is among the sites likely to see expansion activity, as it has a building available for retrofit and a parking lot that could be converted to data center use.
The hottest leasing market is Ashburn, Virginia where Stack Infrastructure takes over an Infomart property that was initially developed by America Online along key fiber routes near the MAE East traffic exchange to house AOL’s email operations (the “You’ve Got Mail” data center).
Cox said STACK is speaking with several prospects about space at its Ashburn site, but is also thinking about long-term growth in Northern Virginia. “We have demand that’s in excess of our current facility capacity, and look forward to announcing additional solutions in 2019,” said Cox.
The CEO, who was previously the Chief Operating Officer at Cologix, said STACK Infrastructure will benefit from having investors with a long view of the future for data center growth.
“I think what’s needed in this industry is patient and committed capital,” said Cox. “This is just a starting point. I believe 2019 and 2020 will be a period of tremendous growth. This story is just getting started.”