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Data Center Providers Remain Nimble In Ever-Changing Market

Talking doorbells, Alexa personal assistants and other Internet of Things gadgets are amping up the need for data storage, but computing on the edge, cloud storage options and the use of temporary “pods” of servers are changing the game. This all means that data storage providers need to be nimble and flexible to adapt and evolve in this ever-changing market. 

Puget Sound Energy Senior Advisor of IT Facilities Infrastructure Engineer Steve Brooks, one of the panelists at Bisnow’s DICE Northwest event last week, sees the issue from both sides.

DPR Construction’s Tejo Pydipati, who moderated, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Robert Cowan, ScaleMatrix’s Chris Orlando, Westin Building Exchange’s Michael Boyle and Puget Sound Energy’s Steve Brooks

“PSE is an end user and a provider,” he said. “I go out and try to find the best options.”

As a provider, PSE sees the need for flexible options between Puget Sound and Eastern Washington. A solution may be to “plop-down pods” where they are needed, he said. The pods, which are a group of IT racks, allow data storage providers to increase storage capacity quickly if necessary.

Flexibility is especially important because users’ needs can change quickly. Brooks cited infrastructure problems that occurred in Grant County when bitcoin operators popped up, demanded excess power from utilities and then packed up and moved somewhere else. 

As the needs of end users change, data centers need to stay flexible and location is key.

Landau Associates’s Mark Brunner, Digital Fortress’ Timothy Doherty, Sabey Corp.’s John Sabey and QTS’ David McCall

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Director of Facilities Robert Cowan said companies have a lot of options like co-location, computing on the edge and running their own data centers.

“The challenge is to figure out what is the most cost-effective,” said Cowan, who oversees Fred Hutch’s on-premise data centers.

Fred Hutch, like other businesses, needs to remain flexible.

“We could get a new scientist that may upset the whole thing because he needs a lot more space,” Cowan said.

Westin Building Exchange Director of Strategic Planning Michael Boyle pointed out that data storage providers also need to provide varying price ranges. They can do that by offering hoteling at data centers for shorter terms, like three months. 

ScaleMatrix co-founder and CEO Chris Orlando said in this market, agility is critical. As density needs vary, businesses need to ask themselves how they can deliver solutions.

CPG’s Jeff Ivey, who moderated, BGIS’ Jamie Brockamp, John L. Scott’s Teresa Duran, H5 Data Centers’ Bruce Eisele and LinkedIn’s Eyal Itskovich

The best location for data centers is another evolving issue. 

The Pacific Northwest’s cheap hydropower and fast access to the Asia-Pacific zone gives this region an edge, QTS Vice President of Innovation David McCall said.  

Municipalities should consider the benefits of having this industry in their community, Sabey Corp. CEO John Sabey said. He uses the central state city of Quincy as an example. 

“$10B was invested in that community,” he said. “The real estate taxes in that community have gone down because a much larger share of the county tax is now shared by business.”

When it comes to data center development, the Pacific Northwest has a lot of competition from elsewhere. 

“There is some construction going on in every market in the U.S.,” Sabey said.

Digital Fortress CEO Timothy Doherty agreed.

“They are building huge data centers all over the world,” he said. “There is a huge one going up in Mongolia.”

JLL’s Conan Lee, who moderated, Equinix’s Robert Breynaert, Intel Corp.’s Amith Pulla, Microsoft’s Dave Crowley and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Jim Rudd

The balance between too few and too many data centers sits on a razor-thin edge, McCall said. 

“If we have too much, [the users] don’t want to pay for it,” he said. “We have to be so responsive to what’s going on. There are so many things that go into building these sites.” 

Meanwhile, we don’t know how the Internet of Things is going to impact storage needs, he said.

“We have doorbells that are now talking to us,” he said. “That all takes data.”

The data storage options are also evolving.

Microsoft Chief Technology Advisor Dave Crowley, who predicts the data center industry will see a massive expansion in the next three to five years, brought up the fact that there are efforts underway to store data in DNA that will last 200,000 years.

Ultimately, the panelists agreed that the industry in a constant state of growth and change. Both providers and end users need to stay up-to-date on costs and options and be ready to change course quickly.