Our Four Legged Friends & Digital Infrastructure – A Strange But True Analogy
September 26, 2023 | I remember when I was a young analyst and the great John Stanton (wireless pioneer who was CEO of two public companies - Western Wireless and VoiceStream - at the same time) would speak at conferences. He had a great way of using analogies which would crystalize many a point. One of his constant ones was an analogy between his two companies’ stage of development to that of his two sons – one in grade school and one in high school at the time.
He often compared his slower growth but ‘steady as she goes’ company to his older child, and the young, hyper growth company (which eventually became the foundation of the T-Mobile we now know today), to his younger son who still had a lot of learning to do and experiences still to come.
While only few of the readers of this article may remember those days, the analogy was a great one and has stayed with me for over 20 years.
As I look at my life today, the better analogy is our two dogs vs. our three kids (who are all in the “fun” teenage stage of life). We now have two black labs. We have a seven year old girl who (while wild and crazy her first three years) has become a docile, reliable and steady eddie. She is our loyal companion, causes very little drama and loves her routine.
Then (to my husband’s dismay) this past summer I decided it was time for another “baby” to join our clan and a new black lab pup has entered our home. To say it has been a busy time is an understatement. She has big paws, barks a lot, eats all our shoes, and is just discovering her own capabilities.
Why is this at all relevant to the digital infrastructure space? Well because as I think about these two little girlies I could not help but reflect back to Mr. Stanton’s observations about his two boys way back when and take it a step further to the digital infrastructure space.
An analogy can be made to my older lab and the tower industry. Stay with me here….
After several busy busy years of activity, it feels like the towers have found their way of steady growth and routine. Even though wireless carrier demand has slowed a bit recently, their path is stable, consistent, and very reliable. They won’t let us down and will always be loved. Their place in the digital infrastructure “family” is proven and very well earned.
The data center industry, however, like our new pup, is still finding its way but has tremendous growth ahead of it!
This analogy became all the more real for me over the past two weeks when I attended some data center conferences. Many many takeaways but some of the key themes were as follows:
- The data center model has moved from space and power to a “complex machine”
- A new crop of data center hyperscalers is developing, but the cloud providers are also getting into the chip game (and only putting the pedal on the medal here)
- While each customer is on a different part of the ‘sustainability train, power density (i.e. KW / Rack) is a requirement that is now a top priority for customers
- Hyperscalers' cooling challenge is top of mind – and the majority wants a “low touch” water solution
- Data centers should request “as much power as you possibly can get” (exact quote from speaker from Microsoft)
- 1 Gigawatt campus is soon to become the ‘new normal’ (compare this to when I was an analyst and a ‘big deal’ was 30 MW). This statement is a very very big one!
Leaving these conferences it was very clear to me that the analogy between the data center industry and our new little floppy pup is not a misplaced one. Like our new family member, the data center silo has been born with some (very) BIG paws still yet to grow into. But, also like my little friend (who I happily dropped off for a two week ‘camp’ yesterday), it may need some discipline and training to reach its full potential!