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Exclusive interview: Digital Realty on being the world’s largest digital landlord

17 Aug 2017

At the core, Digital Realty is an investment fund that raises large amounts of capital to buy land and build and operate data centers.

The company then leases that facility out to large companies spanning every industry from financial services and banks to telecommunications, credit card and social media companies.

The global data center provider serves all major markets, with Asia Pacific making up roughly only 6-8% in terms of revenue.

Although it’s the smallest, Asia Pacific is Digital Realty’s fastest growing region with Australia taking the lead revenue-wise with four properties and that's closely followed by Singapore.

The company has two data centers in Singapore, one in Hong Kong, two in Melbourne, two in Sydney, and the most recent addition to the company’s regional footprint is in Osaka, Japan.

Omer Wilson is Digital Realty’s senior director of marketing of Asia Pacific, and he talks exclusively to Techday about the company’s buildings in the region, sustainability and what an Internet of Things future means for data centers.

How much of a concern is data center sustainability for your end users?

A lot more than it used to be. I joined Digital Realty in 2011 and back then it was a tick in the box of sustainability sort of a thing.

What we are now seeing, especially from the social media front, is that organisations are getting a lot of pressure from their customers, and even the large cloud guys are getting pressure from their user base, around what their sustainability message is.

We are two levels removed from the end-users but it’s seeping up the food chain to us, and we’ve always invested heavily in sustainability because as a sector we are using a huge amount of energy.

It’s not a big change for us in terms of approach, but we have seen the demand more and more over the past years.

What cooling methods are in place in your Asia Pacific data centers?

Generally, we use water chill cooling units in Asia. There are some locations where we are able to use free air cooling which is becoming the standard in climates such as Dublin and parts of the U.S. It’s a big benefit because we don’t have to use water at all for the air conditioning.

Even with the water chill units in Asia, we are using clever technology to get the PUE right down and that’s what we’ve done recently in our new Singapore building.

With security being of paramount importance for most organisations, what makes Digital Realty a trustworthy partner?

It’s our sliding scale. We just achieved our tenth consecutive year of 5 9’s of availability, that 99.999% of uptime. One assurance we give customers is that we’ve done this before.

And we have huge financial stability. With a lot of the more local data centers, there’s a lot of money pouring in but the issue is when you have an investment player coming in just to make money. Your landlord can change which is a risk and they are probably looking to sell within 3-5 years to make money.

With us, we don’t sell buildings. We are always renovating and upgrading, but we never sell our data centers.

There is a lot of history and credibility there.

With the rise of Internet of Things and connected devices, what role will data centers play in the future of IT?

It will be an even more central role. The question will be: What type of data center will it be? I think they will still be the motherships, the hubs. But, because of the Internet of Things, I think they will also be different types of data centers in every locale.

Considering the amount of data that there will be when Internet of Things really gets going just in terms of the home, or your medical care, or in terms of tracking your data, all this data needs to be transferred and computed so you’re going to have these mini flash storage data centers on every street.

You’ll then have some sort of compute area or center in every city. And then they will go back to regional hubs where the large providers and the social media guys compute all that information.

I think it’s going to cause more data centers and they won’t all be the large data centers we see today.

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