The rapid adoption of public cloud and the onset of new technologies like the internet of things, neural networks, artificial intelligence, machine learning and mega-scale online retailing are reshaping the data center industry, driving demand for data center capacity and cloud connectivity.
QTS is the leading data center provider that serves current and future needs of both hyperscale and hybrid colocation customers via software-defined data center experience. We recently interviewed Chris Ortbals – Executive Vice President, Products & Marketing, QTS, to know about his take on the changing data center requirements and QTS strategy of redefining the data center.
1. Please share an overview of QTS’ journey from inception till date with DHN readers. How has it transformed from being a single data center to becoming one of the leading national data center providers?
QTS is the creation of Chad Williams, a business and real-estate entrepreneur who had a strong vision of what a data center can and should be. Williams foresaw increasing IT complexity and demand for capacity and recognized the opportunity for large, highly secure, multi-tenant data centers, with ample space, power and connectivity.
In 2005, QTS was formally established with the purchase of a 370,000 square foot Atlanta-Suwanee mega data center. Williams focused on building an integrated data center platform delivering a broad range of IT infrastructure services ranging from wholesale to colocation, to hybrid and multi-cloud, to hyperscale solutions, and backed by an unwavering commitment to customer support.
Since then, we have grown both organically and through acquisition into one of the world’s leading data center and IT infrastructure services providers, and in 2013 we began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under symbol (NYSE: QTS).
Today, QTS offers a focused portfolio of hybrid colocation, cloud, and hyperscale data center solutions built on the industry’s first software-defined data center and service delivery platform and is a trusted partner to 1,200 customers, including 5 of the worlds’ largest cloud providers. We own, operate or manage more than six million square feet of data center space encompassing 26 data centers, 600+ megawatts of critical power, and access to 500+ networks including connectivity on-ramps to the world’s largest hyperscale companies and cloud providers.
More recently, we have been accelerating momentum as a hyperscale data center provider able to meet unique requirements for scale and speed-to-market delivered at the right economics being sought by the biggest Internet-based businesses.
2. Throw some light on the recent QTS strategy of redefining the data center. What’s the Software-Defined Data Center approach, how do you plan to execute it and how will it help hyperscale and hybrid colocation customers?
We believe that QTS’ Service Delivery Platform (SDP) enables QTS as one of the first true Software Defined Data Centers (SDDC) with 100% completeness of vision. It is an architectural approach that facilitates service delivery across QTS’ entire hybrid colocation and hyperscale solutions portfolio.
Through policy-based automation of the data and facilities infrastructure, QTS customers benefit from the ability to adapt to changes in real-time, to increase utilization, performance, security and quality of services. QTS’ SDP approach involves the digitization, aggregation and analysis of more than 4 billion data points per day across all of QTS’ customer environments.
For hybrid colocation and hyperscale customers, it allows them to integrate data within their own applications and gain deeper insight into the use of their QTS services within their IT environments. It is a highly-automated, cloud-based approach that increases visibility and facilitates operational improvements by enabling customers to access and interact with information related to their data center deployments in a way that is simple, seamless and available on-demand.
3. How do you differentiate yourself from your competition?
QTS software-defined service delivery is redefining the data center to enable new levels of automation and innovation that significantly improves our customers’ overall experience. This is backed by a hi-touch, enterprise customer support organization that is focused on serving as a trusted and valued partner.
4. How does it feel to receive the industry leading net promoter score for the third consecutive year?
We were extremely proud to announce that in 2017 we achieved our all-time high NPS score of 72 and the third consecutive year that we have led the industry in customer satisfaction for our data centers across the U.S.
Our customers rated us highly in a range of service areas, including customer service, physical facilities, processes, responsiveness service of onsite staff and our 24-hour Operations Service Center.
As our industry-leading NPS results demonstrate, our customers continue to view QTS as a trusted partner. We are also starting to see the benefits of our service delivery platform that is delivering new levels of innovation in how customers interact with QTS and their infrastructure, contributing to even higher levels of customer satisfaction.
5. QTS last year entered into a strategic alliance with AWS. Can you elaborate what is CloudRamp and how will it simplify cloud migration?
AWS came to us last year telling us that a growing number of their customers were requiring colocation as part of their hybrid IT solution. They viewed QTS as a customer-centric colocation provider with the added advantage of our Service Delivery Platform that allowed us to seamlessly integrate colocation with AWS as a turnkey service available on- demand.
We entered a strategic collaboration with AWS to develop and deliver QTS CloudRampTM – direct connected colocation for AWS customers made available for purchase online via the AWS Marketplace.
By aligning with AWS, we were able to offer an innovative approach to colocation, bridging the gap between traditional solutions and the cloud. The solution is also groundbreaking in that it marked the first time AWS had offered colocation to its customers and signaled the growing demand for hybrid IT solutions. At the same time, it significantly accelerated time-to-value for what previously had been a much slower purchasing and deployment process.
For enterprises with requirements extending beyond CloudRamp, QTS and AWS provide tailored, hybrid IT solutions built upon QTS’ highly secure and reliable colocation infrastructure optimized for AWS.
6. Tell us something about Sacramento-IX. How will the newly deployed Primary Internet Exchange Hub in QTS Sacramento Data Center facilitate interconnection and connectivity solutions?
QTS is strongly committed to building an unrestricted Internet ecosystem and we are focused on expanding carrier neutral connectivity options for customers in all of our data centers.
Interconnection has evolved from a community driven effort in the 90’s to a restrictive, commercial industry dominated by a few large companies. Today there is a movement to get back to the community driven, high integrity ecosystem, and QTS is aligning our Internet exchange strategy as part of this community.
A great example is how the Sacramento Internet Exchange (Sacramento-IX) has deployed its primary Internet Exchange hub within QTS’ Sacramento data center. It is the first internet exchange in Sacramento and is being driven by increased traffic network performance demands in the region. It expands QTS’ Internet ecosystem and simplifies our customers network strategies by providing diverse connectivity options allowing them to manage network traffic in a more cost-effective way.
Once considered the backup and recovery outpost for the Bay area, Sacramento has quickly become a highly interconnected and a geostrategic network hub for northern California. It also solidifies our Sacramento data center as one of the most interconnected data centers in the region and as the primary west coast connectivity gateway for key fiber routes to Denver, Salt Lake City and points east.
7. Hyperscale data centers are growing at an accelerated pace and are expected to soon replace the traditional data centers. Can you tell us some factors/reasons that aid the rise of hyperscale data centers?
The rapid adoption of public cloud, the Internet of things, artificial intelligence, neural networks, machine learning, and mega-scale online retailing are driving unprecedented increases in demand for data center capacity and cloud connectivity.
Hyperscale refers to the rapid deployment of this capacity required for new mega-scale Internet business models. These Hyperscale companies require a data center growth strategy that combines speed, scalability and economics in order to drive down cost of compute and free up the capital needed to feed the needs of their core businesses. Think Google, Uber, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and many more needing huge capacity in a quick timeframe. They are looking for mega-scale computing capacity inside hyperscale data centers that can deliver economies of scale not matched by conventional enterprise data center architectures.
This demand for scale and speed delivered at the right economics is opening the door for a new breed of Hyperscale Service Provider being sought by the biggest Internet-based businesses. These are data centers whose ability to deliver immense capacity must be matched by an ability to provide core requirements for speed, quality, operator excellence, visibility and economics, that leaves out a majority of conventional hosting and service providers who are not interested in or capable of meeting them.
And while the organization may have need for very large geostrategic 20, 40, 60 megawatt deployments, typically they want a provider that can deliver it incrementally to reduce risk and increase agility.
8. Throw some light on your current datacenters and future expansion plans.
Chad Williams’ had the vision for identifying large, undervalued – but infrastructure-rich – buildings (at low cost basis) that could be rapidly transformed into state of the art “mega” data center facilities to serve growing enterprise demand for outsourced IT infrastructure services.
In Chicago, the former Chicago Sun Times printing plant was transformed into a 467,000 square foot mega data center. In Dallas and Richmond, former semi-conductor plants are now state of the art mega data centers encompassing more than 2 million square feet. And in Atlanta, the former Sears distribution center was converted into a 967,000 square foot mega data center that is now home to some of the world’s largest cloud and social media platforms.
However, in some cases, a greenfield approach is the more viable option. In Ashburn Va. the Internet capital of the world, we are building a new 427,000 square foot facility from the ground up that is expected to open later this summer. Expansion plans also call for new data center builds in Phoenix and Hillsboro, Oregon.
9. What is your datacenter sustainability and efficiency strategy?
At QTS, we understand that being a good environmental steward takes much more than just a simple initiative. That’s why we have focused our efforts on developing a company-wide approach – one that utilizes reused and recycled materials, maximizes water conservation and improves energy savings.
Central to this is our commitment to minimizing the data center carbon footprint and utilizing as much renewable fuel as possible by implementing a 3-pronged sustainability approach featuring solutions in containment and power usage effectiveness (PUE) metric products.
1. Develop and Recycle Buildings
Part of our data center sustainability strategy is reusing brownfield properties and transforming them into state-of-the-art data centers.
2. Water Conservation
With a large data center comes a big roof that is capable of harvesting rainwater. We collect millions of gallons of water using a harvesting system on a portion of the roof.
3. Energy Efficiency
As a data center provider, cooling is a critical part of our job and is approximately 30% of the electricity load at the data center.
QTS is one of the first data center companies to invest in renewable energy specifically for its hybrid colocation and hyperscale customers.
A recent example is a multi-year agreement with Citi to provide 100% renewable power for our 700,00 sq. ft. mega data center in Irving, Texas. The power and renewable energy credits will come from the Flat Top Wind Project, a 200 megawatt utility-scale wind energy facility in central Texas. QTS will purchase 15 MW of 100% renewable power for its Irving data center, with plans for a similar agreement in its Fort Worth data center later this year.
The investment supports QTS’ commitment to lead the industry in providing clean, renewable energy alternatives for QTS hybrid colocation and hyperscale customers that include five of five largest cloud providers and several global social media platforms.
In addition to the new wind power initiative in Texas, QTS’ New Jersey data center features a 14 MW solar farm to offset emissions associated with power consumption at that facility. QTS plans to expand renewable power initiatives in existing and new data centers including those being planned for Phoenix and Hillsboro, OR.
10. What’s in the roadmap for the year 2018?
QTS is now executing on our 2018 strategic growth plan that involves continued innovation with the Service Delivery Platform. It enables a software-deﬁned data center experience for hyperscale and hybrid colocation customers. QTS’ SDP represents a big data approach enabling customers to access and interact with information related to their specific IT environment by aggregating metrics and data from multiple sources into a single operational view.
More importantly, it provides customers the ability to remotely view, manage and optimize resources in real time in a cloud-like experience, which is what customers increasing expect from their service providers. In addition, through a variety of software-defined networking platforms, enterprises can now get direct connectivity to the world’s largest cloud providers with real-time visibility and control over their network infrastructure using QTS’ SDP application interface.