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The Data Standard x Netrality: Data-driven Business Podcast

Netrality’s VP of Channel & Strategic Alliances, Craig Waldrop, joins The Data Standard to discuss the state of the data center industry, the evolution of the edge, data-driven strategies to drive business growth, and how deployment pace has accelerated.

Catherine Tao (00:09):

Hello everyone. And welcome to another episode of the data standard audio experience. I’m your host, Catherine Tao. And today on our podcast, we have Craig Waldrop the VP of Channel and Strategic Alliances from Netrality Data Centers. I’m very excited to speak with you, Craig. Welcome to the show and we’re very happy to have you today.

Craig Waldrop (00:27):

Thank you, Catherine. I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate in your podcast series. It’s an honor, and I hope to provide your listeners with some perspective on the importance of data. Not that they don’t think it’s already important, but certainly to see how it’s shaping every industry and how it’s one of the key catalysts behind what’s happening in the data center sector that I work in.

Catherine Tao (00:51):

Yes, definitely. So can you tell us more about how you got started in your data career?

Craig Waldrop (00:57):

Well, depending on how you look at it, I suppose I could say I’ve been in data my entire career, spanning several decades. I started out in telecommunications, focused on developing services that securely move data, great distances across interconnected networks. More recently in the last decade or so, while working in this data center business, I’ve been fortunate to work with many of the industry’s biggest names – learning about their data-centric solutions and bringing relevant ones into a multi-tenant, highly connected data center. I would be honest with you and your listeners that I’m not a data scientist or a data practitioner per se, but I have a view into many of the unique and meaningful use cases that the community is interested in. Or, themselves creating solutions to take out to the market. And so, I’m the accounting major turned project manager and then turned business developer while ironically being closer or never too far from data over the last 20 plus years of my career.

Catherine Tao (02:08):

Yeah, that sounds awesome. Within your industry that you work in, how does data drive your business and how do you really leverage the data?

Craig Waldrop (02:17):

That’s a good question. Well, it certainly sounds like a cliche, but data is the new Fiat for digital business. And without it, the tools that create data, manipulate it, move it, store it, and then analyze it are just meaningless. This applies to all industries, and I’d point out that data comes in many forms, right? We currently concern ourselves with that which is represented by ones and zeros. However, previously it was written, someone saw it, or spoke something to make a decision or to base their decisions on. Today, with guidance from algorithms created by some very intelligent people, some of which I’m sure are listeners, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, are now dictating the ability for machines to make data-informed decisions. I can’t think of many businesses that aren’t driven by data in some way, even the less sophisticated ones.

Craig Waldrop (03:14):

I think Netrality is no different, but we certainly analyze data about our customers, the market, and our operations to try to make business decisions here at Netrality as most companies do. You know, we use it in particular to determine how and where to best serve our customers in order to anticipate their needs, their requirements, and how to tweak operations to become as efficient or as effective as possible. Being a data center operator puts us in a unique position in our case. Owning data centers that sit at the nexus of connectivity means our buildings are this treasure trove of data that traverses the internet and private networks – providing access to a whole myriad of data analytics, data warehousing, and manipulation tools. This is very exciting when you think about all of the new IoT use cases at the edge like connected vehicles, smart cities, smart factories, and many more that are creating data at the edge. Our data centers are close to the edge where the necessary compute storage and networking exist to make use of it in a low latent manner.

Catherine Tao (04:30):

You’re really leveraging data within your industry. Can you now tell us about a more specific project that you’ve worked on that’s involved data or AI?

Craig Waldrop (04:44):

I’ve been in my current role here for just over four months, but in my last role, prior to the pandemic, I saw some really interesting use cases and had the opportunity to work on several projects that were focused on the distributed nature of data. It’s out close to the end-users and solves the need to have data solutions across the broad spectrum of hardware, software, and networking. I’ll mention two examples. The two most interesting I’ve seen are in predictive maintenance. One was for doing predictive maintenance on aircraft. So, looking at all of the data from a bleed flow air system coming off of the aircraft for a large air carrier. Another use case was looking at public safety, specifically for a police department, taking video off of the body cameras or the patrol vehicles. In both cases a very large amount of data was involved.

Craig Waldrop (05:54):

The modern aircraft can generate up to seven terabytes per flight. With video surveillance, video files are very dense and very large. When they’re being streamed and generated in real-time, there’s a lot of data being streamed. So, both projects needed to perform multiple functions that derive insights and make, in both cases, very insightful and important real-time decisions – which if not made or made incorrectly could impact a whole lot of people. Even if you just look at the baseline for the airline use case, being able to be efficient saves the airline a ton of money. Not to mention it allows them to maintain their number one priority which is keeping their customers safe.

Craig Waldrop (06:55):

And likewise in the public safety with the police department, being able to look at data, anticipate the danger, go back and look at historical data and videos, and make some decisions is super important. Having low-latency access to the data and computing resources at the edge really made a substantial difference in the potential outcome for those decisions that can be made. These are just a couple of examples where the nature of data being distributed out in many locations and the data pipeline are incredibly important concepts to get your arms around.

Catherine Tao (07:35):

Great examples of really leveraging data within the industries. With all of these concepts and the methods that you and your company used to really leverage data in order to make these business decisions, what types of challenges have you countered?

Craig Waldrop (07:58):

I would say there’s no shortage of challenges to overcome. That said, I tend to see those more as opportunities. So, I flip the coin and look at the positive side of it. Of course, in my role and line of work, we’re ultimately measured through the typical financial metrics and goals we’ve set, and my particular case, reporting to investors, shareholders, or to aboard. Hitting those goals is motivating as one might imagine. However, I tend to see as starting and ending with our customers. We’re service providers in the end, and if we serve them well and solve their problems we will be rewarded for that. I would say one challenge we as a whole sector are really focused on is our impact on the climate and operating our facilities in an environmental and a community-conscious way.

Craig Waldrop (08:54):

We’re very conscious of the impact our facilities and data centers in general have on the environment. We are challenged with how we can utilize cleaner ways of supplying electricity or power to our customers’ infrastructure which they house inside our data centers. The amount of electricity data centers use is substantial. I think we’re probably some of the biggest users of electrical energy in the world. Data centers require a ton of electricity. The ongoing pandemic has really reaffirmed for me, and I think many of us in our industry, the importance of what we do in our sector and the position we hold in the digital world. We take that seriously and strive to deliver the best quality of service and availability in a very sustainable way. That’s what is important to our customers and society at large.

Craig Waldrop (09:54):

So at present, I’m trying to solve those main challenges of driving successful business and sustainability by working with partners. My role is to run indirect sales and create some strategic alliances by working with partners. The business in IT world is an incredibly complex landscape, and one where as a small company like Netrality, we must partner to overcome our challenges and succeed in the marketplace. That’s what’s so interesting in my opinion about the data spheres. There’s just so many different providers out there, and different technological solutions that you just can’t do it on your own. In my case, I’m trying to isolate the data center use cases that are most applicable and aligned with our company’s value proposition, which is all about interconnectivity and ecosystems. I’m focused on what are those data technologies and solutions that would be most attractive, and whom are the best partners in the marketplace that can showcase those to our customers.

Craig Waldrop (11:00):

Additionally, I see the challenge of our own adoption of these data and AI solutions, and that links back to this whole challenge around sustainability. These play a major role in what’s called data center infrastructure management or DCIM. That’s what’s potentially aiding us in running our data centers as efficiently and efficiently as possible. We’re continually monitoring the health and the environment of these facilities. We collect data from sensors, capture surveillance and security data, and utilize all that information to increase performance and efficiency of the electricity usage, the cooling technology we have to use to cool the infrastructure, and the floor space we provide. So, we provide our services at the lowest end of the OSI stack. We’re an infrastructure player if you will, but innovations in AI and software particularly can really help us and our partners manage our data centers effectively and cost efficiently. I would say across the entire sector, sustainability and running as efficiently as possible is, is top of mind.

Catherine Tao (12:21):

I think it’s also important to talk about the collaboration aspect as well within your team – really knowing and understanding the challenges within the industry and how to help mitigate them in order to get to that end goal for the overall business school. So, how do you see the data field evolving in the future now?

Craig Waldrop (12:46):

I don’t consider myself Nostradamus by any stretch, but I would say the data field is going to continue to be in high demand and the skill sets in particular around data. We’re likely looking at a shortage for the foreseeable future. I think we need to encourage young educated professionals to consider the field, because it’s incredibly important to help non-practical practitioners like myself. We’re going to have to be indoctrinated into developments to stay on top of the consistently evolving set of solutions that are out there and that our customers and partners are using or contemplating delivering to the market. I definitely see the field increasing in importance as more businesses undergo digital transformation.

Craig Waldrop (13:42):

We are in exciting times where new companies being started all of the time, and most all of them are in the digital sphere. They’re starting from scratch with data in mind. They’re homegrown, built in the cloud, and built with the assumption that AI is core to their business or core to maybe even their own product or service offering. I definitely see the field continuing to evolve as we seek new professionals to drive new products, new services, and new companies for that matter.

Catherine Tao (14:22):

Great insight there, and thank you so much for being on the show today, Craig. It was so great speaking with you and learning more about your background and all the things that you do at your company. We at The Data Standard are trying to build a community of data enthusiasts and data thought leaders so that everybody has a place where they can network and collaborate with each other. So, what is something that we can do for you?

Craig Waldrop (14:45):

I think it’s super important what you guys are doing Catherine. Bringing people together to share ideas is one of the best ways to create innovation and build a network of people working towards common goals. I’m definitely what some would call a data enthusiast and maybe perhaps an aspiring thought leader in the space. So connecting to and collaborating with a community, like the one you’re stimulating here, of data leaders and practitioners is certainly highly desirable for me. There is a mutual benefit when it comes to looking at data-driven solutions, which of course may end up in a data center. So getting access to use cases and problems that the community is solving is of great value to me and value to our company now. Plus, I really like learning about all the amazing problems, what the data world is uncovering, and solving at the same time. It’s humbling to be alongside and learning from such brilliant minds as well. I’m really looking forward to collaborating and connecting with the folks in your committee.

Catherine Tao (15:58):

Definitely. It’s important to also note that data, the data field, and just technology field in general, is ever-changing and always innovating as the years go by. So, it’s really important for us to be able to build a community for everyone to meet each other and stay updated on all the trends and all the changing factors within the field. And where can our community find you online?

Craig Waldrop (16:27):

There’s no doubt that it’s ever-changing. You can definitely reach out to me on LinkedIn. My email is cwaldrop@netrality.com. Don’t hesitate to contact or connect with me if you want to talk about data or data centers in particular. I’m more than happy to talk about these topics. So please do reach out. Again, I really appreciate you for giving me this opportunity to participate, Catherine.

Catherine Tao (17:02):

Absolutely. And to our audience, for more information on The Data Standard you can find this at www.datastandard.io, as well as our LinkedIn and our YouTube channel. This episode is sponsored by Pandio, they’re innovating the tech space with their Apache Pulsar messaging system. Learn more about their work www.pandio.com. Thank you so much, Craig, for joining us. So great to speak with you and learning more about your background. We hope to keep in touch and speak to you again soon.