March 19, 2021
The Data Center Frontier Executive Roundtable features insights from industry executives with lengthy experience in the data center industry. Here’s a look at the insights from Amber Caramella of Netrality Data Centers and Infrastructure Masons.
Amber Caramella is the Chief Revenue Officer at Netrality Data Centers. She is responsible for Netrality’s revenue generation strategy and execution, including overseeing sales, marketing, strategic alliances, and channel partnerships. With over 20 years of experience in the telecommunications and technology industries, Amber has held various positions in sales leadership. Prior to joining Netrality, Amber served as Senior Vice President of Sales at Zayo, where she built the company’s global cloud, software, infrastructure and data center vertical segment. Amber has held a variety of sales and leadership roles at Level 3 Communications (now Lumen Communications), XO Communications and Allegiance Telecom.
Amber currently holds a Board of Directors position at Virtual Power Systems and on the Advisory Council of Infrastructure Masons. Additionally, she is the Global Executive Sponsor for IM Women and a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Her goal is to promote diversity of women pursuing careers in technical infrastructure and data centers to increase the visibility and the career advancement of women.
Data Center Frontier: In recent months we’ve seen disasters prompt rolling power outages in two of the largest data center markets, California and Texas. Are current approaches to data center infrastructure and operations sufficient? Or are there new strategies to consider in the face of energy security challenges? What are the new strategies?
Amber Caramella: The inefficiencies in California and Texas are bringing the conversation of resiliency to the forefront. The most recent issues in Texas last month, where a significant amount of generation capacity went offline due to the extreme cold conditions, brought attention to many of these unforeseen operational vulnerabilities. Data centers across the state of Texas experienced a range of challenges, including failing electrical and mechanical systems and issues with fuel delivery. Many stayed on generators for an extended period.
Netrality’s 1301 Fannin did not experience any utility outages and maintained 100% uptime for critical and essential services, per our design. Additionally, we opened our data centers to employees and their families for safe shelter.
In markets susceptible to outages or natural disasters, data centers should have resources available that are over and above normal safeguards of a hardened infrastructures. As owner and facility operator, Netrality evaluates designs and redundancies in connection with market risks – increasing fuel storage and make up water levels in markets like Houston, for example, to safeguard our facilities. We believe this approach significantly mitigates the common threats to facility infrastructure particularly as it relates to external threats beyond our control.
Approaches to data center design are changing as well, with standards requiring data centers to be designed to withstand temperature ranges within ASHRAE’s 20-year extreme minimums and maximums. Other new strategies include implementing equipment with monitoring tools at every level that can anticipate problems before they occur and physical design elements that can adapt to the toughest conditions. By leveraging power intelligence capabilities at the device level, data centers can improve energy efficiency and anticipate customer needs.
With the increased discussions around the power grids and generation, I believe there will be more technological advancements in power infrastructure to ensure these disasters do not repeat. We are currently seeing innovative advances from Telsa with a 100-megawatt storage project currently under construction outside of Houston.
Data Center Frontier: Our industry is all about the data. But how good are our metrics? What are the strengths and opportunities in how the data center industry can measure and manage effectiveness? What’s going well and what’s missing?
Amber Caramella: Data acquisition, management, and implementation has a multi-faceted impact and approach on the data center industry. More visibility into customers’ environments enables data center operators to design data center solutions more effectively that meet end user needs and enable them to plan for future growth.
Monitoring of customer power utilization at the rack level provides a clear picture of what is happening in their space over time. Air flow and temperature monitoring at the data hall level, opposed to the individual customer level, is key to understanding how swings in power utilization affect cooling in the space. Insights derived from this data set help operators propose new ways to improve the efficiency of existing customers’ spaces, and design future customer spaces.
Data can also be leveraged to help data center operators enhance their sustainability efforts through reduced energy usage and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Analytics obtained through AI provide visibility that can be used to make real-time, data-driven adjustments to power utilization and cooling delivery – reducing a space’s energy consumption, water waste, and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, decreasing the load on the cooling equipment prolongs its lifespan and reduces the need to refresh infrastructure that has reached the end of its lifecycle.
The development and maintenance of highly effective, reliable, secure, and innovative systems can facilitate the collection, storage, security, and integrity of electronic data while ensuring appropriate access amongst collaborative, cross-departmental functions.
Data when organized as a unified source of truth within a technology ecosystem should optimize and standardize a service model. The use of software tools such as ERP, DCIM, and CRM allow providers to gather information on usage, track performance, availability, and provide a platform to interact with customers enhancing customer experience. DCIM solutions can also standardize monitoring of cooling, customer power utilization, customer inventories, and other contracted services—streamlining processes and procedures.
Data Center Frontier: Data center tours and conferences are two key elements of doing business in this sector. What’s your sense of when these in-person activities can resume, and how they might be different?
Amber Caramella: Leading indicators hint that our industry will resume in-person data center tours and conferences in Q3 or Q4 of 2021. Even when the climate allows for in-person gatherings, I suspect usage of virtual platforms will persist as organizations have come to appreciate the associated convenience, cost-savings, and ROIs of a digitally connected, remote norm they have grown accustomed to. Many organizations have realized this and are offering optionality when it comes to event attendance. ITW and Channel Connect, for example, have announced their intent to host events in a hybrid capacity – accommodating an expanded audience base of both in-person and virtual attendees.
As with any product or service, you want to see the physical asset you are investing in and meet the stakeholders involved in the transaction. However, the engagement strategy and tools we use have changed in light of the global pandemic. Widespread adoption of virtual meetings, events, and tour platforms have allowed us to remain digitally connected in our physically distanced world. By leveraging technological advancements, we have safely furthered our industry, expanded our reach to a global audience, and accelerated impact.
Thanks to platforms like SwapCard, VFairs, Microsoft Teams, Google, and Zoom, organizations across the world have mastered the execution of virtual gatherings and exposure. Whether a virtual tour, sales kickoff, panel, national/regional event, or awards show, virtual events have enabled wide-spread awareness, impact, and contribution on a global and accelerated scale. In fact, the Infrastructure Masons Awards Ceremony I co-hosted, had the highest attendance to date, with attendees from over 20 countries, and presenters and nominees streaming live across 3 continents. I am excited to move forward in an environment that allows us to engage globally with both digital and in-person events.
Data Center Frontier: What are the top challenges in securing data center environments, and how do we address them in edge computing scenarios?
Amber Caramella: Data centers must deploy robust infrastructure designed to safeguard connectivity, carrier POE’s, power and cooling infrastructure, with multiple levels of secure systems. In choosing a data center operator, clients should consider security as an all-inclusive endeavor, with all aspects of facility infrastructure but also operations taken into consideration including standards for security and disaster recovery, facilitating compliance with HIPAA, HITECH, and other regulations.
In unmanned edge computing scenarios, there are additional risks to consider due to the devices spread across remote locations and lack of physical monitoring. These locations can be challenging to monitor which can result in increased cyber security concerns. In addition to digital attacks, physical security at the edge is a potential threat as well. Future considerations to address some of these concerns include designing monitoring systems that provide visibility such as cameras and remote management systems.