5 Questions with Rick Williams, DC BLOX: How Under-Supplied are the Carolinas?
by Josh Anderson
NORTH CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA — Any burgeoning data center market has to have the potential for a highly connected core, and the Carolinas are no different. At CapRE’s 2018 Southeast Data Center Summit Spring Update, we concluded the summit with a panel discussion titled Connectivity Innovations & Edge Data Center Growth in Carolina Markets: Analysis of the Advent of 5G, Dark Fiber Installation and Evolution of the Next Generation, which included a brief Q&A with Rick Williams, the Head of Strategic Business Development for DC BLOX. Below, Founder & CEO of CapRE Brian Klebash asked five questions about his firm’s strategy and the Southeast marketplace.
Klebash: Please tell us about your company’s strategic initiatives as well as your thoughts on this marketplace.
Rick Williams, DC BLOX: Our initiative is very simple. To put data centers throughout the Southeast where there are no data centers. we are taking a more economic development approach to it, getting involved with the local cities, and especially the towns. There are cities that have been left out. Getting involved with the local cities and giving the economic development arm of these cities a transformative pitch to bring us in. And that’s kind of it. We’re putting data centers in – these are interconnected data centers within our own network.
We are standing up a storage product, which we maintain, as the same thing. It’s faster than some of the larger products out there. and it is considerably less expensive, especially with respect to going in and getting your data, which is kind of the ‘gotcha’ with AWS and some of the other ones.
Klebash: How under-supplied is this arena? We’ve talked about the connectivity, but how is supply doing in this market?
Williams: It’s considerably under-supplied. Some of the data center options out there that I’m hearing from carrier customers and content companies, are just not suitable. For an enterprise company, I get it. But for some of the carriers, as they start to consider “core-dumping” where they just take all of their data and dump it, and send it all over to 56 Marietta, a lot of the carriers right now are looking at ways that they can stop doing that, and treating data at the Edge. And they’re having trouble finding suitable data center space throughout the Southeast.
So let’s put it this way. We’re having a very easy time finding target markets, that have just been completely left out. And like I said, there are some very large cities. I don’t mind sharing this, it’s all available on our website — we’re looking at Greenville, South Carolina, that’s in play. And also Savannah.
Klebash: How do the Carolinas compare to Atlanta? What are your thoughts on Atlanta? What does it have on this market?
Williams: The creation of the data center occurred as a result of the telecom companies deploying in the NFL markets. AT&T at the time was where the business was conducted in the company. The atmosphere became hostile back in the 90s and 2000s, so carrier hotels popped up in these markets to facilitate between carriers. And then up comes content providers, and the enterprises took advantage.
And now you’ve got data centers specifically built for enterprise, and the carriers kind of hang off of that. The advantage that a Charleston data center or a Greenville data center has over 56 Marietta is well, first of all 56 Marietta is out of space. they slide somewhere between six and ten cabinets – don’t ask me how I know that – but they’re out of space and they’re not going to sell any more space. So there’s an advantage there.
But more importantly, enterprises sent their business to 56 Marietta because they didn’t have options. No one wants to drive to Atlanta if they don’t have to. The advantage is that if we put a data center in Savannah or if we put a data center in Greenville, the local community gets to put their equipment in that data center. And not have to drive. So the original deployments were done out of necessity, and not out of a desire to be in Atlanta.
Klebash: What is the most challenging aspect of this arena?
Williams: It’s a race. A lot of these markets can only support a single data center, maybe two. And I have to imagine that there are companies out there that have similar targets on their map as we do. And it really is deploying as fast as we can. And in the event which we know is going to arise, that someone beats us to a market, then that market then goes to the bottom of our list. But right now, it’s just a race.
Klebash: Is Atlanta more competitive than Ashburn?
Williams: Again I think that there are different types of data center markets. I laugh very time that I read on the internet about how another company puts another data center in Ashburn. As if there’s not enough. It’s this perpetual thing. Where the data gets sent to these major cities, because that’s where the data centers are. But that’s where the data centers are, so that’s where the data gets sent.
And there’s got to be this disruption in that policy, which says, just send everything to the core. Number one, capacity issues on the long-haul networks are such that at some point – especially when you start doing autonomous cars – you can’t push that data across the network. Latency-sensitive technologies are starting to become more competitive in the marketplace and unless someone has as cure for the speed of light, then that’s a constant. It doesn’t get any faster. The only way to shorten latency at that point is distance. So as these latency-sensitive technologies become more prevalent in the marketplace, we have to establish a presence at the edge. It’s the only way that you can get the compute done in a timely fashion.