CAPRE’s Carolinas Data Center Summit Preview: Q&A with Rosenberger’s Ryan Chappell
CHARLOTTE, NC — Ryan Chappell is Business Development Manager for Data Center and Enterprise Solutions at Rosenberger North America. He began his career as an electronic circuit designer in 1993, and entered the optics industry in 1994. Ryan has held various roles with multiple companies in research and development, engineering, marketing, and sales of optical cable, optical fiber, structured cabling, and network powering systems. Chappell will be a featured speaker at CAPRE’s upcoming Carolinas Data Center Summit, so we connected with him for a Q&A about the latest at Rosenberg as well as in the Carolinas.
Chappell: For us at Rosenberger, we’re in many different markets. But my focus is on data centers and enterprise deployments in North America. So I’m focused on everything from small privately owned data centers, medium sized enterprise customers in industrial, commercial, financial, education, etc. markets, all the way up to colocation and hyperscale data centers.
CAPRE: And where does your focus lie?
Chappell: In particular we manufacture optical and copper structured cabling solutions. One interesting thing has been increasing data rates, which dives partly into the topic of how 5G will change data centers. We’ve got customers across the board moving upward in speed across their data centers. I’ve got one privately owned data center customer who currently has a 10 Gb/s backbone and was considering upgrading to 40 Gb/s. This year they realized that’s not going to be fast enough so before the project has started they have already changed to get to 100 Gb/s. And that’s pretty common recently.
So we’ve engineered our solutions around the idea of higher speeds – 400 Gb/s and even 600 Gb/s data centers. We recently completed a 400 gig trial with Tencent, one of the largest hyperscale customers in the world (largest in China)who have many data centers in the US. That’s the kind of thing we’ve been focused on for 2019.
CAPRE: What trends are the most powerful as we head further into 2019?
Chappell: One of the biggest impacts on the data center market will be from higher and higher end-user data rates. The data centers will have to move faster, because of 5G. So people are prepping for it and many need these speeds already.
CAPRE: And where does Rosenberger’s value proposition lie?
Chappell: As networks go up and up in speed, they increase in complexity, because a lot of these links where you might have only had two fibers, now – to go up to higher speeds – have gone to multi-fiber arrangements, where you might have 8, 12, or even more fibers connecting a link between two transceivers. So the complexity increases as there are various ways to accomplish this.
That’s where we come into play – helping customers with the optimal cabling solutions. Rosenberger, being a privately owned German company, generally focuses very hard on manufacturing extremely high quality connectorization solutions across all markets whether it is a 5G antenna on a tower, a new electric motorcycle, a sophisticated piece of industrial equipment, a military satellite, or a data center inter-connection. .
CAPRE: How would you characterize the Carolinas data center arena?
Chappell: The notion that this region, especially North Carolina, seems to be growing in data centers, makes sense. It’s halfway between Ashburn and Atlanta, two of the major hubs for data centers. The Carolinas are struck right in the middle. There’s some logic for why data centers are growing in the Carolinas. I was actually just at the CAPRE Northern Virginia Data Center Summit back in January and a lot of the things you can say about that region are true here – there’s relatively cheap energy, a highly technical workforce, and people want to live here. When you’re looking for IT staff, that matters.
Also, there are demographic factors. Look at Raleigh, and don’t forget the Myrtle Beach area – it’s a small area, but it’s the fastest-growing metro in the USA. Along with that comes the need for data centers – not just the hyperscalers, but also the small to medium enterprises. Education is big in this region and the financial sector in Charlotte is a big driver as well.
CAPRE: What could the Carolinas do better to attract or support data centers?
Chappell: The data center operators would probably say the access to and cost of power. From my perspective though, I deal with the communications space. Communications cabling is often an afterthought – it’s what people think about last, and it’s one of the things that can kill the data center first. The simple, practical, hands-on cabling issues can often put you down. So one thing we could do is to not neglect our optical fiber infrastructure in the Carolinas.
CAPRE: Let’s talk about the flip-side. What are the strengths of the Carolinas?
Chappell: One of our strengths is that, although it’s a fairly rural area, the fiber network deployments are pretty good and access to energy is good. If you’re an economic development specialist, you’re going to hop on those strengths. There’s access to strong fiber networks in addition to the geographic proximity to other markets and cheap power. That’s all crucial for data centers.
CAPRE: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen happen in the last year?
Chappell: For our customers in this region, we’ve started to see more of a shift from multi-mode fiber use to singlemode fiber in the data centers, even by private enterprise customers. That’s surprising. You’re not surprised by that in the hyperscale data centers. They have the financial resources, but the smaller customers – the same one that I mentioned before, some are eliminating multi-mode from their backbone upgrades for the first time. We’ve been predicting this for 20+ years. Multi-mode will still get deployed a lot in data centers but there have been some clear decisions by IT staff to move to SMF, perhaps in anticipation for even higher speeds in the future.
CAPRE: Got it, thanks for your time Ryan. We’ll see you in Charlotte.