Texas Data Center Summit Preview: Compass Datacenters’ Chris Crosby says Future of Connected Technology Poses Serious Risks

Oct 6, 2017
by Josh Anderson

DALLAS, TX — Chris Crosby is a recognized visionary and leader in the datacenter space and has served as founder and CEO of Compass Datacenters since 2011. Chris has over 25 years of technology experience and over 15 years of real estate and investment experience. Previously, Chris served as a senior executive and founding member of Digital Realty Trust. Chris was Senior Vice President at Digital Realty Trust, responsible for roles included global responsibility for corporate development, sales, marketing, design, construction, technical operations and customer service. Prior to the initial public offering of Digital Realty, Chris was founder and managing director of Proferian, which served as an operating platform for the private equity fund, GI Partners, and was rolled into the IPO for Digital Realty Trust. Prior to Proferian, Chris served as a consultant for CRG West, now Coresite. In advance of our Texas Data Center Summit this month, we spoke with Crosby, a featured presenter, for a sneak preview.

Chris Crosby, Founder & CEO, Compass Data Centers

CapRE: Thanks for chatting with us today. Please share with us some of your recent activity.

Crosby: Well we’re on-boarding several new executives at Compass. We’re juggling the delivery of a bunch of projects. And we’re really excited about some of the new projects that we plan to start up in the not-too-distant future. There’s a lot going on. We recapitalized our business at the end of last year and are really coming into our own stride with institutional backing ten months later.

CapRE: And what have you been keeping your eyes and ears on lately in the industry?

Crosby: Well it was great to see Switch have a successful IPO. There’s nothing like watching an entrepreneur succeed. There’s a pretty big dichotomy in the industry right now too. There’s the “build it big strategy” and then there’s the strategy of building more in increments. At Compass, we feel pretty strongly that you should build to what you need. So that’s an incremental type of approach. But there’s a viewpoint out there in the industry to go back in time in terms of….you drive out cost through scale. And so there are these gigantic mega hauls.

We feel pretty confident with our strategy and the fundamentals of how it get utilized. But the great thing about the data center space is that it’s a massive market and there are a lot different areas to be played out, in order to meet customer’s needs. I think it’s also rewarding to see the Edge as…the new term du jour, if you will. You could almost have an “Edge drinking game” — every time you hear that word at conference, take a drink. You’d have a lot of drunk attendees.

CapRE: Speaking of conferences, what are you most looking forward to about CapRE’s upcoming Texas Data Center Summit in Dallas?

Crosby: Well, not traveling. Just kidding. It’ll be great to see some folks. I always use these conferences to see folks I don’t typically get to see, like Senior Executives, my peers. It’s always great to see them out there.

CapRE: And can you give us a taste of what you’ll be discussing? It’ll revolved around the future odf IoT, if I recall correctly?

Crosby: Yes. I’m excited to look at thing in a bit of a different lens. The area I focus on will be the not so soft underbelly of what the implications are of these buzzwords – IoT, cybersecurity, what do they really mean? A lot of people talk about the positive impacts of it, but I’ll give the full side of it. The viewpoint that programmers and software people have, which typically are grounded in a good background in security, is that the hardware guys will know this stuff. It will just be taken care of. That is a false assumption set.

We live in a price driven world, which drives out cost. What people expect a lot of these devices to do will be very costly. As I tell my wife, if you don’t think that someone tried to hack into your system and  watching you walk around the house, I think that’s naïve. So these devices have their implications. That’s ok. But there is a false security about what these things do and what people are going to pay for them. And regarding IoT, the cat is out of the bag. There are so many devices out there. How do you work in a world that is so different? You see that with big denial of service attacks and other ways in the news.

CapRE: So what do you think are the biggest challenge and opportunity facing our industry, when it comes to IoT?

Crosby: Well I think it is all opportunity. Even the challenges are opportunities. The big question will come in when you mix the world of AI with the world of IoT. And when computers are the ones making more and more of the decisions, instead of people, the implications will be pretty interesting on a philosophical basis. And all it takes is one bad person to utilize these tools. It’s so much easier for today than it was back then. Can you image in if Stalin had this technology?

The bigger change though, is the fact that the people programming this stuff are not going to be well-versed in philosophy and history. They should be. But I’m pretty sure the latest and greatest Python programmer doesn’t know much about what Descartes had to say.

CapRE: So let’s back up a bit. How do you think all of this relates to the Edge?

Crosby: I think the only way you solve these problems of scale is through compartmentalization. Through distributing concepts through the Edge. I think that there is, from the viewpoint of these centralized intelligence operations, gets harder and harder. Once you’re in, you’re into everything. I think that’s going to lend itself to how security works on a physical basis. I like to say that the way the world is going to work going forward, is, look. If a professional criminal wants to do something, they will do it. So if you put a sign up in your house that prevents the drive by criminal, hopefully you don’t keep all of your goods in your home. So that if a professional criminal comes, they won’t take everything. Hopefully that’s how everything will work – it will lead to more compartmentalization and distribution. That’s the only way to solve the problem. It’ll lead to a lot more Edge computing.

CapRE: Take a drink! Just kidding. Is there anything else that you think people should keep in mind about the future of IoT when they read this Q&A?

Crosby: Just that we are in an age right now where we are making the process of the wheel go from new technology to just a wheel. And that’s really where we are with the age of the internet. It’s just a tool. How we deal with it is an everyday part of our lives. That wheel was a new technology one day too.

CapRE: Very good point. Thanks so much for your time today, and your expertise. We look forward to seeing you in Dallas later this month!

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