Expect Convergence Across New Frontiers: American Tower’s John Ghirardelli Shares Lessons Learned as New Entrant to Industry

ATLANTA, GA – CAPRE’s Fourth Annual Greater Atlanta Data Center Summit cast a wide net to cover all of the latest deals and development in the Peach State, and one of the most highly anticipated panels of the day dove deep into one such transaction. “Greater Atlanta Acquisition of the Year: A Fireside Chat with American Tower and Colo Atl” featured John Ghirardelli, Director for U.S. Innovation at American Tower and Timothy Kiser, current Owner of Kiser Consulting and former owner of Colo Atl, which he sold to American Tower earlier this year.

Early in the discussion, after some back-and-forth with Kiser, moderator Brian Klebash, CAPRE’s Founder & CEO, asked Ghirardelli to reflect on the lessons he has learned since entering the data center industry relatively recently. “John, from American’s Tower perspective, what have you learned?” asked Klebash. “What would you say is the sea change happening in the industry?”

“This is a new industry for us. We’re newbies. We’re trying to be humble and understand the eco-systems and the players, and how to do business in this type of world,” replied Ghirardelli. “As I mentioned before, there are a lot of similarities, but there are differences. We come from an environment where, on a traditional tower, we have maybe three, four or five customers or tenants. In Tim [Kiser]’s world, we have a little over 105 or 110 customers in there.”

Furthermore, Ghirardelli shared, the interaction that his firm has with those customers, those relationships, the need for speed in terms of making decisions and helping them out, is rapidly changing. “So we’re learning from that business, and we’re also trying to take some of the things that we’ve learned in our core business and apply it to Colo ATL,” he explained.

John Ghirardelli, Director – U.S. Innovation, American Tower

“On a macro-level, I think that the continuation of data is unbelievable. It is continuing to be generated, computed, stored, transported, downloaded, etc. etc., whatever adjective or verb you want to use to describe it, Ghirardelli continued. “That has definitely benefited the macro-tower landscape and it has definitely benefited the fiber providers, and it has definitely benefited data centers. I think that we are seeing a world in which we could potentially see some convergence across those different eco-systems and value chains.”

Furthermore, Ghirardelli asserted, as technology continues to move in, he’s seeing some of the incumbents who traditionally operated from different sectors move into these different, non-traditional worlds. “You’ve got the hyperscale firms, the traditional M&Os, etc kind of begin to expand their reach and touch different asset classes and verticals,” he explained.

In other words, the industry is undergoing as a very transformational period, and for American Tower, it’s a great opportunity to learn. “I think it’s very exciting what the next 5-10 years is going to bring from an industry perspective. I think that data is going to continue to drive it, and it should benefit everybody tremendously,” he predicted. “As long as we kind of pay attention, and like Tim Kiser said, treat our customers well, listen to their needs, and help them be successful, we’ll all be successful as well.”

Klebash then asked a follow-up question. “How do you see the roles of hyperscale, traditional tenants, enterprise, and the growth of the Edge?” he posed. “Those four types of main players. How do you see them playing off each other as this change in the industry plays out?

“I think that what we’re basically trying to understand is what’s happening. There’s a great shift happening from on-prem to off-prem. You’re seeing a lot of enterprises migrate to the Cloud. So from our perspective, where we sit, a lot of that data and that traffic is moving to the mobile networks and the wireless networks,” Ghirardelli replied. “And it’s going through our towers, through the fiber and the carrier hotels and the data centers, and going back and forth.”

“I’m not an expert, I can’t tell you which is better than the other – they’re all valuable players in the industry and they all have their strengths and weaknesses and value,” concluded Ghirardelli. “We’re just thrilled and honored to use this as a sandbox to learn, to try to understand what the future may bring.”

For more coverage of this panel, check out previous CapRE Insider Reports:

  • E-mail me your stories,  industry news tips, and press releases.