Investment in PNW Proves its a True Hybrid Market | Opus Interactive’s Shannon Hulbert Previews CAPRE’s Great Northwest Cloud Summit
LEESBURG, VA — Shannon Hulbert is CEO of Opus Interactive, where she has has spent the past 8 years providing strategy and vision for the company. Prior to Opus Interactive, the NCAIED 40 Under 40 Award recipient was in the energy-efficiency industry for 8 years and worked on numerous utility energy-efficiency programs across the nation, including 6 ENERGY STAR award winning programs. Hulbert has also been named to Mirror Review’s Top 10 Most Prominent Leaders in Cloud Computing. Hulbert will be a featured speaker at CAPRE’s Great Northwest Cloud Summit on November 20 in Seattle. In this Q&A, we caught up with Hulbert to discuss Opus Interactive’s take on the Pacific-Northwest data center arena.
Hulbert: We’re a Cloud and colocation provider that’s been around since 1996. We have footprints inside of world class facilities located in top markets: Tata in downtown Portland, STACK Infrastructure in Hillsboro, Databank in Dallas, and Iron Mountain in Northern Virginia. We differentiate ourselves from other cloud providers and hyperscalers by focusing on what we do best – complex hybrid cloud solutions for high compliance and high security workloads. Our value prop is an experienced team and tenured Cloud offering, amazing facilities and partnerships, and certifications. We deliver right sized solutions that meet the performance, security, scale, and price needs for our customers.
CAPRE: And what about your Private Cloud product?
Hulbert: Our Private Cloud is an HPE and VMware-based platform that we launched in 2005. We commission a third-party every year to measure how it performs against azure and AWS, and apples to apples it outperforms in every category. IaaS is our main product but in the past two years it’s migrated from a sole solution to a component of a hybrid solution. It’s not all-in colo, Cloud or hyperscale – hybrid is the new primary. The “right” mix utilizes on-prem, colocation, and multi-cloud solutions to deliver workloads where they make the most sense.
CAPRE: Where is your strategy focused now?
Hulbert: We’ve secured placement in top markets with great partners and grid redundancy. We’re now focused on high performance, high security and high compliance. We’re HIPAA, and PCI-DSS certified operating out of FISMA High rated facilities. We’ve been working since January to get our IaaS/PaaS offering FedRAMP moderate certified. We’re anticipating being listed in the marketplace in the coming weeks.
CAPRE: Why is FedRAMP so important?
Hulbert: FedRAMP is a government compliance rating, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to Enterprise as well. Security matters. And, when it comes to locking down your mission critical workloads, the certification verifies that Opus’ cloud offering includes not just PCI-DSS and HIPAA, but 316 additional security controls to ensure performance and security. We want our customers to rest assured knowing where and how their workloads reside – connected and secure.
CAPRE: In what other ways does Opus Interactive stand out?
Hulbert: Another strategy that differentiates us, which I haven’t really seen a lot of providers adopt yet, is wholistic efficiency. It’s where my background in energy plays out – save energy, save cost, and preserve resources. For us, it begins by working with customers from the start to understand their goals and build right-sized solutions. Those optimized solutions are delivered on EnergyStar certified equipment from inside of facilities that are LEED-Certified Silver at a minimum, with low PUE and renewables. The more that you save on facilities and energy, the more savings you can pass onto your customers.
CAPRE: What are you looking forward to about CAPRE’s Great Northwest Cloud Summit?
Hulbert: I’m always excited to hear perspectives on the market. I know what we’re seeing as an organization here in the Pacific-Northwest, but it’s so great to learn what others are focused on this year and where they’re seeing growth. By the time this discussion posts, we’ll be at 39% growth for the year. It’s our largest growth year in the history of the company. So I’m excited to hear what’s happening with other providers in the Pacific-Northwest. There’s been significant infrastructure expansion in our region for the past few years and I think we’re positioned to see some great things come from that.
I’m also highly anticipating the 1:15 pm – 2:00 pm panel “Going Green: How the Data Center Industry Can Lead the Way in Driving Development and Investment in Renewable Energy Projects to Help Dramatically Reverse Climate Change” There’s a lot of discussion about 5G and IoT, and that’s great, but what I’m seeing more and more is a focus on energy collectively. So I’m excited to hear about what organizations, including both data center and Cloud providers, are looking at for supplying reliable, low-cost energy in the long-term. Iron Mountain for example has really been very forward-thinking with their Green Power Plan – that’s one of the reasons that we’ve partnered with them.
CAPRE: Tell us about why that’s so critical at this moment.
Hulbert: Well, look at recent events. PG&E for example, recently shut off power to avoid wildfires, which affected many counties and 800,000 people. In Texas, their hottest week ever resulted in energy costs 4x their usual rate.
We’re starting to see changing weather patterns impacting energy availability and cost. Our industry is projected to grow from using 3% of the world’s energy to an estimated 20% in the coming years, so Going Green becomes important to ensuring the grid isn’t a single point of failure. For me personally, I’m a renewable energy advocate and I’m excited for our industry to lead the way for sustainable energy – be it renewables, energy storage, battery innovation, whatever. I also want to make sure that my customers are connected and powered when and where they need to be – at a cost they can afford.
CAPRE: How would you characterize the Pacific Northwest data center market?
Hulbert: It’s definitely a hybrid market. There are lot of different areas in the U.S. that are beginning to position themselves to appeal as enterprise OR hyperscale market. But in the Pacific-Northwest, investments in the region support both. We have the low-cost energy, sub-sea cables and carrier connectivity, and tax breaks that appeal to hyperscale, but we’ve also got the workforce, on-ramps, and supply chain to deliver for enterprise.
What I find most interesting is that the market collectively is also migrating toward that model. At HCTS, DH Capital have their annual state of the M&A market, and investment is starting to trend toward hybrid cloud. There’s a reason this is going to be Opus’ biggest year yet – hybrid solutions are driving growth.
CAPRE: What headwinds is the Pacific Northwest facing?
Hulbert: Workforce development. A lot of people are retiring and not as many people are entering our industry. Generating awareness and getting more people interested in entering the industry is key – whether that’s construction, engineering, or implementation. As an organization, we’ve been getting involved in STEM activities to reach young people and students. This year, we’re participating in Data Center Day on October 29 and inviting Middle School Students out to our STACK Infrastructure location in Hillsboro to tour and speak to an engineer from SpaceX to generate awareness for STEM-related careers. We’re building the information superhighway and that’s a pretty cool thing, but right now, not a lot of people know that. In order to secure a workforce for the future, we need to change that. That’s the headwind we’re facing.
CAPRE: Got it. Thanks for your time. We’ll see you in Seattle!
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