New England Data Center Summit Preview: Gabe Cole Sees Angst in Region, but Smaller and Regional Providers Showing Interest
by Josh Anderson
CAMBRIDGE, MA — Gabe Cole is a managing director in JLL’s New England region, based in Boston. Gabe is an accomplished technology executive with over 20 years’ experience across data center, colocation, cloud, and network. He is an expert at balancing reliability and performance requirements against technology and business limitations to consistently increase performance at progressively lower price points. Gabe founded and/or participated in a number of venture-backed emergent technology companies including RTE Group, Telwares, Virtustream, Verne Global, Enclave Properties, Ixpanse, and CO Space. We caught up with Gabe for a sneak peak Q&A about what he is looking forward to about CapRE’s upcoming New England Data Center Summit December 12 as well as a look into his recent activity.
CapRE: Thanks for chatting with us today. What are you seeing out there on the ground in New England and nationally?
Cole: You know, the industry has shifted a lot. And people having moved to the cloud has changed quite a few things. Very few corporate clients are building their own data centers anymore. They’re either using colocation or fully going into the cloud, more likely a combination of the two. From the perspective of the data center companies, the mix has changed a lot. They’ve got markets that are very, very hot, where a lot of the central cloud resources are being placed, like Northern Virginia, Dallas, Chicago, Santa Clara. But other markets that are significant data center markets, such as Austin, New York City, and New Jersey, have been much slower as more workloads have shifted to the cloud.
Our hope is – and we some indicators that say this will happen – is that that will start to shift back and it’ll be a different requirement. There will be more required in the edge market to support the remote cloud delivery and facilities. That’s what I spend my time doing – getting a handle on exactly what the requirement is, when it’s coming, and how to get my clients in those second- and third-tier markets, positioned for the next requirements that they will see.
CapRE: What, in your opinion, is the most exciting happening in New England’s data center space right now?
Cole: I work with a lot of clients on software defined networks — and in particular software defined WAN networks. That’s been pretty exciting. It interesting technology. Its dealing with different providers around the world, and its dramatically reducing costs while generally increasing capacity and reliability. That’s definitely an area that I see shaping a lot of things that are going to happen in the future.
CapRE: And what challenges do you see people encountering out there at the moment?
Cole: Most obstacles we run into today tend to be focused on electricity and power. It’s either the cost of the power or the availability of the power. And the subset there is the timing of that availability. It’s getting harder and harder to build data centers anywhere. High power costs in some markets, like new England, make it even more difficult. That’s definitely the challenging part. And a lot of what we look at – along with how the data center market is changing – is how to get cheaper energy and what our long term strategy is there in many of these markets.
One of the nicknames Boston has from long ago is the hub of the universe. That really comes from education and everything that is here. But when you take a step back and look at it from a data center and delivery perspective new England is a sizeable market in and of itself — 14 million people. We also have a cable landing station in Lynn that connects to Eastern Canada and to Western Europe. Eastern Canada is another 15 million and Western Europe is 200 million. Boston is well located from a network perspective to deliver services to a pretty broad group of people. Rather than having all of those populations back hauled to Northern Virginia, which happens in many services today, our hope is that with the growth of interchanges and new connections and facilities, much of that traffic can be maintained locally. That should drastically improve performance and allow for more growth of internet based services.
CapRE: So let’s talk about CapRE’s upcoming New England Data Center Summit. What will you be talking about that day?
Cole: Well first I’m on a panel that is about the condition of the Northeast market and where it’s going, and then I’m moderating a panel looking at network and network technology – how it’s shifting and the importance of that to data centers.
CapRE: And what topics do you anticipate will be central to those conversations?
Cole: On the market side, there is a lot of angst right now. A number of companies have moved out of the market. But we’re starting to see some interest from smaller cloud providers, regional providers. In terms of the market, the focus will really be, Do we have a sustainable market? And if not, how do we get it to come back?
A big part of that is internet connectivity. Getting it with a level of a London internet exchange or Amsterdam internet exchange or what we have in Northern Virginia. I think that the things I’m talking about go hand in hand with what we need to do to position New England for growth over the next 5 years.
CapRE: Interesting. And what are you most looking forward to about our New England Data Center Summit?
Cole: We’ve struggled with a number of different ways to get the Northeast community together. We haven’t had a lot of continuity over time. Someone may do an event and the next year someone else will. I’m hoping that event will establish itself as a national conference that we can get people together at. It’s just not the same when you go to New York and you talk a little bit about Boston. IT’s nice to have a Northeast group very focused on what we are doing here and what we need to do. My hope is that will lead to more interaction and more collaboration amongst firms to address some of these issues we’ve talked about today – networking, power costs, etc.