NY Data Center Summit Preview with Phillip Koblence: “The Name of the Game is Balance”
by Josh Anderson
NEW YORK, NY — Phillip Koblence is the Chief Operating Officer of New York Internet (NYI). Phillip co-founded NYI in 1996. Since then, he has successfully navigated through an ever-shifting infrastructure landscape and grown the company from a single data center in Lower Manhattan to a robust network with executional capabilities in key national and international markets. His leadership over a span of more than twenty years has positioned NYI as a leader in hybrid infrastructure solutions. Part of NYI’s success is due to the strong emphasis placed on building lasting relationships with clients. Through this focus on customer experience, and an ability to cut through complexity and hype, NYI has set the bar in the industry for high-touch infrastructure solutions. In anticipation of our New York Data Center Summit tomorrow, where Phillip will speak on a panel titled “Life on The Edge: The Advent of 5G, Micro Data Centers & Evolution of the Next Generation” we spoke with him about that very topic, which he has been familiar with for over twenty years.
CapRE: Thanks for chatting with us today. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the emerging technologies that are impacting the data center arena.
Koblence: It’s an interesting time to be a data center player in a major market. One of the big touch points of CAPRE events in the last year or so has been the rise of the Edge being driven by 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), etc. For me, that’s the pendulum swinging back toward mission critical infrastructure in major population areas. In recent years, there was a shift away from large scale data center deployments in major metro areas, as growth tended to gravitate toward markets with cheaper power and real estate costs.
So, the shift back towards critical infrastructure requirements in a major metro area like New York City is less a major change in how infrastructure is being deployed like, for example, the rise of the Public Cloud has been, and more the evolution of what types of services are relevant to data center environments at the Edge.
CapRE: Interesting. And how has your recent activity reflected that?
Koblence: Over the course of the last several years, we’ve seen a noticeable shift in the footprint and requirements for customers in the NY Metro Area specifically, and major metropolitan areas more broadly. Customers are looking for smaller footprints with dense connectivity capabilities that target the specific traffic of the end users within the target region. We’ve been keeping pace by continuing to grow our network capacity in our NY Metro Area facilities to allow our clients to achieve seamless and reliable connectivity to all cloud providers, content providers and carriers.
CapRE: Tell us more about where you think the Edge is going or how it’s evolving.
Koblence: My thoughts on the Edge aren’t necessarily contrarian, but as a player in New York City since 1996, we were at the Edge before the Edge was a buzzword. It’s not exactly an earth-shattering idea to put critical infrastructure closer to end users. That being said, the last few years have seen much of the conversation focused on de-centralizing of infrastructure from facility-based data centers to distributed public cloud infrastructures that are spread out around the world. I certainly appreciate the fact that the conversation has shifted to discussing relevant infrastructure at the Edge as the next evolutionary phase in the development of hybrid architecture that effectively utilizes all of the areas of computing to their utmost benefit.
CapRE: How about the technology side of Edge computing? What’s the story there?
Koblence: What I think, is that the most exciting technology — and a couple of members on my panel will address this — has to do with orchestration and automation, both with respect to hardware deployment and network deployment. If you’re going to maintain multiple data centers, and not centralize data in one or two data centers but actually put equipment in 15, 20, or 25 data centers, wherever your users go is essentially where you’re going to deploy. So you need an effective way to manage that and a way to efficiently deploy and manage those facilities and how they’re connected to each other and to the outside world.
CapRE: And what use cases have you been intrigued by?
Koblence: On the orchestration side, what Packet is doing, as an example, is pretty nice. On the network side, what guys like Megaport are doing in terms of Software Defined Network (SDN) automation of network connectivity is exciting. From our standpoint, where we sit in that stack is the high-touch data center in the major market that can provide the eyes and ears and allow companies to scale and deploy efficiently without having to focus on the logistical complexities that are traditionally associated with operating infrastructure.
The other day I had a conversation about this. Look at all the self-driving cars that have been in the news lately. Between Uber and Google, it is clear that there is a lot to think about in terms of self-driving cars, a lot to consider. You still need someone to put their hands on the wheel. That’s where we fit in the stack — we’re the hands on the wheel. We make sure that we can keep an eye on the infrastructure that’s deployed at the Edge.
CapRE: So what are you looking forward to about our New York Data Center Summit?
Koblence: The reason I like events like this, as a data center guy in the New York region for as long as there’s been a data center industry in the New York region, is that it’s a very relevant event to see what everyone is up to. To get people’s read on the market as a whole is always helpful and get out of the bubble of your specific environment. And to understand what technologies are defining some of the orchestration mechanisms on the one hand, and the technology on display for automating elements of data center management for critical infrastructure on the other hand.
CapRE: So what’s the most important element of the data center game?
Koblence: In the retail data center world, which is the world we exist in, it’s about offering solutions that are relevant to customer need. Our focus for the last twenty years has been entirely on elevating the customer experience. How do we allow them to focus on their core competency? What problems are customers trying to solve that we can help them with? Trying to institutionalize the answers to those questions without overextending yourself is the most important element of creating a value prop as a data center provider.
The other thing is to not get too caught up in buzzwords and market fads. Our industry tends to lurch from one overused buzzword to another. At first it was all about hardware and how to make software run most efficiently. Then that hardware had to move to the data center because it was no longer practical to host it locally. Then, the hardware outpaced the software and to effectively utilize hardware more efficiently you needed more sophisticated software, which is where virtualization and the cloud were born. Then everyone wanted to move everything to the cloud — you didn’t even need your own hardware anymore. And here we are, talking about deploying hardware on the Edge.
CapRE: How does this play out then?
Koblence: The name of the game is balance, and I think Hybrid Infrastructure allows the benefits of all worlds. In most environments, there are elements of infrastructure that lend themselves to the flexibility of the public cloud or private cloud for seamless scale while there are other areas that benefit from the security and predictability associated with dedicated hardware, particularly when resource utilization is above a certain threshold. The comparison that I typically give, is buying a car vs. leasing a car vs. renting a car. If you’re driving 50,000 miles a year, you should buy a car, if you’re driving 10,000 miles a year, you should probably lease a car, and if you’re on vacation, rent a car. If you drove every day and rented the cheapest car you could get your hands on, you’d be paying thousands of dollars a month for a Ford Focus.
On the data center side, it’s our job to help customers to effectively and seamlessly create a hybrid infrastructure of a multi-cloud and physical environment through managed services and connectivity options that suit their specific needs. We’ve gone far beyond just the cooling and power, that’s for sure!
CAPRE: And what’s the final word for anyone reading this, for getting ahead in the data center game?
Koblence: Think outside the box and get to know your customers and the issues they’re facing and find solutions for those issues.