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Chatting with George Rockett of Data Center Dynamics
Transitioning to a digital space on short notice is never easy. But it’s a unique challenge when you’re the world’s largest organizer of data center industry events.

By Rhett Gill · 8/26/2021

We were lucky enough to spend some time with George Rockett of Data Center Dynamics as he prepared to relaunch the company’s live event calendar in 4Q of 2021. We asked him about the early days of his industry experience, and how he got into the market.

Data Center Services in the Early Days

George got into the market when the space was relatively new. Back in 1997, he was working in marketing. He and his DCD co-founder Dan Scarbrough had the opportunity to sell data center space. At first they were treating it like ad space, but that didn't quite work.

So they did their research and eventually became experts on the subject. Not wanting that knowledge to go to waste, they set up a magazine called CoLo Network Europe in an effort to educate the public about the emerging colocation market. In the process, they helped create the vocabulary to describe what was going on in the industry.

By 2002 the two of them started to put on their own events, which was a massive catalyst to their overall success. DCD became synonymous with data center services conventions, and the rest was history.

The Impact of Covid on Data Center Events

Noting the 50+ DCD conventions and gatherings that had been held all over the world, we asked about the impact of the global pandemic on his business, and on data center oriented events.

On the business side, George said they were about to move to a new office after having been in their old building for about six years. They accumulated a ton of hardware, much of which they weren't really using. They made the decision to move to a purely digital services model early in 2020. So they were already somewhat prepared for the radical changes that took place when the pandemic struck.

On the events side, they had to quickly make a decision about their big 2k-3k person event in New York on March 30th of 2020. Two weeks out, they made the announcement and pivoted to digital. They felt that it would work, because that's already how the world engaged with content, by and large. Getting a chunk of information once a year at a live event was something that people were questioning. Having regular, ongoing contact with the market is far superior.

Data Center Dynamics is looking forward to delivering more bite-sized events online, within popular industry specialties. DCD Critical Power is just about power, for example. And experts are more readily available when they don't need to travel for several days.

Digital-only venues allow for the faster adoption of ideas. But George admits to being excited about launching a new format for their live events as well, starting in Lonon this October. Live conferences will continue to be about networking, about meeting one another. With the sector blowing up the way it is, 2021 seems to be the perfect time to expand and reach out.

Specialization in Data Center Services

We asked about the most popular topics that people have been asking about in 2021.

George said that the industry can be quite specialized, so the requests that they hear can be diverse. But in general, people want to talk about future trends.

2030 is a key year for many countries and organizations: Carbon neutral trends and other power usage concerns are forcing big changes in the workplace. But some of the technologies that will be required to achieve those goals aren't quite ready for implementation yet.

Another popular topic is density, which so often is connected to rack space and cooling capacity. But the boundaries on capacity are constantly being pushed. Which leads to the discussion of risk aversion within the industry, and the willingness to adopt some of these new technologies and techniques.

We asked how the vendor community has been adjusting. George didn’t have hard statistics, but gave a gut feeling on that subject. Massive vendors who spend hundreds of millions on R&D are adjusting just fine. But there are a huge slew of specialist companies, smaller and more focused. These dedicated suppliers grow as the industry grows, and they need to contend with the risk aversion endemic to data center services.

Colocation is spreading around the world, and regional tech variance is lessening. The solutions chosen need to scale very quickly. The complete industrialization of the data center is a threat to the small actors. If they go away then less independent, less innovative thought might be the result. The industry needs to focus on helping the best smaller companies to scale, in order to keep innovation and quality levels high.

Future Trends in Data Centers

We asked about DCD’s observations; particularly where they're seeing a surprising amount of activity.

George mentioned that there are usually specialist and generalist markets. In the past, there would be spurts of growth from specific sectors which slowly grew the general industry. But more recently, the wave of IT transformation has seen an explosion across all sectors, all around the world. Some key points:

  • China’s build-out levels are equal to or greater than efforts in the U.S.
  • Crypto has reportedly accounted for a quarter of data center power consumption throughout the world. But it's almost invisible until there's an announcement that a crypto operation needs an entire power plant to continue growth.
  • Latin America and Brazil are seeing edge networking challenges and growth.
  • Singapore's moratorium on building has had a huge regional impact, which is forcing growth all around the area. Nations like Malaysia and Indonesia with 280 million people are going to have unique needs and challenges for their network boom, since they're spread across 14,000 islands.
  • Eastern Europe is seeing a huge buildup in Poland, which was unforeseen. In fact, all the ‘gaps’ are being filled all around Europe.
  • There's a run on cable landing sites in the eastern U.S. and western E.U. in order to increase speed and efficiency.

Finally, we asked George what gets him excited about the future.

As microchip advancement reaches the edge of what the expectations of Moore's Law can achieve, a lot is going to change. Edge networking might become more pervasive in order to harness every little speed advantage.

But what interests him the most is how the data center services industry could become a major participant in the energy grid of the future. Recently, there's been a lot of discussion between those two worlds. Whole mindsets are going to be challenged.

Eventually, this will lead to the next dimension: Breaking the Z-axis with LEO satellite networking. Those are the main things that excite him about the future.

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