Driving the Future of Data Centers

By Annemarie van Zadelhoff · 1/23/2024
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An Interview with Oliver Menzel, CEO of maincubes on Expansion, Strategy, and the Impact of AI on Data Centers

Short Introduction of Annemarie and Oliver

Annemarie is an Entrepreneurial Director with 23 years of experience enhancing operations, elevating customer experiences, and driving profits in diverse international roles. With a deep understanding of the data center industry, she brings valuable insights. Drawing on her extensive background as a Commercial Director and in Business Development, Annemarie is currently the Regional Director – EMEA at datacenterHawk. In her current role, she helps people and organizations make savvy decisions about data center real estate.

Oliver Menzel, is CEO and creative head of maincubes, a European data center operator providing colocation solutions for public entities, global enterprises, and service providers. After studying mechanical engineering at the Technical University Braunschweig, he was the technical director of an internet service provider. Starting as a consultant in 1999, he took over an IT service provider in Frankfurt in 2001 and grew the company with well-known customers transforming it into a full-service provider for complex outsourcing and IT projects. These activities finally led to the spinoff of maincubes in 2012, which Oliver Menzel developed into a European data center owner and operator and resides as CEO and co-founder.

Q: Can you give us a brief history of maincubes?

A: The company was founded in 2012 by Oliver Menzel who is one of the two co-founders along with the initial investor (Art-Invest Real Estate, a leading German commercial real estate developer). Oliver took maincubes from a startup into what it is today - a growing European data center owner and operator that works with global customers as well as customers from the public and private sectors. maincubes currently has two data centers under construction FRA02 and BER01. FRA03 is expected to break ground very soon. With the announcement of FRA04, maincubes enters a new phase of its builds to cater to the needs of HPC and AI for hyperscaler users. Additionally, maincubes has two data centers currently in operation: FRA01 in Frankfurt Germany, and AMS01 in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. maincubes is supported by its two investors DTCP and Art-Invest. The company is now gearing up for its next round of growth. Last year, it secured funding for >€1Bn to further support its expansion plans. In terms of staffing, the company has more than doubled the number of employees in the past two years. We expect to see this growth continuing.

Q: What do you foresee in the coming 3-5 years (strategy, goals)?

A: Given the increasing digitization of business globally in both the public and private sectors, along with the enormous boom in AI, we foresee continued growth in the European data center industry. Despite the challenges (e.g. economy, supply chain, availability of land and power, local regulations), growth is not slowing down - at all. The substantial demand for data centers to support the rapid rise of AI is enabling innovation to overcome these challenges. maincubes, with the number of data centers under construction and in planning, demonstrates that it is keeping up to address the changes and increasing number of requirements from the market. We are fully committed, with the support of our shareholders, to significantly expand our footprint throughout Europe in the coming years.

Q: maincubes is very present in Frankfurt, what are your plans in this region?

A: The construction of FRA03 will start this quarter and the data center will be ready for service by October 2025. This 16MW colocation facility (with six different data center suites) with approximately 81,000 square feet/7,500 square meters of whitespace has been designed for AI and HPC workloads. Capacity packages are available upon request. With the latest announcement of FRA04, we will soon have four data centers in Frankfurt. We believe that in the light of market developments, we will add more facilities to this region. Frankfurt is at the epicenter of data centers in Europe's largest economy and in our opinion will continue to grow! Located in Dietzenbach in the Frankfurt Metropolitan area, FRA04 will provide approximately 135,000 square feet/12,500 square meters of whitespace with up to 40 MW of IT capacity. maincubes has acquired the land and has received the power commitment from the local grid provider. FRA04 is expected to be ready for service by early 2027. This new facility with a hyperscale design will have 40 MW of available IT capacity.

Tell us more about your target customers… Hyperscalers are now included, is this a change of strategy? maincubes is focusing on 4 types of customers: 1. Cloud Service Providers 2. Public Sector 3. System Integrators and Global Enterprises 4. Hyperscalers Until recently, our focus was on the Public Sector, international cloud and service providers, and enterprises. With the new FR04 datacenter development, which is a hyperscale design, we have added the hyperscaler segment. In general, the company is open to all types of customers that need data centers. Our design is flexible and we can adapt to various requirements from various market segments at any time.

Q: Let’s talk about Berlin, the 2nd important market in Germany. You are currently building BER01 – any more projects in the capital upcoming?

A: Berlin is Germany's second-largest market for data centers. Our progress in the region is as follows: BER01 is under construction and fully leased. Additionally, we see future significant demand and expansion in Berlin, and maincubes is positioned to answer that demand by adding new data centers to Berlin in the future. I hope to announce BER02 to you next time we meet.

Q: What are the benefits of being in Germany?

A: Germany, the leading economy in Europe, is seeing a spike in AI data center demand because it provides customers with rigorous and necessary regulatory compliance. Europe as a whole, provides stringent data protection regulations like GDPR, which requires data to be stored and processed locally. Data centers within the region need to meet strict compliance requirements because it also provides data sovereignty enabling organizations to keep their sensitive data within the region’s borders enabling organizations to avoid potential legal and security issues. In terms of energy efficiency, Europe has a strong emphasis on sustainability, and its modern data centers are energy-efficient infrastructure and provide renewable energy sources, which are attractive for customers seeking AI data centers. Lastly, we are also seeing cloud service providers expanding their presence in Europe to cater to - again - the growing demand for AI. These providers require substantial power, cooling and data center infrastructure to deliver AI capabilities to their customers.

Q: And how about your growth path in Amsterdam or any other international markets?

A: Regarding Amsterdam it’s clear that we have the ambition to expand our footprint. Various reasons make this a challenge at the moment but we are exploring all possible options. Overall, maincubes is focused on its long-term growth strategy in Central and Western Europe. To reiterate, we always have our customers’ needs in mind and hence are open to opportunities in other European markets as well.

Q: Overall, what is your prediction on AI on the growth of data centers?

A: The rise of AI will have and has already made a huge impact on the whole data center industry presenting a significant challenge, particularly in terms of energy consumption (and electric grids everywhere are struggling to cope with the demand of electric vehicles and data centers already). Now is the time for data center operators, infrastructure experts and policymakers at the community, national, and international levels to collaborate on sustainable energy solutions. And this is already happening. Apart from the energy and sustainability concerns, AI will drive the need for high-performance computing and specialized data center infrastructure. As a data center operator and owner, we must proactively prepare for this shift. However, AI also holds promise in optimizing overall data center operations, enhancing energy efficiency, and strengthening data security through innovative tools and applications. For instance, AI could aid in predicting workload demands and automating the distribution of physical and virtual resources.

Q: Any predictions on which markets are interesting to watch in the next 3 years?

A: I believe it’s fair to say that significant growth is expected in the coming years, especially with AI and the next generation of data centers. Growth on the global, national and regional levels. Currently, we are in a booming and very promising market!

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