Our Industry

International Data Center Day

By Julie Pampuch


For International Data Center Day, we sat down with two of our leading experts in critical facilities design (or engineering) to hear from them about the current state, future trends, and what excites them about being in this market.

WB: Let’s start with a quick warm up – tell us who you are, where you are, and what you do.

JS: I’m Jimmy Sneed, Managing Principal and Managing Director, Critical Facilities, which means I manage WB’s critical facilities practice nationwide. After six years in our East Bay office, I have relocated to our Austin office. After 30 years as an electrical engineer, I still find critical facilities design the most interesting and challenging type of project.

BS: I’m Bart Stewart, Principal, and Managing Director, Washington, DC. Critical facilities design is some of my favorite work. About 40% of the work in the DC area is in the critical facilities market.     

WB: Jimmy, we’ve heard you say that ‘data is the new oil’ (sounds like a very Texas thing to say). What do you mean by that?

JS: 100 years ago we were in the middle of the big oil boom in the US and today we are seeing a very similar boom in data.  By 2030 we are expected to have 25.4 billion smart devices in service.  The projected population for 2030 is 8.5 billion so there will be approximately 3 smart devices for every single person on the planet.  All of these devices will pull their data from a data center.

WB: How many smart devices do you have, Jimmy?

JS: [laughs] I have five.

WB: And you, Bart?

BS: I’m actually not that big on smart devices.  [laughs] I have 4 smart TVs, a small stack of computers and tablets, and a Ring doorbell.

WB: Bart, let’s talk about no one’s favorite subject for a moment, the pandemic. What role did data centers play in the pandemic?

BS: Data centers played a crucial, and perhaps underappreciated, role in how we were able to navigate the pandemic. Neither virtual meetings (requiring dual directional video streaming) nor cloud computing would have been possible without these big windowless buildings surrounded by generators and cooling towers.

WB: Jimmy, what challenges do you see in critical facilities design?

JS: Currently, critical facilities across the globe use approximately 1% of all the power generated. By 2030, this is anticipated to increase to 8%. With the continued push to electrical automobiles and the ongoing demand to reduce fossil fuel use, the stresses on our already aging electrical infrastructure will make this a potential hurdle.

WB: Bart, what is it about critical facilities design that is exciting?

BS: I like data center projects because the infrastructure is the star of the show! For colocation providers, their product is reliable power, cooling, and fiber; our three favorite things. For enterprise users, data center downtime often leads directly to revenue losses and can also have regulatory implications. On top of that, the uptime requirements mean systems need to be fully commissioned and the huge amount of power they use creates great opportunities to save a lot of power.

WB: Jimmy, how are critical facilities addressing sustainability?

JS: I am truly excited for the upcoming challenges to designing critical facilities that will be not only net energy neutral but net positive. This will be crucial as the demands for power increase the potential of critical facilities while we also search for ways to reduce the impact on the environment.  The next 20 years will be very exciting, and I look forward to being part of it.

WB: Thank you, Jimmy and Bart! Is there a traditional way to celebrate International Data Center Day?

JS: [laughs] Not that I know of – use all three of our smart devices at the same time? Or not at all today?