The data centre demand of tomorrow

Bruno Lopez resized.jpg

With its latest hyperscale data centre now LEED Gold v.4 certified, STT GDC is on a sustainability roll. Group CEO Bruno Lopez (pictured) fills Abigail Opiah in on what the company has been up to what is in store for the next decade.

ST Telemedia Global Data Centre (STT GDC) is a prominent investor in the data centre market and has been championing rapid growth over the last six years.

The company started in 2014 and in the last six years has grown its portfolio from zero to more than 110 data centres across key geographies, totalling more than 1.2 gigawatts of IT load.

“We have built that rapid growth in the key markets of China, India, Singapore, the UK and Thailand, and we are continuing that growth into other markets in Southeast Asia, as well as looking to expand further into Europe,” says group CEO Bruno Lopez.

“To the question, what has been the company’s biggest achievement; it is the speed of the growth and the ability to achieve that, outpacing the market, the competition and the opportunity in these geographies.

“These factors allowed us to effectively be in a position to be one of the leading players in each of these countries. Our business that we own 34% in China, called GDS, is the largest carrier-neutral data centre player in China today, operating in all the key markets in China,” Lopez continues.

The company is listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange, and completed its secondary listing in Hong Kong recently. The company continues to build a substantial data centre capacity in China year on year.

“Today, we deliver and builds more than a 90,000 square metres of data centre space annually, which is probably, larger than anyone else in the world in terms of new capacity coming to the market. We are also the largest shareholder, and it has been so since 2014,” adds Lopez.

In the UK STT GDC is the 100% shareholder of VIRTUS; it took a 49% stake in 2015 and acquired the remaining shares in 2017. In October 2020, VIRTUS announced the construction of its LONDON11 data centre, revealing that it will add more than 13MW of new capacity within 5,500m2 of net technical space to VIRTUS’ inventory in the country.

With the opening of LONDON11, the VIRTUS Slough campus will provide more than 77.5MW of power and 32,150m2 of net technical space to VIRTUS’ expanding customer base.

LONDON11 is set to go live in November 2022, with the data centre offering scalable colocation provision to hyperscale and enterprise customers.

“That expansion continues to be significant,” adds Lopez.

“In India, we are a 74% shareholder in Tata Communications and there we speak to more than 16 data centres and continue to grow, and we are also one of the leading data centre players in India.

“We built our first data centre in Singapore in 2016, and we now speak to seven data centres in the country. We have also factored a data centre in Thailand and Bangkok, and the facility is expected to go live in the first half of 2021. All of this has been achieved in an aggressive timeframe.”

What is next?

STT GDC plans to expand its platform of high-performance data centres through strategic sourcing across markets and innovating and developing new technologies related to data centre design, construction and operations, as well as other general corporate purposes.

STT GDC’s Bangkok 1 facility has a total capacity of 40 MW and a gross floor area of 60,000 square metres when fully fitted out.

“We intend to continue to expand into our existing markets, and we have committed significant capital in the outcome and we plan to continue that investment of capital into our existing markets, as well as adjacent markets that we are looking to expand into in Southeast Asia and Europe,” he explains.

“There we will be looking to explore greenfield as well as partnership options. The strategy in which we will achieve this will be to forge partnerships – we have a philosophy that we use in our expansion strategies which is ‘think global and act local’ – we have the global relationships with our customers who are global in their nature.

“We have the opportunity to build relationships with very strong joint venture partners that have track records in either the real estate sector or the telecommunication sector,” he continues.

In Thailand, STT GDC partnered with one of the largest real estate businesses in the country. Lopez says that with partnerships like this, the company is bringing its global expertise and expanding into building opportunities.

Thailand is known as a top tourist, but beneath it all, the Kingdom is also a growing economic powerhouse with the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia.

“All the global hyperscalers you can think of have a position in one of our data centre geographies and that has been our value proposition to bring that across because they want the same solutions, quality and delivered solutions in every one of these geographies,” he adds.

“We have been able to develop replicable contract and processes. There is a template they can work with across different geographies to facilitate speed-to-market. This makes it easier to go to new markets.

“In the next decade, we are also looking to expand in Southeast Asia and in our current geographies, we are seeing rapid demands for additional capacity. The Covid-19 pandemic has supercharged the demand for data centres. We saw that our customers who previously had growth plans, saw their trajectory of growth accelerate dramatically in the past year.”

The pandemic has led to the emergence of new growth industries, and its impact on the data centre sector has been exponential. As part of the digitalisation of every sector, various digital platforms and IT service providers have been springing up over the last few years.

“We are also looking to expand into East Asia, and we are also looking into Europe in a big way. We have identified various cities for expansion in that region,” Lopez reiterates when asked about the company’s five-year strategy.

“We are yet to look at the US market because we feel that any market we go into, we must be able to add value, not just with capital, but with the capability and operational expertise that we bring to the perspective platforms.”

Sustainability push

STT GDC’s hyperscale data centre in Thailand was recently awarded the LEED Gold v.4 certification from the US Green Building Council (USGBC) for its STT Bangkok 1 data centre, scheduled to be ready for service in Q1 2021. Lopez says the company has a very strong focus on sustainability.

“That is becoming an important requirement in all of our existing geographies, as well as the new geographies. So far, 30% of our entire data centre footprint has been sourced on renewable solutions like solar and hydro. In some geographies, 100% of our power is from renewable resources,” says Lopez.

“That will continue to be our priority in terms of pushing for renewable and sustainable solutions and delivering efficient data centres for our customers.”

Lopez explains that environmental health and safety initiatives to build safely while building quickly has been something that the company has managed to achieve.