An interview with Thomas G. Brown, President and CEO of DataGryd

Editor’s Note: There is no doubt that this is a transformational moment for telecommunications industry.  We know this is happening in the submarine cable market, but it also could be seen in virtually any conversation SubCableWorld had during ITW last month.  At ITW, we had the opportunity to speak with Thomas G. Brown, President and CEO of DataGryd, which operates a data center at 60 Hudson St. in Manhattan, one of the most important single buildings in the entire global telecom network.  Mr. Brown discussed the issues involved in operating in the Manhattan environment and shared his insights into the future of the data market.  His comments are below.

Mr. Brown: “DataGryd is the single largest data center in Manhattan.  We are a 120,000 square foot data center which encompasses two floors within the iconic 60 Hudson Street building.  It is globally recognized and probably the most densely-occupied building in all of North America.  There are Zettabytes of traffic that flows through that building. 

DataGryd is uniquely positioned in a couple of ways.  First, when the created company was created back in 2011, it took over two floors that were vacated by the City of New York’s Department of Buildings and Department of Corrections.  That gave us a unique ability to demolition office space as opposed to legacy telco suites.  There is a significant difference between them.  With legacy telco, there’s existing infrastructure that you have to deal with.  We didn’t have that in the government office space we took over.  We are the single largest tenant in the building. 

The other foresight that my predecessor had was the ability to bring in dense power applications.  We accomplished that by going directly to ConEd, the utility in New York City, we took in our own feed of 12MW of power.  We also have 3MW from the building so that gives us a total of 15 MW.  That’s pretty significant for a metro data center.  As emerging technologies come into play, we are seeing footprints going from traditional 2-3kw on average up to 5-8kw and beyond.  That power density does not compromise our ability to cool that based on the design that we have as a result of the demolition of the former office space.  The PUE is pretty astounding compared to similar data centers in New York City.  We’re at a 1.43 PUE, which is pretty efficient, particularly for a building that was built in 1929. 

From the historical perspective, 60 Hudson Street was the Western Union building, which was the center of what was really the earliest form of data transmission.  They would literally roller-skate over telegram slips to the telegram typist and transmit it that way. 

We’re at an inflexion point in our industry about data transformation.  We believe that we’re well positioned not only in terms of power but also in terms of connectivity.  Any conversation that we have here at ITW is centered around the “cross-connect burden.”  Bandwidth prices have come down tremendously.  I always use the example of between New York and Chicago where a 10-Gbps circuit is less than what a cross-connect in a data center would cost between two floors or within the same suite. 

We have a unique asset in our lease that enables us to mitigate that.  We have a direct-connect product that through a 4” conduit to any tenant within the building.  We can build it for a fraction of the cost of a cross-connect.  The maximum run from our suite to anywhere else in the building is about 300 feet.  The building charges $1 per linear foot.  So if you have an 864-fiber cable in a 4” conduit and you terminate those and now begin cross-connecting with your partner, it’s very material.  So when we have concerns with our respective customers about “Oh, the real estate in New York is so expensive, there are alternatives outside the city,” I ask what are you trying to accomplish, because this building may not be the best location for that application.  But do to the access to so many networks directly, it’s a very low latency- building, whether it’s a cloud provider, service provider, gaming, you name it.  The full gamut resides inside the building.  If you’re there just to have a low-cost alternative, that’s not 60 Hudson Street.  It was never intended for that.  Go ahead across the river to New Jersey or out to Long Island. 

So we look into the total cost of ownership of what the solution is.  If we take a drastic cut in the costs of cross-connects, and weigh it against your rent, it’s almost a wash.  And we’ve done that on a number of business cases.  So when you couple who we are and what we’re doing, we’re well positioned for what’s happening in our business today.  We do not know the impact of 5G or AI or IoT, but I do know that we’re well positioned in a building that has four million eyeballs outside that building and it’s not going away.  

We believe that data transmission is going to be exponentially growing.  And with the 5G that you’ll have on your phone that you will never lose your experience when you get up from your desk or wherever you’ll be.  The experience will just continue.  It will play to the MSOs.  It will play to the wireless providers, all needing the ability to cache that and send it out to large data server farms like Northern Virginia.  Interesting enough, there are inquiries now that I need to be 1 ms away from a cloud provider.  You can’t do that if your data center is down in Northern Virginia.  You’ll need that edge PoP.  So by default, we’re now become an edge PoP option being at 60 Hudson Street.  I see the trends of data traffic exponentially growing and that’s why you’re seeing new glass being put into the ground, whether it’s in the metro or subsea, optimizing what already exists today to gain greater efficiencies.

What you can do with one single strand of glass versus what you could do five years ago is exponential.  So you’ll see more and more diversity of routes and you’ll see folks interested in terminating that traffic in sites like 60 Hudson Street at DataGryd. 

Prior to my joining the company, DataGryd’s view was very different than it is now.  At that time, folks were taking large parcels of space.  Now you’re not seeing that.  We are building out 1MW at a time so we can address the 100kw, 500kw opportunities that are out there.  These folks are building their edge nodes for what they need today. 

The world is changing.  What’s dictating that is the level of forensic management of traffic.  Diversity is one thing, but how they balance their traffic.  Everyone is building and optimizing their networks around the high-growth verticals. 

Regarding gaming, it’s all about the experience.  I will tell you when my introduction into gaming was when I went out to Twitch.  Twitch is a company where you subscribe and can watch famous gamers play, just like you watch a ballgame.  And they get paid by the number of likes they get and the viewership that they have.  So I said, “Wow! Not only is it about the games, but it’s about the experience as well.  For Blizzard, a gaming company, their only criteria is the experience.  So with the emergence of technology that will actually allow the person to get outside of the home and having the same experience on their device with zero glitch.  We can tolerate calls dropping on a phone, but help us if we ever have a glitch while gaming – the world is coming to an end.  So gaming needs to be close to the edge.  Gaming is real.” 

DataGryd CEO Tom Brown Headshot 1