Data Center POST had the chance to connect with Karen Petersburg, Vice President of Data Center Development and Construction at PowerHouse Data Centers, a large-scale data center developer. In addition to 17 years of significant experience in having successfully managed complex sustainable data center design and engineering projects, Petersburg actively contributes to the data center industry as the president of the local 7×24 DC Chapter, with board and committee positions for the Data Center Coalition and the Nomad Futurist Foundation.
Petersburg is dedicated to exploring the philosophical and socio-economic dimensions of data, contemplating how it impacts our daily lives and shapes our globalized society’s future. Her intricate fascinations make for an intriguing interview ahead of the annual PTC’24 conference.
Data Center Post (DCP) Question: PTC’s Annual Conference is a strategic springboard for the global communications industry, and this year is no different. How is your business addressing AI needs, keeping in mind the upcoming rules and risks associated with AI?
Karen Petersburg (KP) Answer: As data center developers, we’re literally building the platform for AI servers to do their work by providing the physical buildings to house next-generation AI infrastructure. As for special considerations, our focus is on risk reduction and risk management, guiding data center operators through the process of preparing for new AI deployments — providing input on potential construction pitfalls, compliance, and more. Through those partnerships, we can provide a safe and secure place for these new use cases to grow.
DCP Q: At PTC’24 there will be a few sessions focusing on the status and opportunities in the telecom market. From telecom equipment, services, and wireless communication, which area of the industry does your company focus on, and where do you see the industry heading in the next 5-10 years?
KP A: Looking into the next five-to-10 years, I see the industry running into the problem of too much data and not enough bandwidth. As such, I foresee a lot of infrastructure needing to be revamped. That isn’t to say that IP protocols themselves necessarily need to change, as I think packets are already going the fastest possible way to their location, but there will need to be a lot of brain power put toward the challenges related to infrastructure capacity caps. What we’re headed towards is a place where we’re just not able to support the amount of data that we’re going to need to push through, especially as new technologies associated with developments like AI affect the necessary quality of the data at the same time. This data proliferation and finding innovative ways to solve these types of problems is the next big issue for our industry to tackle.
DCP Q: At PTC’24, on January 23, 2024, the Infrastructure Builders panel will discuss how the world will look in 2033 (10 years), when we are one-third of the way through the digital century. How are you approaching projects and planning for future growth with the shifting utilization of digital infrastructure?
KP A: I think this is a great question to follow the last two because it continues the conversation about AI and other emerging technologies in a similar vein. As we work to support all this new technology, we should also be using it to our benefit. What we’re asking right now on our team is: how are we leveraging the technology that’s there to help us in our industry goals? In other words, can we be streamlining data center design, construction, and fit-out with new processes or products? For new data center builds, can we use smarter tools to track things more accurately, make them more efficient, and allow them to handle larger workloads? Just as data centers are enabling other industries to transform themselves through tech advancements, we can also point those advancements inward to help the data centers themselves.
DCP Q: What core markets do you operate in and what are the key opportunities / challenges in these markets and how are you adapting to address them?
KP A: As a large-scale developer, we operate in many regions across the nation and take a holistic view of our client base. In this way, we view the entire data center industry as our core market.
While power procurement continues to drive our campus development timelines, it is important to establish quality relationships with each region’s key stakeholders and energy providers by sharing load forecasts early on in the land acquisition process. In some cases, the key to understanding availability and timing may mean outlaying capital when developing on a speculative basis, which, while risky, now has become a necessary step in the process. Naturally, this leads to land and power banking over five-to-seven year development time frames, which is then used to forecast and purchase major equipment years in advance. All of these factors make it harder for companies that do not have the forecasting ability or capital to compete. At PowerHouse Data Centers we are in a unique position to handle all of the major challenges most data center companies face when we are brought on board early to develop a turn-key solution for our clients.
Another opportunity that is facing the data center industry today is the various GPU-laden IT deployments that affect the cooling system designs, rendering speculative AI-hyper scale data centers somewhat problematic. Standardization of these chip technologies will be instrumental in streamlining these issues, and hopefully, we should see some clear winners in the next year or so. But in the meantime, it is important to establish the right relationships with clients that open up these necessary conversations which shed light on their current and future IT networking needs and constraints. At PowerHouse, we strive to be a part of the solution that drives both the project and customers’ success.
DCP Q: PTC’24 is the 46th annual PTC Conference. During this four-day event, how can people meet or learn more about you (or after PTC’24)?
KP A: We’ll have a spacious meeting room all to ourselves right there in the Hilton for the entirety of the event, and we’re looking forward to connecting! Feel free to reach out to me or PowerHouse CEO Doug Fleit to set up a time to chat here.
DCP Q: What else would you like for our readers to know that you haven’t already shared about your company?
KP A: PowerHouse has some exciting projects underway in Data Center Alley, and coming up in other markets across the US that I bet industry folks would be interested in. First, there’s our new PowerHouse ABX-1 facility, a 54 MW powered shell in Ashburn, Virginia, that we recently leased to CyrusOne. There’s also PowerHouse Pacific in Sterling, Virginia, which broke ground on earlier this fall. When complete, PH Pacific will be a three-building campus with a power capacity of 265 MW. We’ll be announcing more projects soon, so keep an eye on PowerHouse’s social media feeds to stay in the know!
If you want to learn more about PTC’24, please visit: www.ptc.org/ptc24. The event takes place January 21-24, 2024 in Honolulu, HI – registration is still open for those interested in attending.
To request a meeting with PowerHouse Data Centers at PTC’24, click here.
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