Sustainability: the heart of IMDC’s data center operations

Sustainability: the heart of IMDC’s data center operations

Iron Mountain Data Centers’ (IMDC) Alex Sharp & Eric Boonstra discuss IMDC’s services, ambitions, and why sustainability is the heart of its operati...


Starting their respective careers in the data center industry in 2005 and 1990, Eric Boonstra, VP and GM in Western Europe and Alex Sharp, Global Head of Data Center Design and Construction collectively have 45 years of experience in the industry. The two have worked for the likes of Siemens, ABN AMRO, SpendLab, EvoSwitch, Wates, Mace and CBRE.

Joining Iron Mountain Data Centers (IMDC) in 2019, Sharp identifies the company as “a leading provider of data center and colocation services. We have a global portfolio which includes hyperscale ready facilities, strategic-edge facilities and underground data centers, which are fully powered by 100% renewable energy.”

Being sustainable is a fundamental element of IMDC’s strategy: “we try to make sure that everything that we do is as renewable and as sustainable as possible,” comments Sharp. “We believe that we are one of the most sustainable colocation providers in the world, which is really important to us and at the same time makes us stand out from the competition,” adds Boonstra, who joined IMDC in 2018.

While most organisations have an interest in minimising their impact on the environment, Sharp reflects that, in his career, no company has been more considerate of its impact on the environment than IMDC. “Sustainability at Iron Mountain Data Centers is not optional,” he says. “It's not an aspiration, it's an absolute requirement. Our CEO Bill Meaney is absolutely passionate about renewable energy, and energy optimisation processes. He aggressively drives us to try and find new solutions, look at different fuel technologies for instance and push the envelope in terms of doing things that other organisations haven't done yet, if we think it's the right thing to do in order to be sustainable.”

IMDC’s approach when it comes to sustainability is to lead rather than follow; the company is keen on trying new solutions that will increase its sustainability efforts. “Sustainability is at the forefront of everything that we do, and our customers are aware of that. We look at designing the most efficient data centers that minimise the consumption of electrical energy,” says Boonstra. 

One example that highlights these sustainability ambitions is the fact that IMDC helps its customers to look at the hardware they put into an Iron Mountain data center to drive efficiency and sustainability for their racks in any of their data centers globally. “We look at technologies where customers can replace six of their legacy racks in a data center with one that is far more efficient, where the energy is being tailored and used at the appropriate point where it needs to be. It makes it far easier for us to manage the air within the data center. So for us, it's far more than just looking at the design of a data center; it's working with our customers to ensure that we're deploying those energies in an efficient way.”

Going forward, Sharp sees IMDC adding cooling technologies, carbon scrubbing, and trying to get concessions with its customers where it can run its data centers at slightly higher temperatures, to its focus areas when it comes to sustainability. “Our aim is to reduce our carbon emissions to get to a position where we are carbon neutral, initially, before we push for carbon negative where we take harmful greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. We also want to look into the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics when it comes to the design of a data center to compare what it is and what it should be operating at, and ultimately coming up with solutions to make not only new but legacy data centers more efficient and resilient.”

In addition to its sustainability efforts, IMDC also has a strong focus on ensuring that its data centers serve as connectivity ecosystems that enable customers to transact their services. “We not only look towards greening the grid with our renewable initiatives such as Green Power Pass but we strive for our customers to transact their services from within the Iron Mountain ecosystem in the most efficient way possible. With our ever growing ecosystem of Carriers, Internet Exchanges and Cloud Service Providers we enable our customers to connect and enhance their business by providing the route of their choice to any CSP on a global scale. So really it's about providing top quality services within our data centers, that are highly secure, efficient and resilient, while also providing opportunity and choice for our customers,” explains Boonstra.

With this in mind, Boonstra reflects that over the last two years, IMDC - which originates from the US - has grown very fast on a global scale next to the EMEA region. “This was exactly our plan,” comments Boonstra. “We have made a lot of investments, and become twice as big in the last two years in EMEA.” Currently Iron Mountain has data centers in Amsterdam - its headquarters for the EMEA region - Frankfurt and London, with plans to further expand in not only the leading countries in the region but the emerging ones, too. 

While these are notable successes for IMDC in the EMEA region, Boonstra adds that “we are currently one of the top 10 global data center providers, and we have strong ambitions to get into a top 5 position.” As a result the company’s ambitions to expand its global operations continue. “We currently have 15 locations globally with eleven data centers in the US, one in Singapore and three in Europe that we are heavily investing into. But we want to continue to expand our portfolio and enhance our position to be a global leading data center provider in the future. So that's why our target markets are retail, enterprise and hyperscale businesses. In the past you had providers for each industry, but I believe that leading providers of the future will be able to provide their services to all of these markets,” comments Boonstra.

When it comes to the effects of COVID-19, Sharp adds that “if you look at revenues and pipelines there is luckily no impact, we are growing fast despite COVID. But where we have seen some impact is in the construction projects. Currently we have construction projects all around the world, and while we are still doing okay, we have seen a few delays as a result of COVID. We have seen both good and bad outcomes due to COVID-19. One of the things we have all seen is that there is a lot more traffic going through the internet due to people working from home, which is channeled through our data centers. So we've seen a much bigger increase in demand for immediate space that our customers need - particularly cloud service providers. So the demand has grown significantly through COVID, but with that has come its own challenges, and of course movement of personnel and movement of equipment has been an issue through COVID.”

Looking to the future Sharp states that IMDC’s ambitions for 2021 - like 2020 - will be much the same. “To continue to be a partner of choice for our customers, to deliver high quality services, and to expand our offerings in all regions. We actively anticipate expanding into new regions and contributing to those communities that we go into. We will also, as ever, ensure that we continue to minimise the impact we have on the environment and drive social inclusion in the regions we operate in.”

Adding to Sharp’s comments in the future, Boonstra says: “We want to be a top leading data center provider in the world, so we will keep on investing, conducting M&As and carry out construction projects around the world, despite COVID-19 changing the ways that we work.”

Eric Boonstra