Executive Q&A: Kevin Timmons of CyrusOne

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Kevin Timmons has been involved in creating some of the world’s most efficient data centers. In executive positions heading infrastructure teams at Yahoo and Microsoft, Timmons led teams in developing designs that pushed the frontiers of efficiency, modularity and the use of free cooling to slash costs. Timmons is now chief technology officer at CyrusOne, the colocation business of Cincinnati Bell. Last week Timmons brought together industry for a peer review session in which members of the CyrusOne team, contractors and industry thought leaders gathered to brainstorm design ideas for the company’s new data center in Phoenix. We caught up with Timmons for a Q&A about CyrusOne’s Phoenix project and the design review process.

Data Center Knowledge: Let’s start with some background on the project. Your parent company, Cincinnati Bell, has said it has the potential to be a 1 million square foot project someday. What are CyrusOne’s goals and vision for its Phoenix project?

Kevin Timmons: Our goal is the same in all our new generation facilities – to be the most innovative, most efficient, and most economical multi-tenant facility in that market. There’s several things that will set our Chandler, AZ datacenter apart from the other offerings in Phoenix. As you’d mentioned, it will be able to scale to an immense size. It is set on a 57 acre parcel of land that is ideally situated with respect to power and fiber infrastructure. It’s designed to be built in what we call “massively-modular” fashion. That means that our customers get all the economic benefits of a modular design in a large-scale footprint. And last but not least, we are pairing all our next generation facilities with industry-best office space so it’s a uniquely comfortable experience for our customers. They will have ample room to relax, connect, or grab an espresso in an environment a short stroll away from their infrastructure. Nothing else like it in the industry.

DCK: What made you decide to use a collaborative approach in developing design ideas? What are the advantages of this approach?

Timmons: I love the conceptual design phase of data center projects. Everything is on the table, there are no ideas too far-fetched; it’s a blank slate. And I always feel incredibly blessed to be in the room at that time. The company has asked you to make a several-hundred-million dollar bet for them. Who wouldn’t want to take part in that? So I came up with this concept of sharing that experience with customers and others that are generally smart folks in the data center industry. Hopefully they’d help us improve our product and the attendees would also walk away with a few things they’ve learned as well. Win-win.

DCK: Were there specific problems or challenges you were hoping to solve?

Timmons: Not really – we really just wanted to take the group through every design aspect of the facility, and we did just that. There were interactive sessions with our General Contractor, our Architecture firm, and our mechanical and electrical engineers.

DCK: What were the key recommendations and design concepts to emerge from the process? Are any likely to be implemented in the data center?

Timmons: There was spirited discussion around raised floor vs. slab and also electrical distribution. Just what you’d expect. I was very heartened to see the widespread acceptance of a non-raised floor design approach, and so we’ll be much more likely to go that direction in future phases.

DCK: Did the event meet your expectations?

Timmons: It far exceeded expectations for me. You never know how interactive people are going to be, especially with some potential competitors sitting in the room across from each other. But it went so well that we’re now in planning phase for the next peer review event focusing on our Carrollton, TX facility. That data center has it’s own unique characteristics and I can’t wait to focus some of the industry’s best minds on some of the design decisions we have to make there.

DCK: How would you assess the state of the data center industry in terms of the sharing of best practices and design ideas?

Timmons: I think it’s come a long, long way. Even industry competitors now routinely sit down and help each other out with design methodologies and best practices. That’s good for all of us and it advances the state of our art.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor-in-chief of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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