Data center member organization AFCOM interviewed Ben Stewart, senior vice president Operations at NTT Global Data Centers, on the data center industry and its impact on the world. Ben leads the Americas Data Center Operation team, working closely with all other regional Data Center Operation leaders to deploy a Data Center Facility and Services program focused on service excellence and customer satisfaction.
AFCOM: This past year, what has been the greatest challenge you’ve had to face within the data center industry? How have you overcome it?
Ben Stewart, senior vice president Operations at NTT Global Data Centers
In the past year, our biggest challenge has been staffing – both in hiring new employees and retaining our current employees. We rely on quality employees to build and maintain all our sites, and we’ve seen a shortage of good candidates applying for those jobs. To help overcome the challenge, we have taken a more active role in recruiting people, as well as offering great benefits, opportunities, and training to both attract new talent and minimize turnover.
AFCOM: How do your data centers interact or give back to their local environments or communities? How do you hope to give back in the future?
We believe in being good neighbors in the communities in which we operate, and one of the ways we do that is by being good stewards of resources. In Phoenix, we utilize a closed-loop water cooling system to minimize our water usage, which is an important issue in that environment. During a record heatwave in California in early September, the teams at our California data centers moved nearly 33MW of power to generators for five days to help alleviate demand on the grid. We try to minimize our environmental impact and step into help when our communities are in need. We also believe in giving back to our community of employees through our social responsibility efforts. We have developed four Employee Resource Groups – the Black Employee Network, the LGBTQ+ ERG, the Veterans ERG and the Women’s Employee Network – to support a more diverse and inclusive workplace, enhance engagement and strengthen culture.
AFCOM: What recent data center trends have made you the most excited or enthusiastic?
One recent trend I’m most excited about is the industry’s ongoing commitment to sustainability. More and more, we’re seeing sustainability as a key driver in data center design, build and operations. The industry is continuing to evolve and identify new ways to become more sustainable – from power and cooling technologies to build materials and design standards. At NTT, we’re driving toward 100% renewable energy in our data centers by 2030, as well as targeting net zero emissions across our data center operations by 2030. It’s great to see many companies come together with similar commitments to drive a focus on sustainability throughout the industry.
AFCOM: What do you personally hope to accomplish in the next decade? What do you hope the data center industry as a whole is able to accomplish in the next decade?
There are two main things I’d like to see the industry achieve in the next decade – continuing to make an impact on social and environmental issues and attract a larger talent pool. Data centers aren’t going away anytime soon, and, in fact, the industry is only going to continue to grow. That means we must continue to look for new technologies and processes that will allow us to lessen our environmental impact and benefit our local communities. As we build and operate more data centers, we’ll need more quality, diverse talent. We have to do a better job attracting people to the industry, and we need to make sure we’re supportive and inclusive so we attract people with various backgrounds and experiences who will help enrich our workplaces and industry.