My name is Christiaan Keet. I am 47 and I live in the UK. I am the Chief Technical Officer for Hydro66 and have responsibility for all the technical aspects of the business, from the design and build of the data center through to the services and operations we provide to our customers.
What is a data center?
When you use a computer or a mobile phone to look at a web page, stream a video, browse social media, send an instant message, order online, send an email, place a phone call, request an Uber or play a game, you may not realise it – but you are using a data center. Data centers are specialised buildings where the computers that control and deliver the information that makes our modern lives possible are kept in safe and controlled environments.
What interests have brought you in the direction of this position and sector?
I come from a background of computer science and electrical engineering. My interest in communications and networking started at university when I hacked our first clusters of Unix servers to learn how they worked. From there my career focussed on software and network development at first and later on managing technical teams to do the same. At one point, my engineering and operations teams also had 12 of our international company data centers under their remit. When it became time for a change for me, I wanted to get out of the office and from behind a desk and exercise my creative and practical skills.
As a co-founder of Hydro66 I put everything I learnt from my engineering background and specifically data center management, into designing, building and operating data centers that are significantly better than the traditional designs everyone else was building.
What does your job entail?
Because we are a small company with a tightly-knit team, we have the opportunity to get involved in highly diverse areas. My work at Hydro66 started with site selection for the data center, through the design phases, vendor selection and project management for construction. Along the way it has taken in activities as diverse as physical installations in the site and everyday data center maintenance, consultancy for new and existing customers, recruitment, team and partner management, advising on company strategy and representing Hydro66 at industry forums.
Can you explain exactly how a project works?
There is no “typical project” in our line of work. That might sound like an odd thing to say when you work in a building that has almost 1,000 identical equipment cabinets in it, but much of what we do is bespoke and engineered or designed for a specific purpose. Projects range from something as small as upgrading a security system or installing a small customer who owns a few servers to large data center expansions.
Building and fitting out 4,000 square meters of new technical space from the ground up or deploying a customer who delivers their equipment in two full 18-wheeler trucks is all in the job.
Which tasks and activities do you spend the most time on?
It changes according to what phase the business is currently in. Because we build the data center using a modular methodology (we expand in phases, building more when we need it) there is a big difference in daily activities depending on whether we are in “new build mode” or “normal running mode” or both at the same time! When we are in new build mode, most of my time is spent on vendor and subcontractor management, project coordination and sometimes getting involved in physical aspects of the new build and installation.
When we are in normal running mode, my time is divided between steering our operational resources, consultancy for new and existing customers and working to improve our product set, which includes increasing our technical capabilities, maintaining standards compliance or improving the services we offer.
What makes you really happy in your work?
The ability to get involved in a wide range of technical and business development activities. I enjoy always learning, having problems to solve and finding solutions for challenges.
“When creating Hydro66 we had the opportunity to design something so new and so modern that we could throw away the old rulebook about how to do things.”
That is an incredibly exciting thing to achieve!
What made the biggest impression when you started working in this sector?
I have two overriding impressions from working in this industry, and the second is related to the first. Firstly there is a huge lack of understanding about what data centers are and where they fit into modern life. They are critical to so many services we enjoy and yet most people that do not work in this sector would not be able to tell you what a data center is and why it is needed.
In the second place, recruitment in the data center space is a challenge. There is a dramatic shortage of experienced staff in the area. There is a lack of understanding about what working at a data center entails and how vast the scope of the areas you can get involved in is. It requires some education from our side to explain the wide range of roles we cover.
Prospective candidates can have backgrounds as diverse as electrician, metalworker, plumber, systems administrator, software developer, IT hardware expert, security consultant or network engineer!
This is an ongoing issue for our market sector and is only getting worse as more data centers are built and many experienced people find opportunities in mega data centers around the world.
Why do you think this technical industry is also interesting for people who do not have a technical background?
Apart from the obvious technical aspects of our business, there is a traditional organisation that includes customer service, administration, sales, legal, finance and all the other departments you would expect behind the scenes. So no matter what your background and experience is, you can work in this industry that forms the basis of so many aspects of our modern life and is going to continue to develop and evolve how we use energy, how we use technology and how we improve things for the planet along the way.
Does your company have a role in the energy transition?
With data centers forecast to use a significant and constantly increasing percentage of global electricity in the coming years it is not difficult to understand that any efficiency improvements that data centers can achieve, is good for the environment. With that in mind, we designed and built Hydro66 to be one of the most energy efficient data centers in the world, using 100% locally sourced, green and renewable energy and using as many environmentally friendly and power-efficient technologies as possible, from our 100% free air cooling systems to our renewable building methods.
“We believe our model of using truly green and renewable energy locally is the sustainable model of data centers of the future. “
If you should choose a successor, what should he or she have in house?
They should be curious and excited by change and new development. They have to think out of the box and not be content with just accepting any existing design or operating model. We are here to change the model and through that improve services for our customers and improve the world while we are at it!
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