T5: Mastering mission critical data center solutions

Meet a company at the cutting edge of customized turnkey development, facility management and mission critical services; keeping your business ‘on’ forever

Dan Brightmore
|Nov 27|magazine18 min read

T5 is now in its 13th year having evolved out of the services sector representing data center users. Back in 2008 T5 started out as a development company before growing a full lifecycle of services geared towards hyperscale and enterprise customers. These extend across the lifecycle of the core data center ranging from customised turnkey development and facility management to data hall operations, mission critical construction services and sustainable approaches to power generation. T5 is serving the needs of the hyperscale and enterprise data center user across North America and at strategic international locations.

“Our roots in the development of cutting-edge data centers for leading corporations gave us a platform to evolve,” remembers President & CEO Pete Marin. “Those same customers looked to us to operate those DCs. There have been numerous changes inside these structures that required construction activity which drove us to create T5CS (T5 Construction Services). Everything we do revolves around that discerning data center customer in two different sectors of the business cycle - hyperscale and enterprise. We'll continue to grow with those strategic customers and the markets they want to be in, and we will continue to add the services they need as we evolve our assets to support them.”

A Data Center Lifecycle Partner

Marin highlights that T5 is the only company across the sector offering a full lifecycle combination of assets and services in strategic markets. From delivering a fully functioning data center building at a competitive cost to producing the lowest possible cost of occupancy and then going on to operate it for the customer, T5 can utilize a build to suit approach delivering tailor made specs - for everything from power to cooling - inside the data hall.

Evolving assets through the data center lifecycle is a big part of the philosophy that drives T5 explains Marin: “We advise our customers on lowering the cost of their operations going forward by evaluating power and cooling systems and helping them design and procure the best system that’s going to use the least amount of energy throughout a data hall’s lifecycle. With that comes a big focus on the reduction of carbon footprint. We’re very supportive of that and have developed the capabilities to construct solar installations and we’ll continue to expand that expertise as the technology evolves for the hyperscalers.”

Marin notes that, as electrical densities across data centers increase, these developments are all intertwined. “We’re making sure we have the right cooling methodologies to meet future needs. Simple things like having water at the rack for our cooling systems which allows a deeper life cycle for that asset. And of course, we're agnostic to networks, but we're very supportive of having a robust network in all of our buildings.”

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Quotables

We have the ability to give visibility to as many touch points as a customer wants all the way down to the circuit level, so they have that vital input into how their building is operated

Pete Marin | President & CEO, T5

A Sustainable Future

T5’s commitment to greener ways to power data centers has seen it extend its construction services to include solar and renewable energy. “We got into the delivery of solar projects a few years ago, and we've had a lot of repeat business,” reveals Marin. “The technology continues to improve and evolve, and it really comes down to the battery technology which I think will bring us to a point where we will see a huge reduction in traditional power sources. It's going to be interesting to see how this develops because you've got some competing forces… You want to reduce carbon footprint and carbon emissions because this industry has a lot of generators that are fired with diesel fuel. We need to address that. The evolution of solar represents a great opportunity to do that so we will continue to develop a skill set to deliver these solar projects. Already, a lot of the big hyperscale customers will typically build a solar deployment to offset what they're taking from the grid. Eventually, I think you could see solar deployments that are directly set into the grid, so we’re moving in the right direction.”

The T5 Difference

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It’s one thing to build a great building and deliver it, but another beast entirely to operate it believes Marin. “Being able to go from bricks and mortar all the way through to the white space and be able to operate inside the data hall is unique in our business. We ensure we have the right EPMS and BMS systems to run the facility with a proper model that works all the controls throughout the data hall,” assures Marin. “We have the ability to give visibility to as many touch points as a customer wants all the way down to the circuit level so they have that vital input into how their building is operated.”

The open book approach Marin describes gives T5 the flexibility to build to suit offering a best in class service. “We work with the brightest and the best partners out there, from design and construction through to services inside the data hall. If there are services our customers want and we’re not delivering those today, we will go out and find the best to do that and develop that capability internally, or acquire it. We're constantly looking at how to improve the data center and to solve the problems of hyperscale and enterprise users.”

Marin maintains that recruiting the right people, often with mission critical backgrounds in the military, and training them to the highest level is paramount. “It’s a big part of making sure the lights never go out,” he says. Training is the front-line philosophy, to keep our people at the cutting edge and allow the group and its work culture to grow.”

The Edge

Evaluating the industry today, Marin believes that on the asset front it's still important to have space that's ready to occupy and in key strategic markets. “Over the past couple of years, it's been just a few buyers of data center space picking up the majority of it. That's the hyperscale phenomena. That's going to continue. However, we predicted last year that enterprise business would come back and we’re seeing that with a combination of both cloud operations and data centers all supporting the hybrid platform. There's going to be a combination strategy there. We’re seeing the enterprise return with more build to suit, as well as just leasing traditional data center sites.”

A key development for the future of connectivity is the impending 5G roll out. Marin is excited to see what this will mean for The Edge. “Thanks to 5G we’re going to see more Edge deployments,” he says. “There have been a number of new companies established that are looking at data centers from a different perspective, not as big, scalable operations but micro data centers that can be deployed quickly in multiple locations bringing compute and storage as close to the users eyeballs as possible. We’ll see continued investment here as 5G implementation ramps and the move to the Edge continues.”

Scaling Up

Last year, in partnership with QuadReal, T5 launched a $2.5bn fund to develop, acquire and operate data centers which has proved to be very successful, allowing the company to scale on multiple levels. “We’re well positioned to continue to scale the breadth of our operations,” confirms Marin. “We have significant equity to build our asset deployment while remaining nimble as a private company.”

T5 recently acquired an asset in Chicago, which it is currently building out on a turnkey basis. Located in the Elk Grove Village Technology Park, [email protected] will provide 103,000 square feet of white space and up to 27.6 critical megawatts of power capacity, purposefully designed to serve enterprise and hyperscale cloud computing customers. “We're constructing a new building in Hillsboro, Oregon, just outside of Portland with a maximum capacity of 17.6 MW,” adds Marin. “We’ve also acquired an existing turnkey data center in Northern California in Silicon Valley where we'll be able to deliver in excess of 17 MW. Elsewhere, we’ve acquired a large tract of land (80 acres) in Atlanta, where we've started what we call the ‘horizontal construction’ of a facility with a total design capacity of 217 MW.” 

“This is just a taste of what we’re up to at T5 with many exciting developments in the pipeline. So far, we’ve deployed 30% out of our fund and we’ve got a lot more work to do,” pledges Marin. “Some of the world's best brands have entrusted us with their facilities, so continuing to grow our third-party services will be at the heart of our strategy to remain the industry’s premier data center lifecycle partner.”

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