Everything that is digital runs on a data center
In 2017, Bureau Veritas acquired Primary Integration Solutions, Inc. (PI), an American leader in the commissioning, inspection and operational risk management of data centers. PI strengthens Bureau Veritas’ offerings in the field of construction, with services dedicated to data center infrastructure. Cross interview with Didier Michaud Daniel, CEO of Bureau Veritas and Shawn Till, CEO of PI.
What is the context of Bureau Veritas’ acquisition of Primary Integration Solutions?
Didier Michaud-Daniel: In line with the execution of its 2020 strategic Plan, Bureau Veritas is developing fast in the Buildings and Infrastructure market as well as in the digital world. PI has been identified as very well positioned to reinforce BV’s offering in the field of construction with services dedicated to data center infrastructure, particularly in the US.
This is a perfect fit for BV and will help us further grow our scale in Buildings and Infrastructure, by adding capabilities in the buoyant technology infrastructure compliance field in the largest data center world market.
Shawn Till: In parallel, it was very advantageous for PI management to leverage Bureau Veritas’ vast geographic footprint and technical capabilities to provide our customer bases with a truly global value proposition that is unparalleled in the industry.
Could you give us the big picture of the commissioning market?
Didier Michaud-Daniel: For a few years now, the digital transformation has become the focus of every business, small or large. But what does the digital transformation consist of? To me it’s quite straightforward: it simply means data centers. What does the word “cloud” mean? It means data centers as a service. Everything that is “digital” runs on a platform running within a data center.
Shawn Till: Data centers are being built globally at a fast pace with unprecedented projected growth. As a commissioning specialist, we have chosen to focus on this hot, fast growing field. As a US born company, we’re at the core of the industry, as 60% of data centers in the world are built by US multinational companies.
We have a few dozen competitors in the world. Most of them are architecture/engineering firms or design firms, and most of them are highly specialized. In the US, we have a handful of competitors of comparable size. We were recognized in 2017 as the fourth largest commissioning firm in the USA. Our largest clients are global. This year (2018), the data center construction market is estimated at $47 billion.
So, commissioning is a question of trust in the data era?
Didier Michaud Daniel: Definitely. PI is a trust builder – that was a key point of our acquisition of Primary Integration. Our vision and value proposal are convergent: We help bring the trust that is crucial for 21st century building.
Shawn Till: Ensuring the physical security of data centers is quite common, physical security assets such as man gates, security walls and doors, intrusion detection systems, policies and procedures, and 24x7 security guards.
As for data reliability, a “common” solution is replication. Specialists talk about “mirroring”, which is basically the duplication of data centers in different locations, to ensure that at least one will be safeguarded from catastrophic events such as hurricanes, power failures, etc.
Reliability, apart from catastrophic events, heavily depends on a correctly implemented commissioning process during construction, executed by a trusted commissioning firm.
So would be predictive maintenance the next frontier of trust?
Shawn Till: Yes, it’s something we’re desperate to help bring to the industry. It’s common in many other mission-critical industries like airlines.
However, there are differences in the data center industry: every time you touch a piece of equipment, you are introducing a risk to the data center. And it is estimated that 70% of failures in DCs are of human origin!
So, practically speaking, there is a trade-off in trying to find the right amount of maintenance, between site reliability and the risks introduced by human intervention. We believe there is a strong opportunity to help bring the digital transformation to this area of data center maintenance. With IoT embedded in the design phase and the advances of AI, smart maintenance could have an enormous impact on the industry. For us, it’s very aspirational, and with the experience that BV has in this field in other industries, we look forward to helping our clients solve this dilemma in the future.
Commissioning specialists are highly skilled experts. Is there a chance that Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality could help PI bring their fantastic expertise to a larger scale?
Didier Michaud-Daniel: The answer is yes. It can be useful for many of the inspections that we do throughout the construction phase and could be time efficient. Glasses such as HoloLense and Google Glass are interesting, even more so given that we train experts for years, and most of them have years of experience.
So, yes, seasoned experts could help younger staff remotely. We will explore such solutions in 2018.
Shawn Till: As we take full advantage of the Bureau Veritas global footprint, we are very excited about our future in the industry, and our ability to offer clients a truly global solution for test, inspection and certification services, throughout the entire life-cycle of their data centers.
Could you describe PI/BV in three words?
Didier Michaud-Daniel: To me, PI means “Future 4.0”, “Expertise” and “Unique”.
Shawn Till: Bureau Veritas is synonym with “Leader”, “Excellence” and “Trust”!