Aligned CEO Andrew Schaap is dedicated to accelerating business growth by driving the delivery of data center solutions through industry-leading technology and adaptive infrastructure. During his tenure with Aligned, he has cultivated an ecosystem of innovation that advances Aligned’s commitment to reducing the social, economic and environmental impact of the digital era.
Schaap has more than two decades of experience as a data center, IT, private equity and real estate executive. Prior to joining Aligned, Schaap held numerous leadership positions throughout 11 years with Digital Realty, most recently as senior VP responsible for global large-scale, client-driven data center builds. Schaap also held leadership roles at Sterling Network Services and Sysix Technologies.
In this one-on-one for the InterGlobix “Faces of the Industry series,” Schaap’s passion for sustainability, efficiency and mindfulness, especially within his own organization, shines through as he updates Editor-in-Chief Jasmine Bedi on the latest developments with one of the top privately owned data center companies.
What was it like navigating the pandemic as the CEO of growing, global company?
I bubble the business down to three core pillars. The first one is great capital – nimble capital, thoughtful capital, sophisticated capital, because, obviously, this is a capital-intensive business. The second is our infrastructure. We’re making sure that its leading-edge for sustainability and efficiency while staying ahead of the competition, yet being mindful of what our clients want with it. The third is that our industry is very fundamentally built on trust. That trust is in the people, trusting how they are operating within facilities at world-class operations or handling customers on a day-in, day-out basis.
A lot of that really starts with myself, going from top down. It’s about empowerment of the people to facilitate world-class operations and customer service. A great side benefit is then people go home at night knowing that they’ve performed well and caring about the job they do everyday. It also serves as a great motivator to come back the next morning and do it all over again – better than before. I like to joke that you can pay people to work eight hours a day but you can’t pay people to actually care.
Looking at the innovative ideas coming out of the pipeline at Aligned, like Delta³, what do you think is critical knowledge about Aligned that wouldn’t be well known?
High-availability, sustainability and efficiency are key to infrastructure, so continued innovation is needed for market sustainability. Aligned was founded upon a mission to eliminate waste in the way you operate. Our employees love that they’re part of an organization that really has a mindfulness around sustainability, efficiency and being green, plus I think that’s bearing fruit in the way that our customer base looks at us.
I won’t give away top secret things that we have in the works. However, currently we have 50 patents and over 500 dependent claims around which we are driving the push for efficiencies and innovation to create world-class infrastructure for our customer base.
How would you define Expand on Demand? And, what would you consider Aligned’s differentiators for potential customers?
We coined this a couple of years ago, because the term “future-proofing” has been way overused. For most of the industry, that term meant if you buy more space and infrastructure then we’ll let you expand in the campus. We turned that on its head. Customers are looking for a long-term partner and/or agreement to keep growing densities, different types of technologies and solutions within the same footprint they bought. For ExpandOnDemand(TM), we thought about how our customers are looking to land and stay with that partner for the next three, five, 10 or 15 years, without having to forklift, buy more square space or anything that goes along with added infrastructure. Our technology is not static, nor is our customers’. They to continue to have to refresh their storage, server, networking gear every couple of years, with some refreshing all of their equipment. They would not want to go with a partner that has static infrastructure to support a dynamic compute, because those two things don’t go together. We’ve made our infrastructure much more dynamic, so when refreshing we can modulate and uplift our densities in the same footprint.
With your experience raising capital in various industries, how would you say you have seen the investment landscape change over the years, especially in the data center industry?
Now is an interesting time in our industry. You’re seeing major merger and acquisitions by some of our big public competitors, as well as some private players. A lot of what drives the digital infrastructure space has become really attractive to investors: cell towers, fiber in the ground, carrier and connection facilities or wholesale data center operators, like ourselves. Those four components have to be there for this ecosystem of technology to work, whether on your mobile device, your car talking to a cell tower, all of the automation that we have at home, IoT, autonomous driving, AI, big data, all of the analytics, ML, etc.