Jim Smith is a founding member of iMasons Advisory Council. As the Managing Director of Hyperscale at Equinix, Jim is responsible for all aspects of the Hyperscale business at Equinix. Previously, Jim served in various leadership roles at Digital Realty including CTO with responsibilities spanning the Portfolio Operations Group, which includes global property operations, technical operations, customer service, security and data center services functions.
Did you choose this industry, or did it choose you?
The industry chose me. It was around early 1996 when I made my foray into carrier hotels, while I was pursuing a PhD in chemistry at Oregon State University. This was the era of Netscape IPO and the time when I started my company ATMnet along with the support of my friends. We successfully built Internet backbones and developed a low-cost service to deliver the Internet to customers. The regulatory environment and the technology weren’t particularly conducive to attempting something like this back then, it was expensive to take Internet to the customers due to the high tariff rates. So, we brought computers and systems into our network nodes. We were in the process of not just beating exorbitant Internet tariffs, but also establishing what we call “colocation” today. I ventured into networking and Ethernet and advanced LAN technologies further accelerated this concept, and that is how I got involved in colocation and data center business.
Why did you get involved with iMasons?
After moving on from Digital Realty, I was on garden leave and was consulting with various companies in Asia. That was when Dean [Nelson] conceived the idea to create an autonomous neutral entity that would be built around the digital age and unite its trailblazers. He called me and presumed that I would be available to collaborate with him and I was! It was a classic case of being at the “right place”, at the “right time”. Dean had a brilliant foresight. Firstly, he wanted the organization to be centered around ‘people’ and not ‘companies’. We had worked together on industry associations such as Green Grid and others, where we noticed that if large companies like Dell, IBM, EDS or HP dropped out, important voices from these companies would not be heard. The second underpinning was to create a broader mission. Since individuals were at the epicentre of iMasons, the focus would not be on corporate goals but on people goals. We could say that we support women and other types of diversity, while also addressing several other sustainability issues. And this is how I got involved.