Andrew Schaap is the CEO of Aligned Energy, an infrastructure technology company that offers colocation and build-to-scale solutions to cloud, enterprise, and managed service providers. Their intelligent infrastructure allows them to deliver data centers like a utility—accessible and consumable as needed. By reducing the energy, water and space needed to operate, their data center solutions combined with their patented cooling technology offers businesses a competitive advantage by improving reliability and their bottom-line. Additionally, they are constantly striving to optimise their data center platform to improve sustainability efforts based on customer demand for greater power and water efficiencies. Providing clients with a platform that allows for their preferred deployment design as opposed to traditional methods of having their IT group design into a static environment enables them to onboard a wider variety of customers. Speed of delivery, flexible configurations, corporate sustainability and financial creativity are differentiators that set them apart from traditional platforms.
This month, we caught up with Andrew to delve into his practice, Aligned Energy’s flexible solutions, and his vision for the company’s future.
How has your experience in previous leadership positions at Digital Realty Trust affected your current role?
I started my career in software then moved to hardware and infrastructure in the data center realm, then for the last 18 years, my experience has been in data center development. The strength of that gives me the ability to know what is going on data center facility-wise, gives me the expertise to know what is happening in the industry from an engineer and systems standpoint that successfully fits in a data center, and also know from an application layer what work is being done. Additionally, I have experience working on some of the largest data centers on the planet for some of the most discerning clients both in the enterprise and hyperscale space that really required nimbleness, execution, and transparency of operations. In my previous role for 12 years, managing and closing 40 transactions per quarter, I have been a part of over 2,000 transactions for more than 2,000 customers. Our team at Aligned Energy is made up of the people who have done thousands of projects for some of the most discerning clients on the world.
How would you describe your leadership style? What does it take to be the CEO of Aligned Energy?
I am a believer in the best idea wins, period. I encourage everyone to have a voice and with that voice I am going to let the best idea take precedent, no matter where it comes from in the organisation. I like to leverage the cumulative expertise of the entire team. I have seen and experienced a lot of things, but at the end of the day, wisdom comes from scars. My style is one of Inclusion and transparent communication on where we’re going and why we’re going a certain direction. This industry is fast and when you move fast, the team has to be highly trusted. I want to empower the team to solve any problem without escalating to a manager or leader; if it’s a client-related problem, to make that client a hero. Experience is the key. People remember when you do something that feels like going the extra mile.
What mission or motto does Aligned Energy run by?
Our mission is to empower the team, so they can take care of our contractors, all of our providers, and our clients. We want our processes to be very easy and nimble for our clients to execute with us.
How has technology advanced in the last few years in a way that has impacted Aligned Energy’s work? What developments do you hope for in the future?
Technology is one of the legs of the stool. The three legs of the stool are that we’re in a capital-intensive business and we now have one of the best capital partners in the world in Macquarie Infrastructure Partners. Having access to capital and saying “yes” to clients is key. Secondly is our technology, innovation and research and development department that creates infrastructure that gives us the ability to find creative ways to do deals for our clients. The third leg of the stool is the team… Empowering the team, having the best resources, bringing in the brightest minds and hiring the right people that can replace you. That should be everyone’s job and mission to make sure they are bringing in the highest caliber, most capable people to execute. As for developments in the future, we will continue to invest so that we stay ahead of the technological curve of our clients. We’re bringing on people who are capable of knowing what our clients are trying to do when they are standing up new infrastructure in the US.
What kind of clientele does Aligned Energy cater to? How do you achieve the best service for each individual client?
Because of the innovation and technology we have within our platform, we have the ability to achieve the goals and objectives of a very wide swath of target clients. We can do enterprises, Fortune 2000 companies that require running critical applications and systems, to start ups that are doing really aggressive technology, and all the way to the hyperscale community which is running very sophisticated applications that require 100% uptime and resiliency, and anything in between that broad client base. We can really achieve great solutions for our clients because of the investment we’ve made in our technology.
What is the process behind making critical infrastructure smarter?
We have a lens that thinks about not only what our clients need when they sign a relationship with us, but also what are they going to need when future refresh cycles and future technologies come out and what their business changes require of their data center. We think a lot about how we can make the technology adaptable and adaptive with our clients’ requirements, wants and needs.
What has been Aligned Energy’s greatest achievement in recent years? What milestones has it reached?
We have organised the business to become highly focused and interested in what our clients are doing and being responsive to their needs and objectives. The result of this is that we have had great success with some of the largest clients in the world where we’re building exactly what they need in a just-in-time fashion.
What is the difference between a Colocation and Built-to-Scale solution? What are they suited for and how often are each implemented?
Our customers’ success relies on the ability to ensure 100% uptime and our flexible colocation model is designed to give businesses a distinct competitive advantage. We provide a colocation space equipped to adapt to their demand, while keeping operational up-time, efficiency and reliability top priority. Our patented infrastructure technology improves performance and exceeds client expectations during high-traffic hours. As demand for data fluctuates at various times, our technology accommodates this high-demand quickly without interruption. Additionally, the key benefits to our build-to-scale solutions are lower cost of ownership that eliminates over-provisioning, greater reliability, sustainability, and scale and simplification through a rapidly customised and repeatable dynamic infrastructure. Our experience in the build-to-scale realm allows us to provide complete data center solutions that can scale locally or globally to solve the complex needs of today’s large enterprises and cloud companies.
How do you and those you work with maintain the commitment to reducing the social, economic and environmental impact of the digital era?
Our WUE and water utilisation model is amongst the lowest in the world for our technologies and is exactly what clients are looking for as they’re trying to figure how they reduce their impact on the environment and how they do things in an effective manner. Our data centers offer dynamic infrastructure to support high, mixed, and variable power densities. We utilise patented and award-winning data center cooling technology to remove heat, rather than simply pushing cold air into a data hall. Our factory-built eSYNC absorption units capture and remove heat at its source, resulting in a hyper scalable and ultra-efficient environment that dynamically allows workload densities to scale in place, as opposed to spreading out or requiring a massive investment to augment floors for increasing heat loads. Our mission is to make critical infrastructure smart enough to continuously improve both its economic performance and environmental impact, delivering a noticeable business advantage, while helping to secure the health of the environment. Sustainability helps ensure business continuity by conserving resources. By using a fraction of the space, electricity, and water of traditional data centers, our technology has produced up to 80% less energy and 85% less water. We harness the power of intelligent infrastructure, where technology, methods, and ideas can be a catalyst for that change.
How has the data center market evolved in the last few years and what steps has Aligned Energy taken to adapt to it?
The speed of our client’s requirements is increasing with what they need, how they need it and why they need it, and the amount of data that’s being produced. Data centers are the infrastructure for the next 100 years because everything is turning into data. People are trying to figure out how to use their data more effectively. Everything from data mining, data analytics, AI, AR, creative things that people are trying to roll out that then create efficiencies and availability of IT. We have built a platform through patented technology which gives us the ability to adapt to future requirements within the same physical footprint. A client may have a requirement today, but in the next two to four years that may change, and we have the flexibility to evolve. Data centers are the shipping ports of the future. Shipping ports move containers, we move photons and electrons. We’re the infrastructure of the future.
What advice would you offer to those in the leadership position of a fast-growing company like yours?
In a fast-growing company, there a few things that are really imperative: Trust your team and empower them with a clear vision for the client’s success because their success ultimately turns into your (company’s) success. Everything hinges on the power of people, and a highly capable team that you bring in and empower to perform and execute against a corporate mission that is very clear.
What does the future hold for yourself and Aligned Energy?
Aligned Energy is growing very quickly. The goal is to continue to perform with excellence for our customers, and to put more pins in the map.