Evolution Data Centres : Sustainable Growth in Emerging Markets

Kyle LivingstoneJack Salter
Kyle Livingstone - Project Manager Jack Salter - Head of Editorial
Highlights
  • Evolution Data Centres was founded with the sole purpose of developing and operating large-scale sustainable data centres in markets where renewable energy is available.
  • “We don’t take the easy road; we take the hard road because we believe that leads us to the right outcomes for our customers and investors,” says Darren Webb, CEO, Evolution Data Centres.
  • Evolution Data Centres is dedicated to delivering scalable, sustainable, and cost-effective infrastructure in regions with explosive digital growth by directly addressing the needs of hyperscale and wholesale clients in developing markets.

Founded with the sole purpose of developing and operating large-scale sustainable data centres, Darren Webb, CEO of Evolution Data Centres, tells us about the company’s success in building, owning, and operating hyperscale infrastructure to enable digital economies in emerging Southeast Asian markets.

SUSTAINABLE GROWTH IN EMERGING MARKETS

Technology today is the thing that keeps us together. The COVID-19 pandemic was ultimately the biggest test of communications, and indeed of disaster recovery, that the world had ever seen; it proved that technology connects us even through the hardest of times.” 

As evidenced by the opening words of Darren Webb, CEO of Evolution Data Centres (Evolution), there is no denying the increasing reliance that companies and individuals alike have on technology and communications and its instant availability. 

At the heart of this constant flow of information, data centres are where applications run and the data is stored for almost all our digital interactions, from social media to e-commerce and critical business IT. 

In recent years, data centre growth has been extraordinary. Public cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) are driving data centre development to new heights in terms of size and power consumption.   

This growth has put data centres in the environmental spotlight, and this is where Evolution comes in, as the company was founded with the sole purpose of developing and operating large-scale sustainable data centres in markets where renewable energy is available.  

With deep experience within Southeast Asia, the company develops data centres in challenging locations more efficiently than traditional operators. 

“We only operate in underserved markets with high growth opportunities, rather than the traditional Tier 1 markets like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo; we aim to develop the markets of tomorrow where there’s both a growing need for digital transformation and also a big population that shows an underlying demand for content,” says Webb. 

Evolution delivers high-performance colocation or built-to-suit data centres designed for hyperscale and with an acute focus on environmental impact and sustainability.  

“Sustainability is an iterative process and we believe that it’s a journey. As an example, we want to buy 100 percent renewable energy in every market we operate in, both because it is the right thing to do for the future and because we aim to build data centres that are as sustainable as possible. However, it is not straightforward to just buy and use 100 percent renewable energy; it takes a lot of hard work and persistence,” he notes.

A DIFFERENT APPROACH

Evolution is designed from the ground up to be a disruptive data centre developer. The company is dedicated to delivering scalable, sustainable, and cost-effective infrastructure in regions with explosive digital growth by directly addressing the needs of hyperscale and wholesale clients in developing markets. 

Founded in 2021 by a team that boasts over three decades of experience in the Asian data centre sector, Evolution’s management has a proven track record of developing, capitalising, and operating large-scale colocation facilities. 

Webb co-founded the company because he recognised that data centres are fundamental to the growth of the digital economy in Southeast Asia and he believes that this growth can be achieved with a minimal impact on the environment through sustainable construction, operation, and the use of 100 percent renewable power. 

“The data centre industry has been through a very exciting period for the last five years or so, but it also brings a number of challenges,” he says. 

“From a geographical point of view, Southeast Asia is particularly interesting because there is a larger variety of unique markets that are not overseen by a single regulatory position, as opposed to the European Union (EU), for example. Each market presents a different challenge, specifically from a regulatory perspective; that’s why we are focused on a few select markets, because it’s hard to do and it also presents a significant opportunity, one which I believe we can capitalise on,” continues Webb. 

The company’s ability to focus on a smaller number of emerging markets, understand their commonalities, and secure amazing local joint venture partners are just some of the ways in which it differentiates itself from the competition.  

Evolution is clearly a company that knows what it wants to achieve. When discussing differentiation, Webb says there are three things that set Evolution apart from the competition: focus, focus, and focus.  

“Focus on Southeast Asian markets, focus on sustainability, and focus on always being in the first wave,” he elaborates. 

“In an emerging market, doing something for the first time can be difficult, but it also represents the best opportunity for investors. Waiting for the second wave doesn’t give a good return profile.”

“We don’t take the easy road; we take the hard road because we believe that leads us to the right outcomes for our customers and investors”

Darren Webb, CEO, Evolution Data Centres

A PURPOSE-DRIVEN CULTURE

Sustainability is fundamental to Evolution and is at the heart of everything it does as a business. The company is steadfast in its belief that data centres are essential for regional economic development, however, operators must actively and materially seek new ways in which to reduce their overall environmental impact. 

“It’s a question of having to keep challenging the norm. We’re constantly looking for partnerships with renewable energy companies and ways to advance our own eco-friendly initiatives,” expands Webb. 

Some of the challenges are not easy to overcome because they require regulatory change, such as access to sustainable power. 

“In all of our focus markets, they have organic renewable energy at scale, but in many, for regulatory reasons, you can’t access it directly,” Webb cites. 

“In Thailand, we’ve joined the Data Centre Council to jointly help influence government policy to allow data centre operators to be ‘offtakers’ and contract directly with companies generating sustainable power. We know this won’t happen quickly, but we also believe it’s fundamentally important. It not only gives us a roadmap to securing greener power, but also puts pressure on the traditional national grids to decarbonise as they see new money looking for greener power and a move away from coal. 

“Doing the right thing often means taking the hard road. This is fundamental to our company culture,” he continues. 

For example, Evolution has just announced a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to secure future access to a considerable amount of green power in both Thailand and Vietnam, as well as being in the advanced stages of negotiating a power purchase agreement (PPA) in the Philippines to secure clean energy. 

There are many ways data centres can reduce environmental impact, from construction to water usage, but Webb stresses that the dominant factor is energy. 

“Our research shows that if you want to decarbonise, you must have renewable energy,” he emphasises.  

“It can reduce your carbon footprint by as much as 60 to 70 percent, and that’s why we focus on securing green energy for all our projects.” 

Evolution is also looking to partner with local universities to sponsor new training programmes, thus ensuring that there is an educated and passionate future generation of engineers entering the industry with fresh, innovative ideas.   

These sustainability initiatives also extend to the selection of locations where new data centres are to be constructed. 

“If I go to a site and see it’s a virgin forest, I walk away because I don’t see how it is possible for me to later talk credibly to a customer about sustainability credentials having knocked down a woodland to build it,” states Webb.

EVOLUTION PEOPLE

The purpose-driven culture at Evolution fuels the company’s determination to achieve its vision for the future. A unique ethos of challenging the norm and building something truly groundbreaking allows for the attraction of exceptional talent, ensuring the Evolution team is the best in the industry. 

“We look for people that are prepared to take risks and excited to be part of the journey. One of our fundamental principles is that we want everyone to be drivers, meaning that we want people to take accountability and responsibility in driving excellent outcomes,” says Webb. 

“We want people who really care and share our vision of trying to be a greener data centre operator.” 

With the worldwide demand and hunger for more data, the industry is being continually challenged to work at the leading edge of technology, and Evolution is forging ahead in this journey to the future. 

“Whether it’s Evolution or other operators, there’s clearly going to be opportunity for more digital transformation. It’s a fascinating time in our industry and one of continued growth. We feel like we’re at the start of an evolution of data centres in Southeast Asia,” excites Webb.

RENEWABLE ENERGY

Renewable energy has become a mandatory requirement for all data centre operators and most of them state they have renewable power, but this is often achieved through the use of carbon credits which are becoming increasingly discredited for not being as effective as they claim to be. 

“Carbon credits have gotten out of hand with some operators in terms of how they are showing their green credentials. We have secured an MoU for 100 megawatts (MW) of green power across two emerging markets, and we will combine that with a PPA in another market. That shows what is possible if you don’t take the easy option,” Webb states. 

Cogeneration is another key initiative in the data centre industry, whereby operators partner with energy companies to increase the amount of new sustainable energy generated.  

As new additive generation is built, the data centre gets first right of refusal or discounted rates. Amazon and Google have announced a number of cogeneration projects this year.   

“The reality is data centres will always be the biggest offtakers for renewable energy companies. For us, having partners who are generators in their own right is a strong position in order to futureproof our power requirements,” concludes Webb.

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By Kyle Livingstone Project Manager
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Kyle Livingstone is Project Manager for Outlook Publishing. Kyle is responsible for showcasing corporate stories in our digital B2B magazines and Digital Platforms, and sourcing collaborations with Business Leaders, Brands, and C-suite Executives to feature in future editions. Kyle is actively seeking opportunities to collaborate. Reach out to Kyle to discover how you and your business could be our next cover story.