DATA CASTLE: Growing into a leading green data centre brand

DATA CASTLE: Growing into a leading green data centre brand

DATA CASTLE shares how it is growing its data centre operations with sustainability and the rapidly-evolving needs of customers in the dawn of AI at heart

As a joint venture between specialist colocation and hyperscale developer DCD Data Center Developers and Angelo Gordon (TPG), a global investment company from the US, DATA CASTLE was co-founded in 2022 by Dr Christopher Stief. In the year since, it has seen tremendous growth much like the industry around it.

Since its inception, DATA CASTLE has established itself as a leading developer of green data centre operations in Germany, and envisions seeing that sentiment through as it continues to expand. As Dr Stief, who is also DATA CASTLE’s CEO, attests, the company takes ESG incredibly seriously and is a frontrunner when it comes to reusing its waste heat.

Meaningful data centre sustainability solutions

“If you look at ESG in our industry, there's a lot of greenwashing,” Dr Stief highlights. “I think where we really make a difference is when it comes to waste heat utilisation. It’s about being honest with each other.”

Whether it be adding a host of green technologies to the roof of a facility or adorning data centres with green façades, Dr Stief advocates that although these are elements that are nice to have, they have to be impactful and make a difference rather than being part of a tick box exercise.

He adds: “Waste heat utilisation is a game changer in our industry and — from an investment point of view — that's why we differentiate with a significant USP from other asset classes like logistics or hotels. All our data centres come with an innovative waste heat utilisation concept and we are going to develop them further.

“This is something which really has an impact and benefits  the environment, and also for the people who live nearby. I'm very proud of this because it makes a difference.”

The sheer importance of this to DATA CASTLE is echoed by its Head of Construction Pascal Ubrig. Tasked with cultivating an unmistakable green data centre DNA and a unique signature for data centre design, he works to ensure DATA CASTLE makes a profound commitment to sustainability and performance on the market.

It’s clear to Ubrig that DATA CASTLE’s sole mission is not just wanting to start reducing carbon emissions when operating its facilities, but doing it. For DATA CASTLE, its green data centre DNA starts with site selection, design and construction. 

“The first priority is to reduce energy requirements and develop material strategies that reduce carbon emissions over the entire life cycle,” he details. “Sustainable construction not only means using innovative and recyclable building materials, such as recyclable concrete, but also avoiding high transport costs by consciously opting for regional components, building materials and construction companies.

“In addition to building our data centres to be highly available in accordance with the EN50600 and Uptime TIER certifications, DATA CASTLE’s facilities are certified in accordance with LEED and DGNB sustainability standards.

“Our planned data centres will be operated with 100% green electricity or electricity from renewable energies from the local electricity supplier. This will help to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the long term and achieve CO₂ neutrality,” Ubrig continues, adding that he would like to see a future where the business invests independently in renewable energy generation.

“PV systems are planned for high-yield façade and roof areas. Many areas of the new buildings will be greened, which will make the operation of surrounding PV systems more efficient as the ambient temperature heats up less than with other building constructions.”

Its data centres’ green roofs and green façades will have a positive effect on the microclimate thanks to their shaded nature, in addition to the plants aiding with the evaporation of water. The feature also works as a heat shield in summer and insulation in winter, providing protection against UV rays, hail, strong temperature fluctuations, pollutants and dirt, as well as acting as sound insulation.

DATA CASTLE’s success in this area is one of the things that makes Dr Stief and Ubrig most proud. This sentiment is echoed by DATA CASTLE’s newly-appointed Chief Sales Officer Jörgen Venot. A Frenchman with Swedish heritage, he has a self-professed international background which he now brings to DATA CASTLE and the wider data centre industry as it goes through the motions associated with hypergrowth and prepares for what Venot calls “the new tech tsunami.”

“Being able to align business and my roots is a super achievement,” he says proudly. “What I very quickly noticed in the team at DATA CASTLE is that we are a mix. We are still a small team in startup mode so every month you have new people coming on board, but we are made up of industry veterans — even if some of the veterans are younger — and highly motivated people who are there to make a difference.”

The benefits that come from said mix, Venot declares, are astronomical. When it comes to sustainability, the combination of industry experience with bright and forward-thinking minds allows DATA CASTLE to grow from the ground up with green initiatives at its core.

Sustainability underpins DATA CASTLE’s operations 

“There is a lot of greenwashing,” Venot emphasises. “But being half Swedish, where people are born with a sustainability focus because of nature and green power, which makes a nice climate for data centres.” For this reason, Venot is proud to be part of a wider team working towards a greener future for the data centre industry. 

DATA CASTLE is a green data centre platform that builds and operates in Germany. A colocation provider that approaches multi-tenant customers, DATA CASTLE’s client base consists of enterprise customers, public customers and hyperscale tenants. DATA CASTLE currently has two data centres being developed in Frankfurt and Berlin, with a goal to build and operate more highly efficient data centres across the country and beyond.

Dr Stief says: “Being green is definitely in our DNA and is one of the central aspects of our strategy. We always say ‘make tech human’ again. We really mean it, and want to make sure that all our actions are done by people who have done it before, who have experience with it and who think about the implications on employees and the customer.

“Our employees are very, very important to us. You can feel when you look at what we have done so far that it has been done by people who enjoy what they do. We really try to put the person, the employee, in the middle of our actions next to the customer because we really believe that this will have the best impact for the customer.”

Ubrig adds: “The best of the data centre industry come together in our company. Every department in our company is highly motivated to create something new. Due to the amount of experience in our team, combined with the motivation to create something new, we offer an attractive basis for new employees and potential customers.”

DATA CASTLE sees exponential growth as industry around it booms

Despite only being operational since mid-2022, DATA CASTLE has come on leaps and bounds. In that time, it has grown its workforce and has distinct functions, including the likes of sales & marketing and construction. This has helped keep its snowballing workforce laser-focused on the task at hand and contributed to the company being quick off the mark in its growth journey.

Christopher Stumm, DATA CASTLE’s Project Director, highlights how as a young organisation with no legacy, DATA CASTLE has the advantage of developing and building state-of-the-art data centres with the most innovative and efficient technologies.

“For future technologies that we believe in, we are keen to establish an island space which will be separated from live data centre environments and will allow us to collaborate with partners looking to try promising data centre technologies and topologies,” he envisions. 

“Such an environment may help us lift disruptive solutions into production. As it is part of our DNA, we provide transparency with ongoing engagements and results so that we can not only collect valuable feedback from our customers but also share best practices with other data centre operators, encouraging everybody to make the industry more sustainable.”

Dirk Pohl, DATA CASTLE’s COO, further solidifies how DATA CASTLE has developed enormously as it continues to establish itself. “We have pooled a lot of expertise by recruiting very experienced people from the data centre world,” he states. 

“This has enabled us to strengthen our sales, construction and operations departments. We are well equipped for the tasks ahead, although we will certainly be recruiting more colleagues in the near future. We are holding very specific discussions with potential customers due to our increased efforts in the areas of sales and marketing.”

Taking the momentum of this upward trajectory forward with them, the DATA CASTLE team is working tirelessly to ensure this positive work ethic and wider industry impact can help it become the leading green data centre platform in Germany. 

“Sustainable data centres are a really big trend, the green aspect is super important,” Venot explains. “We are very clear and transparent and that’s how we build trust with customers, our colleagues and when we talk with the media. 

“We are people who care about what we say, and when we say something we mean it.”

This is echoed by Dr Stief: “You can really feel that we are a start-up. We are a company that has a lean structure, but this is a strength for us because everybody's super motivated. We have people who understand the business, who are super experienced and who make their own decisions very quickly. Combining this with having a large investor makes for a nice mix.” 

AI: Both propelling and pressurising the data centre industry

With sustainability undoubtedly a core part of DATA CASTLE, the team works tirelessly to ensure it stays true to its values while also meeting the needs of its client base. 

The demands of AI are putting massive pressure on data centres while equally propelling the growth of the industry. With this in mind, DATA CASTLE, as it grows, keeps its finger on the pulse when it comes to emerging technologies to ensure it puts its best foot forward while staying true to its green roots. 

“It’s a super challenge of course,” Venot expresses, “and there are multiple factors. With our strategy to be sustainable, we have a heat recovery programme for all the projects we are putting on the market and, at the same time, it's becoming legislation.

“So we are navigating in a business that is not completely legislated, but it's that way because the business is going much faster than decision-makers. We put a lot of resources into sustainability to ensure we are doing it for today and for the long term.” 

Importance of industry partnerships

One thing the team at DATA CASTLE is keen to stress is that their success, and that of the wider industry, cannot be attained alone. 

“It's a global industry but it's also a small world,” Venot jokes. “That's one of the positives. You build your network inside a business and you know that you can rely on the people and that's how you make the magic happen. You learn a lot. It's never fixed, it's always moving. 

“Today we are working in Germany, but customers might come from the Nordics, US or Asia. You always have a local project, but it's a global industry. Even if you talk with hyperscalers, in the end, you always need local people that know everything about local rules, regulations and how to tackle business.” 

And when selecting who DATA CASTLE works with to bring these green facilities to life for its customers, the team is extremely conscious when choosing the likes of planners and contractors from outside the business to ensure that its green data centre DNA philosophy is understood and respected. 

Stumm says, especially when it comes to working with those who have a similar ESG mindset, collaboration feels more like a true partnership.

“These collaborations jointly establish the most sustainable solutions which ultimately benefit both our customers and DATA CASTLE — and frankly speaking, makes our work lots of fun,” he shares.

“When it comes to AI, we are well aware of the workloads which are known to be very power-hungry. However, this does not prevent us from searching for and utilising innovative data centre designs and technologies that support customers, and us, running AI workloads and infrastructures as efficiently as possible.”

This is but another way DATA CASTLE sees its business growing — by making the most of the wider industry to inform and help curate its next steps. 

Looking back, Dr Stief adds: “Our growth journey has been very, very fast already. Eighteen months from now, we will be in a very mature status of the construction of the data centres. We will have already leased the data centres to our customers and are in negotiations and have new projects in the pipeline, so we will see DATA CASTLE expand to other locations, but also within Frankfurt and Berlin.”

This is no mean feat, as the team, especially Pohl, emphasises. Looking ahead, Pohl sees challenges looming on the horizon, which he intends to tackle head-on.

“The power densities in data centres will continue to increase, thanks in part to current trends such as AI. As we expand, we will also have to address issues such as environmental protection, sustainability, stricter legal requirements and power shortages at some locations. Price increases in the construction and operation of data centres are also current and future challenges that all data centre operators will have to face.”

Laser focused on seeing existing projects maturing and growing its team to keep up with this outlook, Dr Stief is also excited by how DATA CASTLE’s technology will improve as a result. 

“We can always improve,” he says, acknowledging that there is no room to stand still. And DATA CASTLE’s growth may not be limited to just operating in Germany. “Germany will probably not be the end of our journey,” he says coyly, not giving too many future plans away.

“We are very aware that we need to do everything step by step because we want to do this properly, therefore we’re starting solely with Germany. The next step, the one which makes the most sense, is expanding to German-speaking countries.

“The rest of the team is very hungry and we want to do more.”

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