Conversations this week and last with Dave Schirmacher of Digital Realty Trust, Chris Crosby of Compass Datacenters, and Terry Rennaker of Skanska, among others, have convinced me of two things.

One, perhaps I don’t need to travel so much because the telephone is still a viable communications effort.

And two, the pace of innovation in the data center space is getting faster. Let’s start with Chris Crosby, who this week officially announced plans relating to his new company, Compass Datacenters and its modular data center product. It was no secret that Crosby was not planning on staying sidelined after leaving Digital Realty, although he says that initially he had no plans to get back into the space.

Still, he did, gradually re-emerging at a few tradeshows and holding meetings to build a partner network at which he says he listened. “I have a few scars on my back, and with those experiences behind me, I listened.” By listening, Chris found markets that he believes are underserved. His new company will focus on serving these markets using an innovative module approach, which Compass had dubbed Truly Modular. You can find whitepapers on our website that describe the approach in greater detail.

Ironically, I spoke to Dave Schirmacher a few hours after speaking to Crosby. Dave is now the head operations guy at Digital Realty Trust, which is where Crosby worked until recently. It’s been some while since I thought of Digital as a really innovative place. Large yes. Efficient yes. Wildly successful yes, but not innovative, perhaps because of its size. But Schirmacher convinced me otherwise.

In fact, Schirmacher says that Digital Realty’s size and scale make it the ideal laboratory for a company seeking to improve its operations, and he will be making it his mission to do just that.

“I come to an organization that has an impressive amount of process for a new company, which makes sense, given their success. Goldman Sachs has some bug data centers but not lots and lots of them. Not enough a big enough pool to see variance.” Schirmacher says he was seeking a position that would allow him to make his imprint, and Digital’s size and scale offered him just that opportunity. “Digital has such a massive portfolio that I can demonstrate data performance that no one else can duplicate.”

My conversation with Terry Rennaker was also very interesting. Skanska’s data center customers want lower cost, reduce risk, and agility, just like business customers in every industry “Our industry hasn’t done that very well,” he said. According to Rennaker, Skanska unique position in the market has enabled it to collapse the supply chain, allowing the company to help to develop data centers that meet their customer’s needs, at a much lower cost and delivered more quickly. “Everything we put on market responds to client needs.”

Rennaker describes Skanska as the only company “who goes all the way through energy” in developing data centers, contrasting its control of the data centers with REITs, retailers, and other technology companies.

Rennaker suggested that Skanska’s eHive and eComb modular products typify the company’s approach. The eHive is a modular data center released as part of the RFP process for EBay’s Project Mercury facility, and Rennaker describes the eComb as a somewhat larger and more traditional module.

You can learn more about Terry Rennaker and Skanska in Andy Lane’s most recent Talent Matters column:  Case Study—Skanska’s Innovative Vision Required Special Talent to Deliver. You can also learn more directly from Terry in a bylined article he is writing for our upcoming issue.