Over the past decade, there has been an explosion in demand for cloud-based data services. In one form or another, businesses and consumers from all sectors rely on the availability of data and applications to perform their jobs and to assist with the efficiency of many other tasks. The COVID-19 pandemic has further emphasized the importance of essential services, highlighting how data centers are the foundation of the critical infrastructure and applications that support healthcare, transportation, finance, safety, energy, government, and utilities that are the backbone of our society.
While traditionally data centers are stationary structures and are housed in conventional buildings, the previous decade has seen an increase in data centers that are built using pre-fabricated methods, off-site. As the technologies grow, and the need for faster computation increases, Modular data centers manufacturing is expected to become crucial. One of the leading companies in Modular data center solutions and hyperscale cooling is Edmonton, Alberta headquartered Silent-Aire.
Founded in 1994, Silent-Aire is a technology-driven company that designs, engineers, and manufactures hyperscale cooling and modular data center solutions. The company has experienced fantastic growth in the last 10 years. Today, Silent-Aire has over 2,400 employees worldwide, including 13 facilities across Edmonton, Phoenix, Seattle, Ashburn, and Dublin with over 900,000 sq. ft of manufacturing capacity.
Silent-Aire is one of the most influential companies in the data center technology industry which has grown by building long-term relationships with employees, partners, and most importantly customers. There is no better example of a long-term relationship than the company’s owners, Dan and Lindsey Leckelt. The Leckelt brothers have been working together for as long as they can remember. “Growing up in our parents’ Sheet Metal Contracting business, we had chores that included sweeping the shop, cleaning the office, filing, shovelling the walks in the winter, or whatever jobs they assigned to us all before we were teenagers,” recalled Dan. Fast forward 30 years later, and the Leckelt brothers still work together every day but now as Co-CEOs at Silent-Aire.
Challenging the Status Quo
Dan and Lindsey joined the strategic leadership at Silent-Aire after completing their Engineering degrees at the University of Alberta. In 2000, the business employed just over 20 people and was focused on providing Industrial and Institutional HVAC solutions across Alberta during the energy sector boom. One of the first people they hired out of University was Lindsey’s childhood friend Ryan Vetsch. “We went to grade school and then we enrolled in Engineering at the University of Alberta together. Vetsch has done it all at Silent-Aire and now leads our Global Engineering Department,” stated Lindsey. “When I first started there was not a lot of automation in our manufacturing. We would work all night on projects and when we decided to pursue the data center industry, we had to transition from a small family business to a high growth global engineering and manufacturing team” recalls Vetsch, SVP Engineering.
“If you want to have influence with your customers, you have to be willing to challenge the status quo and push innovations that are aligned with your customers’ long-term goals and objectives,” continued Vetsch. Lindsey agrees, “Part of that is delivering value consistently and without compromise so that when our clients have a new business problem, they will come to us and ask for our input because we have a track record built on trust and accountability.”
Sustainability – The Key
Sustainability and the environment have now more than ever become part of the value system that corporations have adopted and embraced. The 3 P’s of Sustainability, which consists of Planet, People, and Profit, describes the goal of ensuring success by overlapping societal interests and business interests.
Providing environmentally friendly solutions to the data center industry has always been at the core of Silent-Aire’s DNA. “We were pioneers when we first introduced free air cooling into our data center solutions, and when combined with direct evaporative cooling, we have lowered PUEs and energy consumption on a massive scale,” states Lindsey Leckelt. “When you consider that we are deploying over 150 MW of data center cooling every month, improving energy efficiency makes a real tangible impact on the environment,” continued Lindsey. Silent-Aire’s customers have come to rely on their engineering teams in the development of innovative solutions that do not compromise the aggressive delivery schedules and the volumes demanded by Cloud service providers.
“Our people are the foundation of Silent-Aire and we have a responsibility to ensure we focus on safety every day,” states Dan Leckelt. Silent-Aire’s workforce has tripled in the past 24 months and as a result, has transitioned from a traditional hierarchical organization to a distributed team-based model with collaborative decision making. “We have to be nimble and adapt during our growth and part of that is being more inclusive in how we get input and collaborate on key decisions,” Dan elaborated. Empowering employees to collaborate while solving complex problems has resulted in continuous improvements to Silent-Aire’s solutions and operations. “Our leadership team understands the importance of engaging employees at all levels because when the team believes they contributed to solving a problem we can be game-changers,” Dan added.
Eyes on Global Expansion
Silent-Aire’s decision to expand to Europe in 2017 was a direct result of the demand for the company’s solutions in new regions. While the highest concentration of cloud service infrastructure deployments is in the Americas, the EMEA and APAC regions are expected to evolve at the same pace or faster in the next few years. Silent-Aire’s Chief Operating Officer Brendan Kenny explains, “When we wanted to expand our influence with our customers, we decided that investing in Europe and expanding our reach into new regions was a key part of that strategy.”
As part of the expansion, Silent-Aire acquired RMI Engineering, a company based out of Dublin, Ireland which had developed an excellent reputation for providing HVAC solutions in the data center, semi-conductor and pharmaceutical sectors in Europe. Silent-Aire’s Europe operations have experienced aggressive growth and has over 300 employees in three manufacturing facilities.
“Having a global engineering team that collaborates daily has allowed us to bring forward even more innovation to our customers. The experience in clean-room technology from Europe transferring to North America, and the same applies to the modular data centers that we have been building in North America: they are now being built in Europe,” explained Kenny. The ability to transfer technology and best practices across facilities in the USA, Canada, and Ireland has enabled Silent-Aire to expand its influence with existing and new customers in more countries.
A core value of Silent-Aire is “Focus” and this is very evident when you look at the breadth and depth of solutions that they deliver to the hyperscale industry. “We are not trying to provide solutions to every business in the data center industry. We are laser-focused on our key customers that are dominating the cloud services industry,” reflected Lindsey Leckelt.
As people have moved between companies in the data industry, so has Silent-Aire’s reach and reputation as a “go-to” provider for innovative solutions. Lindsey explains, “Many of the new opportunities we are pursuing are a result of referrals from leaders that we have worked with in the past. Having delivered the volume of data center cooling and modular data center solutions across the major geographic cloud regions has resulted in more and more people becoming familiar with Silent-Aire; sometimes that influence results in referrals, so it is imperative that we remain customer-centric and maintain our reputation as a reliable provider regardless of the challenges we face.”
“We strive to be game-changers and provide solutions that will continue to be of the highest value to our customers. We know that it is a challenge to be a compelling force in our industry, but we know if we stay true to our core values and focus on our customers that we will continue to expand the influence of Silent-Aire into new markets. We are committed to the long-term sustainability and growth of our customers and the Silent-Aire family will continue to grow and expand to ensure that,” says Dan Leckelt. All indications from Silent-Aire’s leadership point towards their influence continuing to grow and expand in one of the most important sectors of our economy.
A Shared Leadership
Lindsey Leckelt, Owner/Co-CEO
Lindsey’s responsibility as an innovation leader, include overseeing of Engineering, Product Development, Sales and Services. Lindsey has been instrumental in promoting aggressive design and prototyping initiatives with the engineering design team to establish a highly technical and diverse product offering at Silent-Aire. Lindsey is a professional engineer graduated from the University of Alberta with a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering.
Dan Leckelt, Owner/Co-CEO
Dan responsibility as a strategy leader of Silent-Aire, include overseeing of Finance, Manufacturing, Production and HR. Dan provides business growth initiatives and scaling strategies that have greatly influenced the aggressive evolution of Silent-Aire. Dan has a Mathematics degree from Concordia, B.Sc. in Civil Engineering from the University of Alberta, and an MBA from Athabasca University.
“Providing environmentally friendly solutions to the data center industry has always been at the core of Silent-Aire’s DNA.”