Larry Lam was standing in the vast, dark location of his future data center. All traces of what was there before had been gutted and removed, leaving Lam in its emptiness as he painted his vision.
“This used to be a call center for Aetna, but it also happens to be perfect for 500 cabinets of data centers,” he said. “We're going to take the ceiling down, raise the floor 3 feet high. The floor is going to have moving air in it that is pushed through perforated tiles, cooling off the data center.”
In 2012, Lam began to repurpose the 500,000-square-foot office complex in Cranbury into a new technology campus filled with modern co-working spaces. His mission is to bring technology developers and the businesses that rely on that technology together to operate and grow.
“Co-working, we're imagining, will fill up the building,” Lam said. “Around 80 percent of the building we want to be filled with this new working environment, which is great for incubators, investors, startup companies — and it's also good for creating jobs.”
For Lam, these open space co-working centers are the future of technology innovation. Already, there are some 75 people in the mostly unoccupied space that could house 1,500 to 2,000, and he notes the company is already seeing interest without any preliminary marketing push.
Lam has had these visions before. In 2004, he was a commercial architect with 20 years of experience when he noticed a growing conflict between emerging technologies and an increasingly outdated business infrastructure.
This realization led him to found Lam Cloud, a company specializing in workplace and disaster recovery, data center solutions and collocation. With the opening of Lam Cloud's Technology Campus in Cranbury, Lam looks to add “community organization” to that list.
“Back then, and still today, if you were a corporation that needed new data center space because your existing space was getting old or you'd outgrown it, you would call your real estate broker for additional data center space,” he said. “It just seemed weird to me that you'd call a real estate broker for a technology need.”
When it comes to the more relaxed atmosphere of these co-working spaces, the benefits seem obvious to Mario Casabona, the founder and CEO of TechLaunch, a technology accelerator that provides seed funding, mentors and other resources to entrepreneurs.
“Collaboration,” Casabona said. “In TechLaunch, we have a co-working space for 16 weeks. What happens is one company has an issue and then another company hears about it and provides their two cents. So there's a sense of camaraderie; it's building a community.”
Along with co-working spaces, the campus also has more conventional office space on its fourth and fifth floors as part of Lam Cloud's workplace recovery program. These offices provide a temporary space on a first-come, first-served basis for companies who are under contract with Lam Cloud and lose their regular work space due to unforeseeable circumstances, such as a fire or hurricane.
J.P. Terry, CEO of SmartDoc Technologies, had been working out of a space in Woodbridge for eight years when the building was damaged by a major fire in January.
“From a technical standpoint, we literally could move right in,” Terry said in his office on the building's fifth floor. “Our servers are downstairs, so that's all our mission-critical stuff. All we had to do was move in our laptops and IP phones.”
Even with the convenience, the biggest benefit for Terry is the community Lam is cultivating at the campus.
“Even though we're a technology company, we're really programmers, and programmers are not network people,” Terry said. “So having access to network people is a huge advantage. ... The expertise is right here.”
Looking further to the future, Lam hopes to foster a symbiotic relationship between that community and his own resources. To Lam, doing so is necessary to keep in touch with a climate of innovation that is advancing exponentially.
“We run the risk of outdating ourselves,” Lam said. “The technology that J.P. was praising — that's going to be outdated really quickly. That's why we have to have this culture of constant review.”
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