February 17, 2014
For those of you who are fans of the fossil record you know that the Cambrian Explosion is that time during the evolution of the Earth when multitudes of species suddenly—or as suddenly as you can over a period of 80 million years—appeared. Life before that time was pretty much limited to your average single cell organism and the next thing you know there is something new popping up all over the place. Although it wasn’t quite as dramatic as going from an amoeba one day to a dog or a cat, trust me when I say a lot of stuff was going on at the time. The problem for scientists in studying this period is keeping up with, and categorizing, each new entry into the era’s fossil record. Isn’t this kind of analogous to the current state of the data center business? The rapidity of change makes it difficult for the average end user to keep up since most are only looking to add a new data center every five (5) years or so. In a sense their problem is a lot like the scientists’ in analyzing our evolutionary history, how do you keep track of all you need to know during the data center version of the Cambrian Explosion to ensure your decisions aren’t made based on obsolete data?
Like the archeologists who are continually struggling to codify the emerging species of the Cambrian era, today’s industry analysts are constantly trying to classify the changes in our industry. Obviously, some have decided to admit defeat and adopted a strategy of cramming every new innovation into their own pre-defined categories. While some may view this as understandable, isn’t this really like the old Saturday Night Live sketch about a product that was both a floor wax and a dessert topping? Thus, the potential data center consumer would be well served to look at analyst opinions with a discerning eye. In the world of data centers, floor wax and dessert toppings are two separate entities.
Some companies choose to rely on the own internal expertise. For many of them this is an excellent strategy as there are always some folks who follow industry innovations closer than my wife does celebrities in US magazine, but are you willing to make a multi-million dollar decision because, “Bob knows all about that stuff?” I was talking with a company the other day that was absolutely positive that vendor X did not offer a certain product since the last time they checked (a year ago), it wasn’t part of their repertoire. They were more than a little embarrassed when a quick tour of X’s website demonstrated that they did indeed offer just such a product. Oh, and did I mention that they were contemplating offering just such a product themselves?
Certainly websites that are focused on the industry like Data Center Knowledge or DatacenterDynamics do a good job of keeping track with who is doing what, with who and where, but if your not a regular reader its easy to miss a little thing that is going to quickly become a big thing. This is not anything to beat yourself up over because it’s easy to get lulled into a semi-comatose state after reading another article about the Cloud and completely skip over the one about advances in fuel cell technology. As the student of the Cambrian Explosion might say, “When you’ve seen one Trilobite, you’ve seen them all, except for the guy who got the grant I wanted because his Trilobite was really a different type of arthropod”. I guess all you can do is be a regular reader and always keep your eyes peeled for the arthropod–I mean innovation– that will have an impact on your data center plans and operations.
So what is the best strategy for making educated decisions in this time of industry innovation proliferation? First, enjoy it. The Cambrian Explosion spawned the beginnings of the diversity of species that we enjoy today, and the same could be said of this current period of the data center industry as the regular appearance of new products and services offers opportunity for everyone. Do your homework. What was true six (6) months ago is likely not the case today. Ask around. After our launch in 2012, we had an analyst firm tell us they were too busy to do a product briefing. This firm claims to its customers to be on the leading edge of knowing all options on the space. So forgive their clients if they feel a little cognitive dissonance. As a result, my advice for anyone making a big data center decision would be to cross reference your sources of information, rub your lucky Trilobite and don’t put so much faith in Bob.