We recently completed our national buyer behavior study with our friends at Campos Research. Our goal was to gain some insight into the buying processes used by data center customers when they are adding a new data center and selecting a provider. While I was combing through the final report, one finding jumped out at me. 97% of the respondents said that they would like to locate their next data center within 30 miles of their headquarters or another major corporate location. How can this be I wondered, since the vast majority of data centers are located in just six or seven metro areas? Doesn’t everyone want to lease space in a facility big enough to host a Final Four? But then it occurred to me. Isn’t closer really better? Except in cases like ex-wives or nuclear waste dumps—you’ve got to put that stuff somewhere—don’t we really prefer to have things close to us?
Think about it. Unless you feel the best way to learn a language is via CD on your hour and half commute (both ways), wouldn’t you really want to live closer to the office? When you bought your house, was one of the major criteria that it be as far away as possible from your kid’s school? Despite your misgivings, wouldn’t the Mrs. prefer to live close to the mall? And how many times have you chosen to go that restaurant that you only kind of like instead of the steakhouse you love because it’s closer?
Let’s face it, proximity is integral to our day to day lives. It constitutes an important element of our everyday lexicon for example. I’ve yet to hear anyone describe a destination as “a few miles away” from some landmark, but when you stop at that gas station for directions—and you know you do—doesn’t the friendly guy behind the counter usually tell you that point B is “close to” some recognizable structure? Don’t we always say that something is “in walking distance” or a “stone’s throw” rather than “not even on the map”? Doesn’t it really boil down to—and I paraphrase Frankenstein here—“Close good, far bad”.
Even our relationships are controlled to a large degree by our desire for closeness. Back in the horse and buggy days most folks married the “boy/girl next door”. When you’re living in an era where you might only see someone of the opposite sex once a month at some hoedown, you tend to take what you can get. But even now, with modern transportation, geographic proximity adds allure. I mean isn’t being in a “long distance relationship” really just code for being on the fast track to Splitsville? Sure they say that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, but I think a number of us can attest to the accuracy of its antithesis, “I’ve met somebody else”. It seems that in most relationships there is a positive correlation between the distance between you and your paramour and its duration. Maybe the farther we have to travel just gives us too much time to contemplate relationship questions like, “Couldn’t I find somebody whose parents hate me closer to where I live?”
Since there is still no such thing as a lights out enterprise facility you should probably leave things like cornfields to the Googles of the world. There is a reason you have to pay your chief engineer $300k a year when you locate your new facility out in the boondocks. No one wants to live there. When you really think about it, why would anyone want a data center located more than 30 miles away? Isn’t this really contrary to our very nature? Locating your mission critical computing applications in a mega facility, miles away from you, is the data center version of the long distance relationship—and I think we all know how those end up. So for many of you it’s time to embrace the new alternatives open to you and tell your current provider that you’ve “met somebody else”. Trust me, it feels better the other way around.