Data center business models seem to be evolving nowadays. This evolution can be quite a tricky thing as scientists now view the evolutionary model as more of a shrub than a tree. What this means from a practical perspective is that you are as likely to evolve yourself right out of existence as you are to taking your place as the next link in the chain.
I was just reading today how DRT announced their “Turnkey Flex” solution which now enables customers to select from a menu, delivered in gloved hands no doubt, the components they would like to be used in the design and construction of their data centers. Besides being a nice way to package what they’ve been doing all along, Digital joins the ranks of Burger King in allowing their customers to “have it their way”.
But do customers really want to have it their way? When asked, they’ll swear that they do in the same way that they profess their love for Public Television while watching a re-run of NCIS. For our market (1-4MW mission critical with uncertainty regarding their future growth) we found that customers all shared a common set of requirements. They wanted a complete data center product that worked for their application in their geography.
As my friend Mark Monroe has pointed out, in many ways this current situation is analogous to the car industry of the mid-1970’s. In 1976, Oldsmobile came out with what was to be my first car: the Olds Cutlass Supreme. A chick magnet if there ever was one. The classic “land yacht”, it had a 350HP, 4 barrel V-8 with an automatic transmission and a hood as long as a landing strip. “Black Beauty”, as I called her, was a two-door (each weighing a half ton) version with vinyl bucket seats enhanced by the “supreme” (extra thick vinyl) option. The original owner of the car had chosen these options to make this car “his own”. His selections were dwarfed by his options. From a body style perspective alone, he could have chosen a coupe, Vista Wagon, Cutlass Salon coupe or sedan, or the “new” Cutlass Supreme coupe—mothers pulled their teenage daughters off the street when one of those rumbled through the subdivision. He also could have selected everything from a Chevy-built 250 cubic inch inline to an Olds-built Rocket V8’s of 260, 350 or 455. He even held sway over the type of transmission he wanted, from the standard three-speed manual favored by the average grandmother to the optional, and vaguely lurid, Turbo Hydromatic. This was a car that you could have your way.
For those not quite so interested in picking up chicks, but very focused on a solid, dependable vehicle to get them from point A to point B, 1976 also marked the introduction of the second generation of the Honda Accord. It was available in four (4) colors with a 1,751 cc 106.9 cubic inch EKI CVSS engine. It offered, as standard features, popular items like shag carpeting, velour cabin trim and chrome accents. Other than an early attempt at in-car navigation there weren’t many dealership options to choose from. It just ran forever. Honda was not trying to be all things to all people. They found out what was most important to their customers: high quality, fuel efficient, cost effective vehicles with nice interiors, and offered them that. So what happed to these two iconic brands? GM discontinued the Cutlass Supreme in 1997. In 2012, Honda announced the ninth generation of the Accord.
At Compass our strategy is to deliver a complete product that meets the core needs of customers. Our supply chain has been developed with the leading data center component vendors to ensure that all systems are tightly integrated to achieve the high levels of performance and quality our customers demand. This tight integration of our supply chain is the crux of our product. To replace a single component on a whim detracts from the effectiveness of all the processes that we have put in place to maximize the performance and qualities our customers receive from our product.
We certainly realize that for some customers, offerings like DRT’s “Turnkey Flex”, with the possibility to sample from the “chinese menu” to get the exact data center they want, is an attractive proposition. For our customers, we would ask, at what cost? If a product is efficiently designed, with quality components, built to perform and certifiably tested, does changing the standard UPS really make any sense? Or from a more Darwinian perspective, are you going to be the Cutlass Supreme shrub or the Honda Accord tree? We’ve made our decision.