The Five Tool Player

The Five Tool Player
Office discussions can become quite esoteric. For example, the other day the signing of a major league baseball player was the catalyst on who is a “five tool” player. For those of your unfamiliar with the lexicon of the diamond a five tool player is the rare individual who can:
– Hit for average (.300 and above is the agreed upon standard)
– Hit for power (Judged by the number of home runs hit in a season. 30 per year is generally regarded as the minimum threshold)
– Is an excellent fielder (This represents the ability of a player to field his position. Strong fielders are generally referred to as “good glove men”. Bad fielders carry less flattering monikers such as “butcher”, “black hole” and my personal favorite, “Dr. Strangeglove”)
– Has a strong arm (Commonly referred to as a “rifle”, “bazooka” or “cannon”)
– Speed on the base paths (Defined by their ability to turn a single into a double and the perceived threat that they may steal a base)

Although there are many great baseball players very few of them are viewed by their peers and fans as worthy of being honored with five tool status. For example, Willie Mays was a five tool man, but the man generally regarded as the greatest player of all-time, Babe Ruth, wasn’t. If you’ve ever seen film of the Babe’s mincing stride you know that even the weakest-armed outfielder didn’t view the Bambino as a threat to go from first to third on a long fly ball. As this discussion raged on I was struck by the fact that, just like in baseball, there aren’t many five tool data center providers.

Perhaps the difficulty in achieving expertise in all the areas that would be required to be a five tool provider is what makes it so tough for companies, and many of them in our business, to build data centers that meet the expectations of their customers or themselves. If we examine each of the five tools required to deliver a data center its obvious that the disparate skill sets required open the door for clear strengths and weaknesses while lowering the likelihood that a firm could be strong in each. Over the next five weeks we will examine each of these data center “tools” in greater detail:

Tool 1 (Finance): Naturally it all begins with the money. This area includes everything from capital requirements to depreciation.
Tool 2 (Real Estate): Where a site it is, where it shouldn’t be and how it’s developed all fall within the realm of real estate.
Tool 3 (Mechanical and Electrical): Understanding how your MEP needs to be constructed to support current and future needs as well as, making the determination between technology trends that are fads versus those that are permanent are among the considerations here.
Tool 4: (IT Hardware): This knowledge area includes the network, storage and compute equipment including the physical connectivity as well as the hardware.
Tool 5: (Software and Business Process): The most overlooked area of the data center is how it will actually be used by the software. This includes business processes as the differences between the large internet, service provider and enterprise usage are dramatic.
Just like in baseball, the five tool data center is the exception not the rule. Unlike baseball, however, the changing nature of the requirements of data center customers will require successful providers to become proficient in all of these areas. In other words, the industry is going to need more Willie Mays and less Babe Ruth.