Sep 19, 2011

Paving the Goat Paths


Despite its reputation as a commodity service offering, the data center market is filled with opportunities to differentiate and innovate. Unfortunately, for the most part, these opportunities are left unfulfilled. Why? Due to a behavior that I like to call “paving the goat paths” also known as, “it’s easiest to continue to take the well worn path.” Unfortunately, the easiest path, despite being well worn, isn’t necessarily the best.

The data center industry at large has embraced a path that has lead to the lack of real innovation since the time of the original bubble roughly a decade ago. Along the way data center providers largely forgot why they were in the data center business to begin with and began to force customers to compromise their business to fit facility specifications instead of finding ways to improve the data center to meet their customer needs. The industry has been able to “validate” its behavior on the basis of two myths: 1) data centers are full so they must be meeting customer needs and, 2) the data center is a commodity necessary to access other valuable services; focus on the valuable services and all will be forgiven.

Several years ago Internap began to change the course of our data centers by focusing on three key themes. First, our data center should be able to supply the power (and cooling) needed by a rack of IT equipment rather than limit equipment based on power draw. Second, our data center must operate as a “home away from home” for enterprise businesses that spend a significant portion of their time in our facilities. Third, our data center is designed with an eye toward green practices that maximize energy efficiency and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and natural resources.

In roughly 60 days, Internap will open our new data center in Dallas. The facility offers our customers the ability to deploy into cabinets at an advertised 12KW of draw – we can probably do 18KW but we haven’t seen much demand for that density yet. At the same time, the customer amenities from break rooms and lounges to office spaces, provide a place to conduct business rather than simply house it. The facility has me excited not simply because its ours – so this post isn’t a shameless plug altogether – but because its success can excite a stagnant industry, giving IT professionals a chance to get off the “goat paths” and pave a new highway to success.

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