One of the Internet's great gifts to consumers is comparison shopping, with an explosion of services and apps providing guidance on everything from cameras to Camaros. Then there's the Progressive Insurance model, in which a company provides information on competitors' products and rates, with the confidence that its offerings may benefit from the comparison.
Compass Datacenters today released an online tool providing data center users with comparisons between different deployment models and providers. Compass says this "online data center configurator" is being offered as an educational resource for decision-makers involved in the planning phase for a data center project, directing users to the type of facility and the providers that meet their objectives.
"The process of choosing the right solution and provider must start with an understanding of the company's specific technical and business needs," the company said in a press release. "Too often, the process starts with a solution in mind and then tries to impose that on a company's needs, but the data center configurator helps companies avoid that mistake by walking users through a decision-making process that matches the best option to the specific set of challenges and needs of their organization."
"Cutting Through The Noise"
CEO Chris Crosby says Compass is adopting the Progressive approach in offering a wide range of products and providers. "This is the equivalent of tools offered by insurance companies to help customers select the level of coverage that best suits their needs," said Crosby. "We want it to be a valuable resource to help them make the right choice for their next data center project. There are a lot of providers that try to be all things to all people, and it is difficult to discern in the decision-making process. This is our attempt to cut through the noise and offer help that wants to educate rather than sell."
The challenge with this approach is whether the tool's output is seen as a useful comparison, or as a way to steer business to a particular provider - which can also be a factor in comparison sites run by brokers of colocation services, who often receive fees from referrals to providers.
"The self-serving side is that this may help some users understand how Compass can help them," said Crosby. "But we're only a solution for a small subset of users. If this just promotes us, no one's going to use it. There's also information about many other providers.
"There's a whole lot of confusion out there about who does what," Crosby added. "Knowing the difference between modular - what IO does, versus what Digital Realty does versus what we do - is important. We provide three different types of products."
Reducing Up-Front Legwork
One industry analyst believes the Compass tool can help reduce work for companies approaching a data center expansion project.
"Selecting the right data center can be a confusing process because of the increasing complexity of these projects coupled with information overload," said Jeff Paschke, Research Director at 451 Research. "This complexity provides data center providers with the opportunity to educate and help customers. Compass' configurator will help point people in the right direction so they avoid the false starts and costly mistakes that too often happen with major data center projects."
The tool has two parts - an education segment that provides definitions of different data center deployment models, and a configuration section featuring a drop-down menu to select the options for a requirement. For example, selecting "Mission Critical" and "1-4MW" and "Traditional" generates a list of pros and cons of that selection, as well as a list of 12 vendors offering this product (which doesn't include Compass). The education segment may prompt discussion in how it frames the different deployment models, two of which are described as "monolithic," probably not a term that would be readily embraced by providers of these products.
Crosby says Compass welcomes feedback and wants the tool to be relevant for the industry. "It'll be interesting to see what kind of feedback we get - who we piss off, and who calls to thank us," said Crosby. "We've tried to set it up for continuous improvement. If nothing else, it will definitely start some conversations."