Mike Bennett, VP of global data center acquisition and expansion at CenturyLink Technology Solutions EMEA
It’s hard for one company to say its data centers are better than the competition’s down the road but the real differentiator is the people inside.
Sure, connectivity, cooling and power are the fundamentals, but it’s the people that create the right conditions in which to effectively (or ineffectively) manage these factors. The data center staff can make a good data center great or a potentially great data center average.
It’s common for data center providers to outsource the running of the facilities. They build the data center and have someone else manage it while their sales people sell it, in essence they’re more property companies than technology providers. It works for them, yet those brought in are limited in their ability to truly help evolve the offering. Firstly, they may only be on site for a three-five year contract (and for even less time if they come in half way through). The result is that there is little real incentive to make changes that will pay dividends in the future.
People Can Make a Serious Difference
On the other side, permanent staff are able to have a real level of pride because they have a higher degree of personal investment, and know they can make a serious difference, in other words it feels like it’s "their" data center. If they can think of a better way of doing something, they’re able to see the solution through and before you know it, the processes are changed and rolled out globally.
An example of how those ingrained in an organisation can make a difference is when engineers within one of our data centers realized that if they could adjust the cooling to a more optimal setting, the intelligent fans that run in the chillers didn't have to work so hard and subsequently, power was saved. The findings were quickly rolled out globally and the team rightly received the due credit.
The pride of knowing they could implement real change to benefit the future of the data center was a powerful motivator. When data center engineering staff can stay with their company for 25 years, even the smallest things are worth doing as they will feel the benefit down the line.
This ability to constantly improve and evolve can see wisdom from other mission critical industries applied successfully to the data center. This includes those coming from manufacturing backgrounds, who have in the past brought a huge amount of talent and even trade secrets from what, on the surface, appears to be a completely different industry to the DC space.
One example at CenturyLink Technology Solutions is an employee who joined a data center from a chocolate factory. The factory could never be switched off as the chocolate and sugar would freeze; bringing manufacturing to a halt for weeks. Never being able to have downtime made that person’s job mission critical and actually gave them some highly transferable insights.
It’s not just about the quality of staff; it’s about enabling those talented individuals to constantly improve to the benefit of everyone involved.
There is an important distinction between a data center and a professional data center operation and that is more often than not, the people.
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