Think Differently: Looking Under the Hood of Innovation

Beyond innovations in the physical data center, differentiation can be achieved through the way a provider works with its customers.

Darren Watkins is Director for VIRTUS Data Centres.

“Move fast and break things. Unless you’re breaking stuff, you’re not moving fast enough.” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and the youngest billionaire on the planet, knows that success means being one step ahead of everyone else and taking enough risks to be different and special.

Facebook was built on this ethos: It was the first online network of its kind and continues to innovate. For good (and sometimes for bad), Facebook is moving at a faster pace than anyone else and continues to dominate in a hyper-competitive market.

A less controversial example of an innovator is perhaps Apple, another mega-corporation committed to "doing things differently."  Most obviously, Apple’s point of difference comes at the product or service level - the design of the iconic iPhone, its smooth lines and intuitive user interface have scared off many established handset vendors.

However, the root of differentiation lies away from the product or service and is established under the hood of an organization. For Apple and Facebook, this means that difference is woven intrinsically into the company’s DNA; the entire companies are "different by design."

The Root of Differentiation

A company that is truly different is one where the innovation ethos runs through every part of the business. From the creatives, developers and marketers to the point of sale - innovation is encouraged. Even at the back-end - the finance department, tech support and in the data center - competitive advantage lies in the ability to be different.

Indeed, the data center is, for many, the heart of a business - the infrastructure that drives the company. The most forward-looking organizations know that innovation, even in this "hidden" part of the organization, is vital. Getting the data center strategy right means having an intelligent and scalable asset that fundamentally powers innovation. However, if they get it wrong, they’re dealing with an Achilles heel, which will hamper choice and growth.

Some experts tell us that, when it comes to data center choice, coverage is everything. They believe that, ultimately, choice beyond this is irrelevant; that one data center is just the same as another and that data center space is, therefore, a commodity. However, it’s vital to dispel this myth and assert that real difference can and must be achieved at this level. Being able to store and process data safely, and to access and interpret it as meaningful actionable information, quickly, will give a huge competitive advantage to those organizations that do it well.

Choosing an Innovative Partner

Companies today work in ecosystems, so the ethos of thinking differently should be shared by partners and suppliers too. Even for the largest organization, it’s time and cost prohibitive to build and manage your own data center, so it’s who you partner with is the real key to success.

Far from offering a commodity service, data center providers vary in many ways. Despite many things being similar - from accreditations, space and power capacity, contractual flexibility, connectivity options and service levels, to location – they can be different by design if you look beyond the obvious.

From High Performance Computing (HPC) to liquid cooling and hardware that can be pushed to the very highest temperatures, true differentiation can be achieved in the data center. Virtualization is important - letting people do more with fewer resources - and as an industry, we’re finding ways to optimize everything from the back-of-house systems to hardware. Innovations in this area are helping physical data centers get a lot more productive work done while consuming fewer resources.

Beyond innovations in the physical data center, differentiation can be achieved through the way a provider works with its customers. A partnership, not a service provider / customer contract, is important - where the provider listens to your needs and develops a bespoke way of working that is right for your business.

This seems pretty obvious, right? A report from customer service experts Customer Champions told us that nearly three-quarters of businesses single out customer service as a key loyalty driver, ranking it above product, brand reputation and effective sales and marketing. So, why shouldn’t the same be true under the hood - at the point of space, power and cooling?

Differentiation is more complex than a shiny new product - a new phone in your pocket or a slim laptop in your bag. You need to look beyond design and development to find a business’ real differentiator - and for many this starts in the data center.

We believe it’s as simple as this: For businesses to thrive they must have a greater appreciation for what data centers are doing, and what they can do. For too many years they have been ignored and taken for granted. They were sitting completely behind the curtain - we didn't pay much attention to them until there was a problem. But today the data center can be a creative place for the sort of innovation which can be make or break for an organization. If organizations aren’t able to recognize that data centers are a long way from being a commodity then their ability to operate competitively could be significantly compromised.

Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. 

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