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Data Centers and Cloud Solutions

Gain Your Edge is a twice-monthly podcast on all things IT. On this week’s podcast, we’ll be sitting down with Graham Williams, Chief Operating Officer for Cologix, responsible for Operations, Construction, Commercial Management, Marketing and Strategy. In his time at Cologix, Graham has also led the Development and Sales Organizations. He has over 17 years of experience in the data center, communication, Internet, content delivery and video industries with strategic positions at Charter Communications and Level 3 Communications.

References and Resources

Industry Standards for Physical Security for Data Centers

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Graham’s LinkedIn

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Host Skip Lineberg

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Send your feedback, comments and questions to BusinessEdge@Frontier.com

 

Podcast Transcription

Announcer: Welcome to Gain Your Edge. The podcast created for IT professionals, business owners, and leaders, looking to sharpen their edge over the competition. Our ever perceptive host, Skip Lineberg, introduces you to industry thought leaders. Listen and learn from their insights as Skip gets inside the minds of our guest gurus revealing new ideas, opportunities, and insightful updates for you. It’s all sponsored by Frontier Business Edge, your edge and success. Now, here’s our host, Skip Lineberge.

Skip: Welcome to episode 17 of Gain Your Edge, the business podcast on all things IT. I’m your host Skip Lineberg, Senior Marketing Manager with Frontier Communications. Our goal with Gain Your Edge podcast is to help you gain a competitive edge for your business. This episode, we have the pleasure of chatting with Graham Williams, Chief Operating Officer of Denver-based Cologix, which provides reliable, secure, scalable, data center and interconnection solutions from 24 locations across nine strategic North American markets.

Graham Williams is responsible for operations, construction, commercial management, marketing and strategy. In his time at Cologix, Graham has also led the development and sales organizations. He has over 17 years of experience in the data center, communication, internet, content delivery, and video industries. Prior to Cologix, Graham held product management and strategy positions in the telecommunications sector. Given his background, Graham certainly has a wealth of knowledge about today’s Gain Your Edge topic, data centers. Specifically, we’ll dive into the range of ways that companies can work with data centers and why a business should consider utilizing a data center or cloud solutions. Good morning, Graham and thanks for joining us on the show.

Graham: Thank you for having me, Skip. It’s good to be here.

Skip: Okay, Graham, as you know, before jumping into any activity, it’s always a good idea to warm up. So here at Gain Your Edge, we like to start with a random question that has absolutely nothing to do with our topic for the day and everything…

Graham: Okay.

Skip: …everything to do with having a little fun. So the first question I have for you is are you an Apple iOS guy or are you an Android guy?

Graham: That’s a good question. Skip, I’m called what’s termed a late adopter as it relates to my phone. If I could find a flip phone, I would probably have one of those. I was one of the last folks to get a blackberry, one of the last folks to give up my blackberry, and I just switched from an iPhone to a Samsung Android.

Skip: Not surprised.

Graham: And ultimately, I love the ease of use of the iPhone. And I missed that to some degree, but I really like the idea of not being tied to a walled garden.

Skip: Yeah.

Graham: So I made the switch while I still could and while I could still move out my music and photos and all that stuff so that I had choice in the future.

Skip: I see the game plan and the strategy there. Well done.

Graham: Yeah. We’ll see how it turns out.

Skip: Okay. Graham, before we get into the business applications of data centers, let’s go back to the beginning. And by the beginning, I mean the invention, for lack of a better term of data centers. I’ve read that the concept of data centers has been around since the late 1950s when American Airlines an IBM partnered to create a passenger reservation system, automating one of its key business areas, of course. Some have claimed that this development open the door to today’s enterprise level data centers. Now, whether or not that’s true, who knows? Can you talk a bit about the market and technology factors that lead to the world we live in now, which relies heavily on data centers? How do we get from the point of a data center list world a few decades ago to today where you can’t drive 50 miles without stumbling upon a data center of some sort?

Graham: Sure, Skip. Well, it really is a pretty dramatic change over a pretty short period of time, and really two technology trends got us to where we are today. The first is something called Moore’s Law. And Moore’s law essentially says that computing power will double about every two years. And effectively, that has opened the door from that original set of computers back in the 1950s that were using punch cards down to the very sophisticated computers that we have today that allow end-users to pack a huge punch in terms of computing power per dollar spent and computing power per server size.

Skip: Sure.

Graham: In fact, and if you look at your cell phone that we just talked about, there’s more computing power in our phones today than in the original computers.

Skip: Yeah, that’s crazy.

Graham: So computing power has gone up like crazy and the cost have come down, which has enabled end-users enterprises to leverage that to drive us into the world of big data that we live in today.

Skip: Okay. That’s a great perspective, good background. So let’s talk about the advantages that today’s company can gain from utilizing a data center.

Graham: Sure. I mean, really three key advantages, Skip. The first is reliability. Fundamentally, data centers distinguish themselves from a closet in your office by having backup systems to make sure that the power is always on and you’ve always got enough cooling to make sure that those servers don’t overheat. As you know from your laptop, those things get hot pretty quickly.

Skip: Yeah.

Graham: And you can start adding thousands of them into a small space. You better make sure you’ve got air conditioning that won’t quit.

Skip: Right.

Graham: So reliability is the first one. Security is the second reason, the second key advantage of leveraging a data center versus doing it yourself. Having a secure location where, you know, bad guys can’t get in to impact your network…

Skip: Yeah.

Graham: …is really important. And that’s both physical and at the logical layer. And then the third is relying on a data center actually drives down your costs over time, which is a huge driver especially for medium-sized businesses who are looking at their recurring costs and trying to find a way to stay competitive by driving those costs out of the business.

Skip: Okay, so three key advantages there. I get that. That’s a good baseline where we can build out in our discussion today.

Graham: Good.

Skip: Now, is there a difference in how small to mid-sized businesses would use a data center versus how large-scale enterprise would? And what factors into a company deciding to set up their own private data center versus a shared services arrangement?

Graham: Sure. You know, I think there’s a natural evolution that businesses go through as they gain scale and as it relates to data centers today. Typically, your small businesses, your startups will keep their internal servers and their internal systems and applications in-house, like I mentioned, typically in a closet. I’m sure most of your listeners are thinking now about the closet in their office or in their office building where only the IT guys go in the middle of the night if something breaks.

Skip: Right.

Graham: Ultimately, there is a series of thresholds that get businesses to say, “You know, that’s just not good enough anymore,” either for cost reasons, or reliability reasons, or security reasons. And they start thinking, “Okay, I need to move into a data center. Do I wanna build my own?”

Most small and medium-sized businesses don’t have the capital and the wherewithal in terms of expertise to build their own data center complete with big chiller plants, and air conditioners, and generators, et cetera.

Skip: Right.

Graham: So most of those folks today are now looking to an outsource solution or a provider like a Colo provider to say, “You guys have big data centers. Can I have a little bit of that to put my equipment in?”

Skip: Right.

Graham: And it’s really not until companies get into becoming mega users of network or power that they start thinking about building their own data center again. So you kind of go through the…you do it yourself then you go into more of a rent…

Skip: Yeah.

Graham: …or lease scenario and then ultimately, you know, the Amazons of the world and the Googles of the world, the Microsoft of the world, yeah, they’re building their own data centers because they just have so much scale and there’s such big users. But really, until you get to that point, the economics tell you, as long as you can find a service provider who will give you all the benefits of a data center without forcing you to put the capital down, most enterprises fit in that colocation sweet spot.

Skip: Yeah, that makes sense. And so using a pizza analogy, I don’t need a whole pizza, I don’t have that many mouths to feed, but I just buy a pizza by the slice according to how much I need.

Graham: That’s exactly right. Now allow you to add more places if you’re hungry.

Skip: Yeah, exactly.

Graham: And if you get full, you stay right there.

Skip: Okay, now I’m hungry for pizza. Well, we talked about the evolution, the growth curve and when companies start to look at an outsourced data center. Are there some tipping points or pivotal moments, specific instances or episodes that would prompt a company to decide to shift from storing their own data to utilizing a data center? And if you could, as you answer that question, shed some light on as far as what are the risks of not using data centers.

Graham: Sure. Thanks Skip. The biggest tipping point for a small and medium-sized business to look at data centers at least with the customers that we work with is the first outage, the first moment where your internal systems are not accessible…

Skip: Right.

Graham: …to your employees or your systems, or website, or if customer-facing applications aren’t available to your customers. And so, that is the moment where businesses really take a look and say, “Can we afford to be down for an hour, six hours a day,” because, you know, things happen in the IT world and things break.

Skip: Yeah.

Graham: And the power grid goes out sometimes.

Skip: Sure.

Graham: We’ll, you know, have to reset our clocks at home because the power gets distorted even just for a second or two.

Skip: Yeah.

Graham: Well, that same thing that forces us to reset our digital clocks.

Skip: Right.

Graham: Forces every bit of equipment that you have plugged in to power down and restart backup. At sometimes, it doesn’t come back up without a little bit of help.

Skip: Yeah.

Graham: So the most pivotal moment for folks who are looking at data centers is that first outage moment or one of their peers or friends having that moment and, you know, a CIO, or a head of IT, or frankly a CFO saying, “Gosh, can we afford that to happen to us?” And that’s where then the next stage is, “Okay, we need that level of reliability. Let’s go find people who can provide us at a reasonable cost.”

Skip: I’m not willing to bear that amount of risk anymore, right?

Graham: Yeah. I mean, look, most businesses just simply can’t afford that.

Skip: Yeah, that’s that…

Graham: In in terms of lost productivity or lost sales.

Skip: Yeah, that’s that scenario of the really bad day.

Graham: It’s a really bad day. And you don’t think about it until it happens to you or it happens to someone you know.

Skip: Yup. Okay. So some of the risks then are gonna be downtime, loss of reputation with customers. What are some of the other downsides if we don’t have things provision properly?

Graham: Yeah, those two things are huge, lost sales, lost ability to support a customer in need. And, you know, there’s a ton of productivity that people don’t appreciate either internally. Think for a minute, Skip, about going to work and the internet being down.

Skip: Yeah.

Graham: You know, 15 years ago we didn’t even think about that when we went to work, right?

Skip: Wasn’t an issue.

Graham: You needed to have your typewriter and another thing. But now if the internet’s down, you may as well go home.

Skip: Yeah.

Graham: Because there’s nothing…you can’t interact. You can’t do work. So productivity is a huge deal. And then there’s loss of data or loss of security around your data.

Skip: Sure.

Graham: We’ve all read, you know, really scary reports about even big companies who’ve had data breaches that essentially put forward customer information or employee information out to the general public that shouldn’t be there.

Skip: Right.

Graham: And so, that’s another reason why, you know, their whole series of standards that are being developed around data security, physical security, and especially small and medium-sized businesses, just don’t have to wherewithal to comply with those standards in an in-house model.

Skip: Yeah, great discussion. Graham, really enjoying this conversation. We’ll be right back after this short break.

Graham: Great.

Announcer: The best edge in business is inspiration. If you’re inspired by this podcast and today’s topic, Frontier is ready to help you put that inspiration into action. For a free consultation and to learn more about communication solutions that give your business an edge over the competition, call us at 888-200-0603, that’s 888-200-0603 or send an email to businessedge@frontier.com. Frontier Business Edge, the edge you need to succeed, now back to the podcast.

Skip: Welcome back to Gain Your Edge. Let’s continue our discussion of data centers with Graham Williams, Chief Operating Officer with Cologix. Graham, we hear so much about data security these days. People are worried about it on a personal level, and companies are worried about it because they retain so many customers’ personal records. How did data centers make sure that the data they have is secure?

Graham: It’s a great question, Skip. I mean, the first and most fundamental way to maintain security for our customers is to follow well-established standards as it relates to physical security. Gone are the days where every data center makes up their own policies.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: There are well established standards that can be audited and are audited to give our customers from the Mom-and-Pop shop on the street to major banks the confidence that the data center is secure and their equipment and data in the data centers is secure.

Skip: Okay. I didn’t know that. And Graham, I don’t mean to take you off topic, but if you would share perhaps links to some of those standards websites or PDFs, I’d like to package those into the show notes of our podcast so that our users can check those out.

Graham: Be more than happy to, yup. They’re available right online. And most of those really as it relates to physical security talk about standards for making sure that you have authorized users coming in and out of the data center. That those users are authenticated with multiple ways, so a badge, and ID, and in many cases, biometric, and ID scan, or fingerprint scan and that their logs kept as you come into the data center and cameras that cover the key parts of the data center and have 90 days of backup.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: All of those things when put into the right level of processes and are audited, provide a high degree of confidence for customers of all sorts that the data center itself is secure. And of course, if you go to a data center that doesn’t have manned security at the front gate, you should think twice about how secure it really is.

Skip: Sure, yeah. Yeah, that would be a telltale sign.

Graham: Of course.

Skip: Do the standards and your company’s processes also speak to the levels of redundancy of a number of copies of files that should be kept on how many different servers, that sort of thing? Does it touch upon that as well?

Graham: There are standards that go, as I think about kind of up the stack in terms of the IT processes put in place.

Skip: Yeah.

Graham: Typically, for companies like us, we provide the base physical layer of security. And then we turn that over and work with our clients to make sure that they work with the best practices and follow the next set of standards to manage their own data. Frankly, our view is that we’re really good at making sure we have a secure space, we have generators that always keep the power on. We’ve got air conditioners that always keep the room cool. But it’s the companies who are in the best position to set and police their own internal processes about how data gets moved from infrastructure to infrastructure.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: So it’s really a partnership that we work with our customers on. And there’s a clean demark between physical security and then higher layer IP or logical security.

Skip: Good, perfect. I get that. That’s good to understand it that way. I’ve always found it fascinating that data centers can help make companies pretty much natural disaster proof. In a world filled with microchips, the internet, and all this technology, it’s easy for individuals and businesses alike to think that they’re impervious to threats. We tend to forget that everyday companies are still exposed to the most basic elements like the weather, floods happen, tornados happen, hurricanes happen. Here in Charleston, West Virginia, today we have a large water main break. When this happens to a business, the results can be devastating in terms of data loss and business continuity. Graham, talk to us a little bit about how data centers can help companies prevent these things.

Graham: Sure, Skip. Well I mean, I guess, the first thing to call, and you referenced it. Most people tend to forget that the internet and the world of IT is a physical organism. You know, most of us pull down something, you know, a photo or a video on our phones and think that it magically drops out of the sky. It doesn’t. It’s delivered from a server that sits somewhere that is connected to a router that is connected to physical fiber. That’s what drives the internet. That’s what drives internal enterprise IT systems. And all those physical pieces of equipment have to sit somewhere in the data center.

So to your question of how do data centers help mitigate the impact of natural disasters. I’d say in two ways. The first way is data centers themselves should be located in locations that are outside of flood plains.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: They should be built in a fashion that is strengthened to natural disasters. For example, you know, our data centers in Florida are built to category five, hurricane ratings. We have facilities in Columbus that are EF-4 tornado resistant.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: It’s a lot of work that goes in to making sure that the data center itself is in the best location in a market and the strongest building in the market, if you will, to be a bunker so that if something like that happens, the server’s inside are safe and will keep running.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: The second thing, second way that data centers worked to provide kind of confidence in a natural disaster scenario that more and more medium-sized businesses are taking advantage of is to replicate your data center in two locations, so you minimize the risks. You might have one data center in Minneapolis where the big risk is a snow storm and the other data center in Dallas where the big risk is a flood. Those risks offset each other. And if one were to have a problem, the other site would have essentially a duplicate of the IT infrastructure so that you can keep running.

Skip: Nice.

Graham: Finally, the last thing, Skip, is because data centers are increasingly adding disaster recovery suites to sit right next to the data center itself. So that if there is a natural disaster and it takes out your office, for example, you have a way to get back up and running with a small set of people right next to your IT equipment really quickly.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: So I guess, I told you I was gonna tell you two ways. I gave you three ways.

Skip: A bonus, thank you.

Graham: There you go.

Skip: I’m feeling better and more well protected already.

Graham: Good.

Skip: Well, we focused quite a bit on issues related to securing and disaster proofing, but there are other key services provided by data centers. Colocation, for example, is one that comes to mind. Why would a company wanna locate redundant versions of server, software, programs, or business applications in a data center either in addition to or instead of placing those resources on its company premises?

Graham: Yeah, it’s a great question. I mean, Skip, it comes back to the original thesis that we talked about at the beginning, which is…

Skip: Okay.

Graham: …a data center provides reliability in the form of redundant infrastructure to make sure the power never goes out and neither does the cooling, and for many companies, creating a team to go build that infrastructure and then paying a one-time cost to buy generators and air conditioners, and not just one of them, but two of them because you need to have redundancy.

Skip: Right.

Graham: It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. So getting back to your pizza analogy.

Skip: Yeah.

Graham: So many small and medium-sized businesses are saying, “Gosh, I really like this pay for what I use concepts. So if I need just one rack of equipment, I can get it.” But I can also grow to 20 racks or a big cage with 100 racks if my business grows. So I can take full advantage of all the redundancy in the infrastructure without getting ahead of my skis and having to go tell my CFO that, “Boy, I made a commitment that outpaced our revenue.”

Skip: Yeah. Okay. That’s awesome. You know, from what I’ve learned about data centers so far like Cologix, it seems like a data center has an aspect of a shopping mall for commercial customers, if we think of a data center as a mall where companies can connect with a broad range of carriers and networks. So is that a good analogy, Graham? And can you help build that concept out a bit.

Graham: It is a good analogy, Skip. And it’s something that Cologix is focused on very heavily, the concept of offering lots of choice to our customers for service providers.

Skip: Yeah.

Graham: And really as you look at the spectrum of data centers, there’s a spectrum on one side where data centers are built in the middle of a field next to a hydroelectric dam. They’re really trying to optimize for power. In Cologix case, our data centers are built right in the physical location where all the fiber networks intersect. And there’s really only one or two of those places in each market.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: And what that allows for, is for all of those carriers or network service providers to have their networks in our data centers and present themselves to our enterprise customers to compete for business.

Skip: Yeah.

Graham: And it’s really, really powerful for the enterprises to be able to take advantage of that shopping mall, if you will, for a couple of reasons. First, it allows them to find the network service provider or increasingly a cloud service provider that really meets their needs. Second, it allows them to pair two service providers to provide some degree of redundancy if one of them were to fail.

Skip: Right.

Graham: Third, it gives them a chance to get the best cost. We all know that the more people you have competing for your business, the better is the cost is gonna be. So while some data centers say, “Yup, I’ve got three or four carriers to choose from,” Cologix tried to get 70 or 80 carriers.

Skip: Okay, wow.

Graham: And then the last thing I’d say, Skip, which a lot of people, especially first-time data center buyers don’t understand is that when you sign up for a contract with a carrier, you’re typically signing up for a three-year term and you’re gonna get a good price. But after the three-year term, sometimes those prices go up, and you need to have choice.

Skip: Right.

Graham: So being in a data center with lots of choice gives you low switching costs because no one can take advantage you. Just say, “Well, I’m just gonna move my connection over here and it doesn’t cause me a thing.” So those are the four real benefits of being in a data center that has lots of network choice and lots of cloud service provider choice.

Skip: Awesome, great explanation, Graham. Now, it’s one thing to build a data center, but an often-overlooked part of the formula for a data center success is how the data center operator or works with its clients. What are some key aspects of that customer service, customer interface, and communication that helps make Cologix successful?

Graham: Sure. I mean, there are really two key dimensions to this, Skip. The first is having enough sophistication in your systems, in your monitoring to make sure that your customers know that the infrastructure is being monitored all the time. Threats are being taken care of before they present themselves and before they impact customers.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: And if a customer needs to see what their power usage, power dryer is there are tools in place all the time to be able to present that. So there’s a series of investments in sophistication that provide insight into the data center that’s important.

Skip: So you’re providing them peace of mind, right?

Graham: Exactly.

Skip: By providing useful information on reporting that lets them know things are in good shape and they don’t have to worry.

Graham: Exactly right. And they know that we’re watching that all the time so that we’re a step ahead of trouble that might impact their cooling, or their power, or their network. So, it’s exactly right. It’s presenting peace of mind and competence and trust.

Skip: Okay, okay.

Graham: There’s another dimension though that often gets overlooked, which is this is still a business that involves people. I mean, we talk about machines, servers, and generators a lot. It’s still driven by people. And so, it’s really important to us that we are hyper responsive to our customers, that we’re flexible. And you know, we’ll bend the, you know, what’s best for us sometimes to do what’s right for the customer and even little things like our customers need to have the cellphone of our data center managers. They don’t need to be forced into a 1-800 number in a faceless V somewhere to get help. And so, that combination of being…you know in our estimation, the combination is being very sophisticated in terms of your monitoring your infrastructure and your tools but also retaining the easy to do business with. Personal touch is really…is the model that we bring to the market and thus far we found that to be successful.

Skip: Oh, I love it. I love it. All right. Graham, I’m gonna ask you to help me paint some pictures for our audience, for our listeners. I know this is a podcast and it’s not a visual experience at least not until someone approves my proposal for a Gain your Edge TV show. But if you can, walk us through today’s Cutting Edge data center, what it looks like? If one of our listeners were to be walking side-by-side with you, what’s the tour gonna look like if you could paint a word picture for us?

Graham: Skip, I’ll do my best. I guess we’ll start by walking into the front door. We’ll have to buzz in to be allowed in that front door.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: And once we come into the front door, we go into what’s called a mantrap. A mantrap is the door closes behind you and you can’t get through the next door until you look to your right, you see a big security booth with bulletproof glass and a very friendly security person on the other side who’s gonna take our IDs, check them against the log, make sure we’re authorized to come in, and then give us a badge, a visitor’s badge. While we’re in that mantrap, we’ll look around to the other side of the wall and see diagrams of the one line. And for those listeners who don’t know what that is, that’s essentially a drawing of the electrical paths that support the data center. The reason that’s important is because you can physically see the layers of redundancy that will support our customer services.

So, we’ll go through the security process. We’ll write down our name and number and we’ll sign. We’ll give our phone number. We’ll get the badge. We’ll go through the mantrap…

Skip: Okay.

Graham: …into a customer lounge/lobby area. There’s a conference room on your left hand side that’s nice and clean and very modern and has amenities for customers to use for business meetings, including flat screen TVs et cetera. On the right hand side, you’ll see a small kitchenette that has snacks, drinks, coffee for customers and some televisions for the technicians who work long hours in the data center and just need a break.

Skip: Yeah, sure.

Graham: Then we’ll go through the next layer of security, which would be a circle lock. So we’ll put our badge in…

Skip: Yeah.

Graham: …so that we’ll walk into something. It looks like a tube.

Skip: You’re gonna ask me to leave my coffee behind, right? I can’t practically take my coffee in.

Graham: Yeah, you can take your drinks in.

Skip: Okay, all right.

Graham: We’ll put that down because now we’re actually going to the real data center.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: You go into the tube, one side closes, the next side opens. Only one person can go in at a time. That’s really important to make sure that we’re keeping those security standards in place.

Skip: Oh, wow.

Graham: And once we go into the data center, we’ll notice that it’s a little bit cooler. This is an area that’s properly conditioned. You’ll see large air conditioners around the edge of the room. On the right hand side, you’ll see a whole area of cages that are very clean and neat with secure customer locations in them. On the left hand side, you’ll see many, many rows of cabinets where customers are buying 1, 2, 5, 10 cabinets at a time. We’re gonna walk down the aisle and pass what’s called a Meet Me Room. We look in the window. The Meet Me Room is essentially the place where all those networks present themselves. And that’s where we in a secure room manage the connections between networks and each other and networks and end-users.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: So you see lots of yellow fiber in there but very neat and very clean and organized.

Skip: That’s the shopping mall that we were talking about a few minutes ago.

Graham: That’s the shopping mall.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: That’s the shopping mall, exactly.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: So we’ll spend a little bit of time there and talk about which carriers you might need or be interested in and which ones will be there in the future, you know, if your needs change. Then we’ll walk down to the power room. This is a room where before we go in, we’ll look at the rules and regulations. We’ll talk about a safety procedure just in case anything happens where you can walk, where you can’t walk. This is high-voltage stuff. And so, we’ll walk in here but only if you follow the rules. In inside, you’ll see UPS system, switchgear, ATS’s which are Automatic Transfer Switches, all the stuff that makes sure that if there’s a power issue on one side, that it fails over seamlessly to the other side’s that your servers are always getting power.

Skip: Awesome.

Graham: And then the last place will go is outside where we’ll take a look at the generators. As a customer…all of our customers say, “I need to see the infrastructure that’s gonna support me.” And that’s the right question to ask. So we’ll take you outside. We’ll take you to the generators. We’ll look at the maintenance calendar that sits right on the generator so you can see that it’s been properly maintained. And then we’ll come back to the conference room and talk about, you know, what your needs are? And how we might be able to help you now and then to the future.

Skip: Oh, perfect. You painted a great word picture, and I’ve got images flying through my brain, so high ceilings throughout the facility interior. And my other question was, just to kind to complete the picture, what’s the flooring like? Is it, you know, rubber padded flooring? Is it raised platform flooring? What are those elements like?

Graham: Yeah, great question. Typically, you’ll have a raised platform floor, so white tiles that are two by two. And under the floor is typically where the air is delivered from the air conditioning units to the exact right spot on the floor, and that air will come up through perforated tiles where those tiles actually have little holes for the air to come up.

Skip: Oh, cool.

Graham: And then overhead, you’ll see…you do have typically higher ceilings because over the cabinet’s themselves will be where all the communication lines that run the fiber and the copper lines as well as there’s a layer above that which is where all the powers run.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: So the power is run overhead. The communications are run overhead. And then the cooling is run under the floor.

Skip: Wow. Graham, thank you. That was excellent. I’ve got a really neat picture and I can’t wait to visit a data center.

Graham: Good. Well, we’d be happy to hook you.

Skip: Okay. Let’s talk about the data center of the future. What trends is the industry seeing and what new benefits might businesses see in the coming years as data centers evolve?

Graham: Yeah, I’d call out two key trends, Skip. The first is…you know, we talked a lot about the shopping mall earlier.

Skip: Yeah.

Graham: And focus mostly on networks and carriers being in that shopping mall. Increasingly, cloud companies like Amazon, and Google, and Microsoft, and lots of other smaller cloud providers are also becoming part of that shopping mall. And so data centers, as they look forward to what is important in the future, having those cloud providers in the data center to provide direct services to the other enterprise clients there is a huge trend and something that all data centers are striving to deliver as quickly as possible.

The second trend that I call out is just general efficiency. Data centers draw a lot of power. And there’s only so much you can do about the power that a server draws itself. But as a data center operator, we look at if there’s an overhead of power consumption which is driven by the air conditioning and the lights, all those things. And our goal is to drive that overhead as small as possible. Then that does two things. One, it allows us to provide our customers better pricing.

Skip: right.

Graham: But it also has an environmental impact too. I mean, ultimately, you…at the very beginning, you talked about not being able to drive more than 50 miles without seeing a data center. These are power hogs, and there are all sorts of evaluations and trials going on in the marketplace to figure out how to make these data centers more efficient from a power perspective. So I think those two things are what really drive the data center of the future into the next five years.

Skip: Cool, very cool. Hey, I wanna ask you a question just sort of out of the blue. But we’ve talked about cloud a lot and always like to talk when we get experts like yourself on the program, I like to ask people to describe the cloud and to sort of just break it down for our audience in layman perspective. What exactly is the cloud and how do companies like yourselves provide cloud services?

Graham: Yeah, it’s a great question, Skip. And you know, the cloud is a big buzzword these days.

Skip: Sure, it is.

Graham: And you know, it’s often misused. Ultimately, the cloud is a way to use common resources, whether be storage, or computing power, or network in a way to support many end-users.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: So as we talked about the data center being kind of a pizza slice that customers can buy.

Skip: Yup.

Graham: The cloud takes that concept even a step further, which is to say they’re providers who will own the servers and sell you workload on those servers in a bite-sized basis. And so, really the way that enterprises can use the cloud or to take certain applications that they buy their own servers for today and have IT stopped running and use it and buy a service from someone else who will run those servers for them. At Cologix, we typically address the cloud in several ways. One, we have a lot of cloud providers who are in our data centers. And so we’ll introduce our enterprise customers to those cloud providers so that they can buy and sell services to one another. And in certain cases, we will create a bridge for our customers who will be used cloud for certain applications.

Skip: Yup.

Graham: They wanna have us provide some servers in certain applications and they wanna run their own. And that’s what’s called a Hybrid Environment.

Skip: Okay.

Graham: And that’s what most of our customers are really looking for is that choice to be able to mix and match applications as they see fit, are they using their own servers or using someone else’s servers in a cloud model.

Skip: Okay. So they’re looking to maximize their flexibility.

Graham: Exactly right.

Skip: Yeah, okay. So Graham, outside of work and the world of technology and data centers in the cloud, what do you like to do for fun?

Graham: Well, Skip, when we get an opportunity, my family and I love to go up to the mountains of Colorado. I’m based in Denver. And so, anytime we get a chance, we’ll take the trip up to the mountains and do a little bit of hiking or fishing or just get outside and clear our brains a little bit from day-to-day life.

Skip: Yeah, awesome. I like to do the same and hopefully get a chance to do that this weekend. I believe our listeners will come away from this conversation with some great new insights on the benefits of data centers. It’s a technology intensive topic, but you’ve really hit on all the key points in an easy-to-understand way. I really appreciate your time and expertise and hopefully, we can have you back here again soon on Gain Your Edge.

Graham: Thank you, Skip. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Skip: Well, that’s all the time we have for this episode of Gain Your Edge. Check out the show notes in our podcast archive at business.frontier.com for links to the resources discussed today .You can also download any or all of our episodes there. Again, that’s business.frontier.com. If you found these topics useful or interesting, download this podcast and share it with a colleague. Subscribe to Gain Your Edge via iTunes or the podcast app or your favorite content aggregator. As always, we welcome your feedback. Send along any questions or suggested show topics. Just shoot over an email to businessedge@frontier.com. Please join me, Skip Lineberg, next time on Gain Your Edge. And until then, have a great week.

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