I have a friend who recently took a CTO position with a medium-sized company. The huge company that previously employed him moved their entire IT staff a long way outside of Texas to a rather unpleasant location as a cost cutting move. He and many others declined the relocation offer. I can’t say as I blame them.
The other day, he told me some of the interesting things he’s found at his new company. This company is not a technology company but a professional services company. Up to now, they have opted to be in the IT business by running their own data center. To keep this post to a reasonable length, I’ll just mention a few of the things he’s run into.
Keeping the room powered and cool – trust me, this is harder than it sounds. It involves things like redundant power, UPS devices, generators, CRAC units, dehumidifiers, fire suppression, etc. All this stuff must be tested and maintained constantly.
Ordering new servers – they have to go through an online configurator, and then wait to receive the shipment. Once it arrives, they have to unpack it, rack it, power it up, and install the software. The cycle time from ordering a new server to getting it into production can stretch from days to weeks.
Tracking assets – needless to say, he’s found several holes in the process here. Knowing how much RAM is supposed to be in each server vs. what’s really there is a struggle. Heck, even knowing what servers are supposed to be there is a challenge. It seems that as servers are moved, replaced, or disposed of that the asset tracking system and processes are not as solid as he would like. These loose operations also bring heat from accountants and auditors, especially if a server ‘s value is still on the balance sheet but it has actually been tossed out and they no longer own it.
Maintenance – they pay for a service agreement where a tech is guaranteed to be onsite in 4 hours to do anything up to a complete rip and replace to get them back in production. Once he asked why several servers, each north of $10,000 in value, were just laying around in a parts cage. He was told these were for spare parts in case of an emergency, just in case they couldn’t wait 4 hours.
Bankers and lessors routinely ask us who our biggest competitors are. We routinely tell them that they are not other hosting companies – they are companies like the one described above that insist on being in the data center business even though they are not IT infrastructure companies. Since these companies are our largest competition, let’s look at how SoftLayer beats the competition on the items listed above.
Keeping the room powered and cool – as a customer of SoftLayer, you simply don’t have to worry about all this. Not at all. This is a huge savings of time, effort, and money.
Ordering new servers – Once you either run through the configurator or call your SLales rep with your order, your new servers are immediately provisioned. The cloud products are up in minutes, and you can have a few HUNDRED dedicated servers ready for production in a few hours. Not in days or weeks or months.
Tracking assets – From the accounting side of things, you just don’t have to worry about tracking the assets at all as a SoftLayer customer. They are an operating expense to our customers, not a capital expenditure. As far as knowing what assets you have to work with, you have access to the best customer portal in the business where every detail about every server is kept up in real time, right down to the individual sticks of RAM and drive configurations of each server. If you need tighter integration, SoftLayer provides an API to put all this information seamlessly into your environment. Disposing of a server is a simple cancellation ticket. It couldn’t be easier.
Maintenance – this is also a simple ticket submission, which is resolved in an impressive turnaround time. This service is included in SoftLayer’s monthly fees. There is no need to stockpile parts or entire servers for emergencies.
Bottom line, if your business’s core competency is not IT infrastructure, you are being beaten in the IT infrastructure business by SoftLayer. You are spending way too much time, money, and attention to run something that isn’t a part of your business. Hey, if you can’t beat us, then join us!
By the way, my friend is proposing a major project for his company in 2010. That project is getting out of the business of running a datacenter. He faces a lot of resistance to change “the way we’ve always done it” from the other senior executives. From my point of view, it’s a no brainer. But I’m biased I guess. I’d just tell them, hey, don’t run a data center – run your business!