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On Being One’s Own Worst Critic

Terms such as “cost effective” and “highly efficient” get tossed around in our industry (and many other industries) with disturbing casualness. They become throw-away words, often with little validation provided to substantiate the claims. This is unfortunate because these words and similar terms should be important metrics for customers who are assessing the viability, quality and performance of one service provider versus others, if only they could be believed.

Claiming low cost and high efficiency means that a provider truly know its costs – the more granularly, the better – and constantly tests the efficiency of its processes and systems, since efficiency varies continually.  The more effectively the provider manages these and similar measures, the more accurately its pricing to customers can reflect the advantages, not to mention attest to the reliability of services provided.

This hit home for Peak 10 recently when Jeff Biggs, executive vice president, Technology & Operations, and Monty Blight, vice president, Product Management, were making an introductory company presentation to analysts at Gartner, a highly respected consulting firm in our industry. The 30-minute presentation covered virtually every aspect of company history, leadership, market positioning, technology, services, operations, people and culture, with time for questions at the end.

One analyst asked about cold and hot aisle containment, an energy-saving practice mentioned during the talk. His question centered on the fact that Jeff pinpointed the energy savings from using a particular cold aisle enclosure, which equated to savings of $400 per month. “That’s the first time I’ve heard someone come up with an actual cost savings for something like that,” the analyst commented.

After explaining the calculation, Jeff went on to say how the company is also able to improve output from air conditioning systems by 20 percent through creative thinking and unit configuration adjustments. The Gartner team was also surprised to hear that Peak 10 conducts both physical and technology-based checks on mechanical and electrical systems three times each day.

Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is a great tool for checking equipment vitals, but it can only do so much,” Jeff told the participants. “It can’t tell you, for example, if a belt is squeaking or a compressor is vibrating or a generator is leaking coolant. This is why we do physical rounds, like a nurse in a hospital does patient rounds. And that’s how we achieve availability high above our tier 2 data center rating … by following best practices religiously and always challenging ourselves to do better.”

Much of what constitutes measures such as cost effectiveness or high efficiency is in the eye of the beholder. Are they measuring against themselves, or pitting one service provider against another? Are they looking at apples to apples? It also can be easy for a provider to claim both in the short term by compromising on the quality of infrastructure or failing to invest in adequate maintenance and quality people. What first appears to be a good IT value ends up being a business debacle.

Perhaps the better question is what is a fair price for consistent and reliable levels of availability and performance that a customer requires to achieve success now and in the future? That’s not too much to ask.

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About Peak 10

"Our values are the foundation for everything we do at Peak 10, and are ultimately what enable us to earn our customers' business and their trust."
David H. Jones,
Board Member, Peak 10 + ViaWest