Thanks to high visibility companies and the media, data centers are now a well known topic. Google and Microsoft competing. Amazon’s silence. Apple’s $1 billion dollar data center have all contributed to data centers now being something interesting to talk about.
Data centers are now hip, cool, and maybe even sexy to some to know some of the secrets of what is being built. You are now part of the club, and the club is an exclusive set of people who make the data center decisions, spending hundreds of millions of dollars and critical for future business growth.
The make-up of this club used to be predominantly the real estate facilities team, but more often you are seeing IT staff having more votes. Which makes absolute sense as they are the users of the data center not facilities. When you talk to real estate, facilities, and data center operations about the services running in the data center, few know any details of what is running in the buildings.
The hard-core data center crowd would be offended by a term like being “hip”. And, Rich Miller makes an interesting comparison to “fight club.” Rich first brought up fight club analogy in June 3, 2006.
Wal-Mart, Data Centers and The Fight Club RuleJune 3rd, 2006 : Rich Miller
“The first rule of Fight Club is - you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is - you DO NOT talk about Fight Club.”
Some companies take the Fight Club approach with their data centers. You DO NOT talk about the data centers. One of these companies is Wal-Mart, which has piqued the curiosity of the media with its closed-mouth response to curiosity about the company’s 125,000 square foot data center in Joplin, Mo. The Joplin Globe describes it as a “building that Wal-Mart considers so secret that it won’t even let the county assessor inside without a nondisclosure agreement.” Wal-Mart gladly supplied them with more ammunition. “This is not something that we discuss publicly,” Wal-Mart senior information officer Carrie Thum told the paper. “We have no comment. And that’s off the record.”
The Globe isn’t afraid to speculate, however:
Wal-Mart’s ability to crunch numbers is a favorite of conspiracy theorists, and its data centers are the corporate counterpart to Area 51 at Groom Lake in the state of Nevada. According to one consumer activist, Katherine Albrecht, even the wildest conspiracy buff might be surprised at just how much Wal-Mart knows about its customers - and how much more it would like to know.
Rich goes on telling another example.
I once got a call from a large institution insisting that we not identify the state in which their data center was located. Not the street address mind you, the state. This person felt that even identifying the state presented a security risk. What made this even stranger was that this organization had purchased the facility through a bankruptcy auction, and the sale agreement (including the address) was a public record. The Fight Club approach doesn’t work too well once that much information is public, but some facility operators will persist in invoking it anyway.
As tax incentives get thrown around in bigger numbers more information is in the public records, and tax payers are demanding to see the benefits of funding data center construction in their local community.
Whether you are a “fight club” or a “hip” group, keep in mind the more tax incentives you receive the public is wanted to have a peak inside.