Data Center Problem Solving or Process, where do you spend your time?

In 1991 after 7 years at Apple I took a sabbatical and vacation for 15 weeks re-living a  childhood summer vacation experience taking off from Memorial Day to Labor day.  It took me 6 weeks to decompress, and I was thankful I took so much time off.  One of my realizations I had is I really enjoyed solving complex product development problems.  Passionate and refreshed I returned to Apple in Sept 1991 told my manager my realization and she said, "well it's nice you like to solve problems, but we are about process here."  By April 1992, I took the leap leaving Apple to go to Microsoft to work on Windows until 2006.

I was having a great philosophical conversation last night with Kevin Francis at Silent Partner.

Kevin Francis

Kevin Francis

Growing up in Austin, Texas Kevin developed an affinity for live music, tacos and a story well-told. That background somehow resulted in an ability to put complex telecom problems into plain language that non-technical executives can understand and profit from. Previously, Kevin learned the ins and outs of his field at leading companies such as MCI, GST and CRG West. It was at XO, however, where he first met Mike and developed a friendship which would lead to the origins of Silent Partner. When he’s not in his super secret laboratory cooking up strategy for his clients, he’s most likely enjoying a cold beer and watching live music or the Texas Longhorns. Hook ’em.

We first met a couple of months ago at a data center social, and had fun talking about Texas Longhorn football as I plan on taking my 9 year-old daughter next month to her first Texas Longhorn game and to see her Uncle who was an all-American swimmer for Texas.  And, while I am in Austin I'll see the guys at Smooth-Stone and Dell. 


Last night Kevin and I got into an interesting discussion of how so many decisions are made by people who don't really understand the problem they are trying to solve.  And, this morning that's when it hit me.  Most people are going through a process, not a problem solving exercise.  And, this same issue of so many being about process, is causing the data center industry to be slow in changing.

What problem do you want to solve?  Many data center people want to build a data center to reduce their costs vs. collocation facilities.  So, this is a process of cost reduction. 

Silent Partner's engages with many clients who have network performance issues, scalability of their information services, and cost reduction.  The entrepreneurial start-ups are running into these type issues as they grow.


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We strive to stay at the center of our industry. At this point, we’ve experienced it all. We know what products, services, and vendors work best. We see how deals are struck and what dynamics are at play. We know exactly how much you can get for your money. We hear about new facilities before our competitors and we know which new technologies are being offered. We are essentially stockpiling information to give our clients every advantage.

If you try to take a process approach you'll many times go down a path of "covering your ass" do all the things in a way so you and your peers can't get fired which many times happen in IT as there is low tolerance for risk.  Risk-less development can be costly and ineffective, but it saves people's jobs.  Look who builds some of the most inefficient data centers and they are usually the most bureaucratic process oriented organizations.

To get out of this dilemma you can hire a good set of outside experts like Silent Partner to address the problems and not be focused on process.


We never start with a price list. We get in a room with our clients and listen. Out of that comes all kinds of ideas, big and small. Sometimes we need to get them up and running, yesterday. Sometimes we need to sit back and take a more strategic view of the problem. Every solution is different.

The telecom landscape is constantly being populated and re-populated with new technologies, protocols, services, and vendors. We stay connected and close to the action—it’s the only way to ensure our customer’s success

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Their client list is solid.


Where do you spend the majority of your day in process or problem solving?

I try spend the majority of my time talking to guys like Kevin Francis.