Data Center Memories of Olivier Sanche

The following are a collection of stories from people who I asked to share stories about Olivier. 



Kevin Heslin ✆

Dave, I gave this a great deal of thought and sort of previewed it on my blog last week. Hope it works for you:

Feel free to use it as you wish, but feel no obligation to use it all.

My wife and I volunteer to lead Pre-Cana sessions in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, NY. The Catholic Church mandates these sessions, which are basically marriage classes, for engaged couples before it will allow them to get married in the Church. As part of our lesson, my wife and I ask couples to identify people in their lives from whom they could learn about the secret sauce of a happy marriage. Inevitably, they name parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles who have been married a long time, often overlooking more contemporary examples.

One time, a young couple told us about his grandparents. His grandmother, he said, continued to visit his grandfather and hold his hand long after he could no longer recognize her. I asked the couple why the grandmother continued to make the trip at her age, given the pain it must have caused her. After a brief discussion, I asked the entire group to consider how must the grandfather have treated his wife when they were both young to have inspired such devotion.

The outpouring of love and devotion on the passing of Olivier Sanche reminds me of the grandfather story. You see, I never met Olivier. In fact, I really only knew his reputation as a brilliant builder of data centers, a man of great energy, and someone who would share his knowledge to help improve the industry.

I now know him much better through the outpouring of grief from so many corners of the industry, an outpouring that touches even those who never met Olivier. If I, who never met Olivier, feel his loss, I can only imagine how his family and friends must feel about the loss of someone whose actions while living inspired such love.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of Olivier Sanche.

Kevin Heslin


Mission Critical magazine

Andrew F

The thing that resonates with me is that he was such a warm and genuine person. from the very first time I met him when I was at the epa, he just put me totally at ease. He was so easy to talk to and he always seem to care and to listen to what I had to say. Frankly, it gave me a tremendous sense of validation.

Craig D

My favorite story about Olivier happened soon after he joined the project, and of course, turned the approach on its head.  We had finished bringing that design phase to closure and were presenting it to the CTO in preparation for a final go ahead.  The presentation went well, and as we were packing up, congratulations were going around the table.  I thanked Olivier for his role as our project muse. This comment drew some quizzical looks  – so I clarified with something like “Well, he’s French.”  It got a good laugh.

At another point in the project, Olivier came to me privately with some concerns.  Large among these was his own impact.  He wished to know if he was being “too forceful.”  I assured him that his “lead” on the project was just right – firm, re-assuring, and well timed.

Nic B

I was lucky enough to meet with Olivier a few weeks before his passing. We conversed about many issues. I was always amazed how he ably wore so many hats. Many folks in the industry wear one or a few hats, but Olivier wore them all so well. We fondly discussed typical data center guy stuff – outages, uptime, maintenance, design, construction – it went on for hours. Throughout the discussion he never seemed to tire. Olivier was ten years my senior, and I was starting to wear out. It was both embarrassing and humbling. I was battling bronchitis, (which later developed in to pneumonia) but we kept talking!  He continued asking me pointed and highly in depth questions. I was honestly starting to get pretty physically tired, but he was so mentally engaging I didn’t want it to end, and he kept me on my toes. It always amazed me how enthused and lively he could be with his energy – his questions and the discussion kept me going. We started discussing our various company’s positions and learned that later on that month we were due to meet up again at an industry event. We talked about how many in the industry present the same thing every year, how things don’t change too often, or as much as we would like. There are very few folks in this world who drive real change, and even fewer who embrace it. Of those among us who are agents of both, Olivier was one who you could always count on to do so intelligently and thoroughly, but most importantly, without ego. His was always a passionately genuine and humanistic approach. I am glad we had the opportunity to talk one last time, and I will always cherish the final experience.

I have a hard time thinking about it, cause every time I do I start to honestly cry. I didn’t think in a million years we would have to say goodbye like this.

Daniel C

One of the good memories I have is when joining Google I had put Oliver as a reference. When I asked him what his official title was he said "Data Center Emperor", but only in his mind :)

Danielle F

If I were talking about Olivier and the datacenter world, I would broaden it to talk about his datacenter life as a part of the whole way that he lived his life. Here are my (not very insightful thoughts).

- Olivier wanted the best - for his company, his coworkers, his family and his globe. He talked often about Emilie and polar bears and the impact of datacenters broadly

- He listened carefully, acted decisively and laughed deeply with everyone (independent of rank and role, he made everyone feel like they were part of the team)

- Good enough was never good enough - he pushed people to think differently about hard problems and to propose innovative yet pragmatic solutions

- He surrounded himself with people who pushed him and his interest in creative and innovative approaches was genuine and thoughtful.

When I picture Olivier, I picture a passionate and intense, jovial and considerate, playful and focused professional. Thinking about him makes me smile... (and then I choke up)

eBay Discussion

Chris C

Olivier was a key contributor to making AT&T the number 1 carrier based hoster in the world. He was incredibly customer focused. He always had a can do attitude and frequently went above and beyond to ensure our hosting services were world class and customers were happy with the service. He touched many people at AT&T and was very well respected by his peers and leadership team. He will be missed very much and always remembered for being very innovative, going the extra mile...and for being a person who truly cared about the people on his team.

Terri J

I think you already know the story about the Polar Bears….
Olivier was very passionate about his job and the impact he could make…   It was so easy to work with him as you could just give him a bit of direction and off he would go.
I remember we were talking about how Google was claiming how efficient their data centers were which was when I made a comment that not building a data center would be more efficient.  Olivier latched onto that and started using it…   I started seeing that pop up all over the place.  I.e.  the most efficient data center is the one you don’t have to build.  We had a good laugh about it.  Of course that also drove us to start looking at application inefficiencies and driving those efforts.
Another story about wine ---  we were talking about a particular wine and Olivier made the comment that it’s a good everyday wine.  I started laughing and he didn’t understand why because he thought everyone drank wine every day!!
I can’t believe he’s gone….

Heather M

My first encounter with Olivier sticks out the most.  He was new to the business and took the time to meet with every manager in the organization.  He was open and honest and wanted to understand how he can partner and benefit from each others’ work.  I had never seen a person do this and not only was it very impressive, it was a true testament of Olivier’s professional and personal goal to not only accomplish great things, but to meet great people along the way.  He did this while always having a twinkle in his eye.  He could command a room and a crowd with little to no effort and was a great mentor both personally and professionally.

Jimmy C

"I started on Monday at a company just as secretive as yours! I have hope that we can still find ways to share and collaborate on ways to improve our industry."

That's what I liked about him: Humour and ideology, with a dose of reality.

Stewart Y


Needless to say, the loss of Olivier is a huge one in so many ways - a tragic loss to his family. And enormous loss to the Data Center Industry and the close knit community that focuses on the key challenges around energy and sustainability issues faced by the large DCs. Olivier was so passionate about his work and driving efficiency and had volunteered in private that his goal was build the most energy efficient in the world!! That was the way he thought.

However, there was another passion that Olivier had behind his family and data centers. That was his love of Football. Not American football, but what we Americans know as soccer. And I remember when Martin and I were on site for a presentation to all of Olivier’s extended team he was frantically reading updates on the score of the France vs. Ireland World Cup Qualifier that France had to win in order to go through to the World Cup. After the meeting was over we adjourned to the cafeteria to grab a bite and discuss a few more things and Olivier immediately pulled up the game on his iPhone. After a few minutes he got very agitated and had to make a call and one could hear him speaking in rapid fire French to someone over the phone. As it turns out, he was watching the game using a Slingbox installed on his brother-in-law’s TV in Paris. Someone had just changed the channel to a French Sitcom and he was imploring them to turn it back so he could watch the end of the game. If you recall,  France won the game in the last minutes (with a handball goal by a French player) and went on to the World Cup. Olivier was beaming the rest of the day. But I never brought up the French performance in South Africa during the World Cup, it was just too painful a topic if you know what I mean.

Family, Work, Football - Olivier was intense and passionate about them all. His intensity will be missed.

Vimal K

Hello Dave

I just found out, I am shocked.  I am planning to be at the memorial next week and will do my best to be there (I live in DC Metro).

Story about Olivier:

Back in 2004, I worked for Olivier in AT&T in NJ, he said he had an opportunity for me in Ashburn, VA.  I jumped at the chance and next thing I know I am helping manage the AT&T Ashburn data center.  While working there, the data center was hit by a tornado and it was amazing to see Olivier in action when he came to lead the charge. What a defining moment.

That year was a busy one - new job, new home, and new baby!  He even had a couple of presents for my newborn daughter, Delia.  Olivier was very concerned about my transition and wanted to make sure I was ok.  When he visited Ashburn, he brought 6-month old Delia one day and he held her with such care and genuine affection.  It is a side of Olivier that surprised me; what a caring man. Farewell, my friend and mentor.

Mike L

Funny story Olivier being French and all…

During the design meetings the for the Salt Lake data center, the discussion would get heated at times…

Every once in a while someone would let fly a curse word, then realizing that was not necessarily appropriate in a business setting would say “Pardon my French” and Olivier would immediately reply “That’s not French”.  That would always draw big laughter and never got old.  Just a small way he used to lighten the mood and set people at ease.

Bryan K

Subject: Farewell my Friend
Olivier-Thank you for showing the world what is truly important and thank you for the friendship we shared. You truly paved the way for us all to follow both as business friends and friends away from work. I miss you... (Just so you know, I have not worn a tie to work yet...) Rest in Peace my friend, you lived a great life!
Hello, my name is Bryan Klein and wanted to express my deepest condolences to the entire Sanche Family and close friends. I have a few stories about how Olivier and I worked together at eBay and most recently together at Apple. As I'm certain it is no surprise to you that Olivier was close with a lot of people as his character and caring nature was never second even to his passion for the work he did in the Data center Industry. I first met Olivier in an interview for eBay where he made it very clear to me that character mattered as much as knowledge of the work being performed. He made a funny comment to me after the interview where he said to me "Don't bother to wear a tie again for me, I can tell what kind of person you are by listening to the passion in your voice." We shared many great adventures together that I will cherish forever, with eBay and most certainly with Apple.
This is a clip from November '08 where I used to write a monthly newsletter for eBay that featured him and some things that are important to him. What I heard and saw from Olivier were his Family, friends, polar bears (Which is a great story how he was determined to not let Emilie's love for Polar Bears go unnoticed.), and making our world a better place to be.