Ah, the tumbleweed. I count among my great memories, the times have I been driving in the panhandle of upper west Texas, past the big cities, but before the mountains of New Mexico. It is open-range, free, rough, and very quiet.
Every few minutes, a small dot will emerge from the distant northern plain and the game is on. Can I choreograph my speed with the speed of this wind-swept ball of dried sagebrush? As it grows closer, I press the accelerator. Have I gone too fast? Will it beat me to the yellow dividing line that I have been staring at for what seems like a year? Slow down, just a bit … but then a rogue gust moves it seemingly out of my grasp. I jam the pedal to the floor, and with my beady, bloodshot eyes on the growing mass, I make one last-ditch effort and hit pay dirt. The tumbling tumbleweed is no match for my oversized bumper and it is no more. Once again, I win a round of “tumbleweed bowling.”
I don’t suggest you try this at home, on the road, or anywhere for that matter. I’m simply trying to frame the real meat of my story. I have absolutely no feelings for those fast-moving prairie balls; in fact, anything less than disintegration is failure. So, when my wife (whom I love very much) asked me to pull over so that we could grab a tumbleweed—something about spray-painting it gold and placing it on the dining room table—I was stunned. Surely not … ah, surely so.
One was too egg shaped, one too small, one even looked like George Washington (which the kids and I thought was cool; my wife Clemmie did not). Then, with the help of a glorious yellow ray of sun highlighting its outline, we spotted the perfect tumbleweed, caught in some barbed wire, waiting to be rescued. I stopped the car and walked over to the fence line, desperately hoping a ranch hand didn’t drive by, and I grabbed it.
It was massive. Because since we didn’t have enough room in the way-back of the Suburban, I was asked to do a little rearranging and to carefully place it in the middle between the children—who were all probably wondering what foster home they would be shipped to when Mom and Dad went on an extended vacation at the Cuckoo’s Nest. Determined to get back on the road, we made it fit.
Within seconds the kids were an itchy mess and on an first-name basis with several West Texas briars and brambles. Plus, the thing had bugs—alien bugs, bugs that crawled and hopped and clung and bit. Just when the backseat went from chaos to near mutiny, a loud bump followed by a crazy gust of wind caused something to move from the roof of the car onto the asphalt.
Had I left one of the kids on the roof? Of course not, that would be irresponsible of me. No, it was the former contents of the over-crowded, rearranged back seat: pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals now dotted the otherwise pristine landscape. Here we were, kids screaming and being eaten by Mothra’s mutant offspring, junk all over the highway, Clemmie giggling and quietly reading her magazine, and me working my jaw until my teeth were sore.
Your next data center search doesn’t have to be like our road trip. My brother, Blake once said to me, “Rule No. 1—No Surprises. Rule No. 2—Refer to Rule No. 1.” Great words to live by, especially in the complex data-center world.
What is your goal? Does your facility have to have concurrently maintainable architecture? Are you expecting 2N redundancy all the way back to the substation? If you are and have not conducted an independent survey of the facility’s systems, you are potentially in for a surprise. Did you negotiate for a cap on various operating expenses and (especially) on the PUE computation? If you didn’t, you may get an unexpected bill in the mail.
I can’t count the number of critical facility leases that I have read where the renewal option pricing is based on the real estate and the contents of the facility, regardless of who paid for the improvements; shame, shame. When your lease rate triples simply because your document was improperly papered, the surprise can be in the form of a pink slip.
We estimate that over 75 percent of all data center transactions are negotiated without the help of a data center consultant or specially trained broker. Although that trend is slowly changing, until it is reversed, surprises will ensue.
Well, I made a speedy path to the side of the road and quickly discharged the unwanted hitchhikers—bugs, thorns, dust and all. I then did a U-turn and went back for the things we had inadvertently left behind. And for a few, glorious moments, the car was completely silent. We abandoned the tumbleweed idea and within a few hours we were even laughing about the experience. Data center surprises rarely end with such levity.
Brant Bernet is senior vice president of CB Richard Ellis, where he leads the firm’s critical environments group in Dallas. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.