The Data Center Frontier Executive Roundtable features insights from industry executives with lengthy experience in the data center industry. Here’s a look at the insights from John Sasser of Sabey Data Centers.
As Senior Vice President of Operations for Sabey Data Centers, John Sasser is responsible for data center delivery and operations – focused on continuous availability for Sabey’s customers. With a background in engineering and facilities, John ensures data center solutions meet customers’ evolving needs. He is passionate about efficiency, with over $5 million in awarded utility incentives, along with multiple Energy Star certifications – including 100 ratings at Intergate.Quincy. John received a patent for a mobile commissioning assistant, invented to improve commissioning of data center airflow. He is a registered engineer and past president of AFCOM Western Washington chapter. Prior to joining Sabey, John worked for Capital One and the Walt Disney Company, and spent seven years in the Navy Civil Engineer Corps.
Here’s the full text of John Sasser’s insights from our Executive Roundtable:
Data Center Frontier: Data center staffing was already a challenge as we entered 2020. What is the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on data center staffing and operations, both in the short-term and long-term?
John Sasser: We are continually searching out new talent and have an internal process for training and advancing our people to ensure that they are completely immersed in our standard operating procedures and in our culture of excellence and customer service. Because of the cohesiveness that our culture creates among our team members, moving to modified schedules and assigning some people to work from home was relatively easy and has resulted in no irremediable diminishing of efficiency, safety and responsiveness.
The goal was to reduce physical contact thereby reducing the transmission of the virus to both customers and the team and mitigating the risk of multiple team members getting sick at the same time, and we’ve been rewarded with excellent results. We found this was effective as a temporary solution, especially when coupled with a reduced operations tempo, i.e., deferring discretionary projects and maintenance where possible.
Long term, as unwelcome as the COVID epidemic has been, it has also served as a forcing function for considering other operations procedures and for investing in automated solutions. We also expect to see more robust offerings for Remote Hands assistance as customers limit the exposure of their people to a stricter criterion of need. We’ve certainly experienced a marked uptick in remote hands services from customers who formerly did some of this type of work in-house.
Data Center Frontier: How are enterprises sorting out their data center and cloud options in the shadow of the pandemic? What are the key questions and issues you are hearing in conversations with enterprise customers?
John Sasser: Each enterprise continues to take a personalized approach to their data center requirement, depending on what they believe the short- or long-term impact of the pandemic will be on their business. The move to optimize IT environments using colocation and cloud continues, and the pandemic in some ways is helping to accelerate it. Customers going through a selection process and who are unable to visit or have concerns about how they might staff a facility, now are putting a premium on long-term operational success and the operator’s ability to flex and support evolving remote hands requirements.
To help make this easier we have virtualized our tour experience and spend as much time as necessary thoroughly addressing any concerns a customer might have, not taking for granted that they could be covered in a physical tour.
Data Center Frontier: The workforce is suddenly more distributed than ever. What’s your take on the current trajectory of edge computing? Has it been changed in any way by the pandemic?
John Sasser: Of course, there has been volatility in demand with the falling off of some industries – hospitality, etc and an obvious increased distribution of technology workload associated with work from home, school from home and technology as entertainment in the home (e.g. videos and social media) and consequently, more demand at the edge for computing and communications. Most users have reported no problem in their ability to conduct these activities with existing infrastructure. Others do not have the infrastructure to be able to fully take advantage of these opportunities. Of course, these inequities often have more to do with connectivity than the location of the core processing functions.
We might expect to see more legacy companies evaluating their capacities in light of COVID’s testing of the infrastructure. This demand will continue to grow as more companies re-evaluate their formal Work From Home programs and as the prospect of the impacts of 5G, mobile and next generation apps looms.
Data Center Frontier: Power and cooling equipment are the heart of any data center. What’s the prognosis for the data center supply chain and the logistics of deploying new data center capacity?
John Sasser: Management and stewardship of power is a signature strength for Sabey and we are continually looking for ways to increase efficiency. As far as other requirements, we have seen some increased lead times, but for the most part, our projects have not been greatly affected by supply chain issues. Still, we will be focusing on ways that we can bring these more in our control, including maintaining a larger inventory of materials on hand than has been our custom and adopting optimizing procurement practices.