Brant Bernet: Willie Nelson and Your Data Center

Brant Bernet

I have never really been much of a cat person. So when American Airlines denied boarding rights to Willie Nelson Bernet due to excessive under-cabin heat, I knew that I was in for some unexpected—I should say unwanted—feline bonding. As my wife and our two daughters boarded the plane, I could hear one of them whisper, “Does Dad even know what Willie eats?” I’m sure they noticed the panic in my eyes and the long, thick silence that followed Clemmie’s calming comment: “It’s no big deal (the rest plays back in slow-mo) just…bring…Willie…with…you…when…you…come.”

Our two boys and I were scheduled to follow the girls five days later on the annual 2,000-mile family drive to Five Islands, Maine. Except this time the “family” was sans the women and now included Willie the cat (as well as Ferdie the beagle and Blue the Australian shepherd—cue the Jed Clampett music). Well, the days passed and with the trip’s stops finally mapped—including games at Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium, and Fenway Park—I woke the boys and we loaded the car, careful to make sure Willie was locked in a bathroom until the very last minute.

They say the best way to transfer an agitated cat in is a pillow case. I’m not sure who “they” are, but my limited experience on the subject confirms that “they” never put their theory to the test. By the time we had Willie in the Suburban, his meows sounded oddly satanic, and the boys and I were actually afraid of what might emerge from his death satchel.

When we let Willie out, we were surprised and relieved to see that he had not grown an extra head; he was, in fact, completely still, staring at me as if to say, “Sleep with one eye open, pops, because you will pay for that.” And then, without warning, Willie did a Spiderman leap from the middle of the car to the barely cracked back window, and before we could grab him, he was gone.

Now this is no ordinary cat, he has no claws, only one canine tooth, he is rail skinny, one eye was maimed in a fight, he can jump 10 times his own body length, he is black (and difficult to see in the pre-dawn dark), and the baddest cat in the entire neighborhood. He is a guerrilla fighter, and he was in his jungle. The boys and I chased that cat over fences, around corners, and through gates until we were a ticked off, sweaty mess.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Highway’s mantra of “Adapt. Overcome. Improvise.” kept running through my head as we pulled out of Dallas that morning. Surely Willie could survive on mice and birds for 10 days. Surely Clemmie would understand how hard we tried to find Willie. Surely the boys would forgive some of the words I used to describe their beloved cat.

As someone responsible for your company’s data center plan, are you prepared to adapt, overcome, and improvise as the situation warrants? Have you carefully crafted a lease document and SLA so that you can make changes, if changes are necessary? We remind our clients that there are more than 150 negotiable items in a data center lease, issues that range from the mundane to the significant to the essential.

Have you factored in a mechanism for growth, an expansion option? Despite what you think your growth will be over the term of your lease/contract, you should make sure that the facility you choose has expansion capabilities and your contract should painstakingly describe how your assumed expansion will take place. Is the expansion a “must-take”—in other words, are you contractually obligated to take the space on a date certain? Or is it rather a “right of refusal” or “right of offer?” Is it an ongoing right or one-time offer? Details and flexibility rule the day in this paragraph.

Then, what if the world goes the other way and you find yourself needing to shed space? Have you negotiated for the right to sublease? If so, what approvals are required and how long will those approvals take? Can you sublease to another tenant in the facility? What about a prospect that your landlord is also chasing? Can you assign your lease to another company and, if so, will it take an act of Congress to paper, potentially derailing the anticipated assignment?

Did you consider the right to terminate at a particular date? Is a penalty involved? How and when will the penalty be paid? How much is the penalty? Your ability to adapt and overcome (improvisation in the data center world is rarely thought of as a virtue, so we’ll leave that one out) will be determined by how you structure you lease/contract months or even years before a situation comes up.

Old Willie made it 10 days on his own. He has even forgiven me for the Santa Clause act. I really had no backup plan for his jail break other than to drive north and pray for his little black soul. I finally ‘fessed up to Willie’s AWOL status over the phone from Memphis. (I needed to wait until we were far enough from Dallas to remove the “turn around and get him” option.)

I have often wondered if Willie would have jumped out of the car, knowing that he would be alone for 10 days. First of all, I’m pretty sure cats don’t think like that, but more important, I think he was imprinted early on with the ability to adapt and survive. It has served him well over his 12 years. How about you?

Brant Bernet is co-founder and managing director of Lincoln Rackhouse. Contact him at [email protected]