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Commercial Real Estate

Brant Bernet: Sunkist Oranges and your Data Center

Were you careful to “look under the hood” before you signed a long term contract for your data center? Did you know what you were getting because you spent the necessary time in your due diligence period and did you ask all the right questions? More important, did you get all the right answers?
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Brant Bernet

“If it doesn’t say Sunkist, you don’t know what’s inside.” Or so the old ad campaign went. If you were watching TV in the ’70s, you remember the commercial. It was a cheaply made cartoon that showed two boys debating what makes an orange an orange. After the brief exchange, they fumble the orange, it breaks open, and out pops an ugly dinosaur doing bad W.C. Fields impersonation: ”Go back to your senses, kid … If it doesn’t say Sunkist, you don’t know what’s inside!” Then he eats an orange, peel and all.

I was reminded of that ad a couple years ago when my wife Clemmie and I bought three fruit trees for our back yard. I’m pretty sure I was not a candidate for fruit trees, but when my buddy called from Nicholson-Hardie (love those guys) and said that the labels had fallen off a shipment of trees and he wasn’t sure what they were, I was intrigued. When he said I could take them off his hands at “deep discount,” I grabbed my keys.

I babied those trees. But with a crazy Dallas wind, record-breaking heat and a total lack of citrus acumen, our first harvest was not to be. As I dolefully moved them inside for the winter, I still could only wonder what we had.

A few months went by, and sure enough, in late winter we started seeing buds. In the spring, those buds popped open and overnight our house was filled with the fragrance (not an altogether good fragrance, I might add) of a hundred soon-to-be … somethings. When we were sure we were clear of any freeze danger, we carefully moved the trees back into the yard and watched. We longed for the day that they would provide us some hint of what they might produce. But, dang it, to my eyes, all citrus flowers look alike, they seem to smell alike and the young fruit is always green and round. By mid-summer it was apparent that we had three different varieties.

The limes came in first. The crazy thing was one tree produced limes with seeds and another produced limes without seeds (something about them not needing to be pollinated to produce fruit—doesn’t sound like much fun, if you ask me). We made margaritas (very small margaritas) and for a few days used the juice from our limes in just about everything we ate. But it was the third tree that kept us guessing. The fruit was round like an orange, but the leaves didn’t look quite right. By late summer they were still green, but the size of a billiard ball. We waited … and waited … and waited.

Were you careful to “look under the hood” before you signed a long term contract for your data center? Did you know what you were getting because you spent the necessary time in your due diligence period and did you ask all the right questions? More important, did you get all the right answers?

Your data center doesn’t have to say Sunkist, but I hope it was fully vetted, stem to stern. What is the age of the equipment? Will you be responsible if something breaks or just gets old and dies? Like the peel protects the orange until it is ready to be turned into OJ, does your data center roof meet minimal standards? Will the walls protect your valuable servers, and the equipment that makes it all run, in the event of natural disaster?

How about the people? Arguably, nothing is more important than the engineers, the help desk and security personnel that care for the facility. It is about the skin, but it is also about the label—what’s inside. Who designed the facility? Who built it? What is its track record, the uptime history? Who is your operator?

Are the bathrooms clean? (Seriously, let that go and the rest is sure to follow.) Are the generators tested regularly? How about the batteries? When you asked if you could lift up a floor tile and check the underbelly, did they walk you to the same one they lift every time (the one that stays spotlessly clean) or did they let you chose where to go?

Were you careful, diligent and demanding? If you didn’t do all these things or ask all these questions, shame on you … you don’t know what’s inside.

Clemmie and I stopped waiting one Saturday afternoon in mid October. We plucked several of our mystery fruit, squeezed them into a glass and enjoyed the inaugural sips of our sweet, orangey juice. It was so good we plucked some more and made mimosas. (Are you seeing a pattern?) Our final tree produced … world class Tangors!

Before that Saturday, I had never tasted Tangor juice, but now I am a believer. The sweetness of a TANGerine and the heartiness of and ORange made a combination that is better than either alone.

When you are looking for your next data center, make sure you read the label. Make sure the operator has combined the right ingredients … ingredients that together will take the mystery out of your data center experience. Know what’s inside.

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

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