Historically, the data center industry has coalesced around a single business model where cost efficiencies are the result of the economies of scale produced by building large facilities and filling them out over time by leasing to a variety of end users. Since its foundation in 2011, Compass Datacenters has been addressing the customer-focused inefficiencies of this approach including the lack of geographic flexibility, having to share a facility and an overall lack of end-user control.
Today, Compass Datacenters delivers data center solutions at all points along the core to edge continuum that provide the benefits of just-in-time incremental capacity, single-tenancy control and a price point that is competitive with wholesale co-location and edge solutions while delivering an enhanced level of reliability, flexibility and operational simplicity.
Reliability, flexibility and operational simplicity
“We base our solutions on what we like to call our “kit of parts,” that enables us to combine the use of standard components, processes and procedures to build data centers in the size and power configurations our customers require,” said Chris Crosby while talking with Beyond! This approach also enables Compass Datacenters to offer them the ability to customize significant elements of the facility; something that most alternative solutions aren’t able to do. Through this standardization function, Compass Datacenters controls its costs without the need to build facilities larger than a single end user requires. This standardization allows the company to build the data center wherever the customer desires and operate them using their personnel and procedures.
Tackling challenges easily while growing rapidly
Every company deals with a variety of issues as it grows and Compass Datacenters is no exception. One is the size of its competitors, and second is an entrenched belief system within the marketplace. Building data centers is a capital-intensive business, and the leading providers in the market have been successful in cultivating both customers and vast reservoirs of available funds for new projects. “As a new company entering the industry we were bootstrapping much of our early initiatives, so we had to very quickly find customers to validate our concept and enable us to develop a portfolio of success to make us attractive to potential investors. Fortunately, we were successful in these efforts. Red Bird Capital and the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Fund, the largest teacher’s pension fund in the world have come on board as vital financial partners. Working with these partners provides us with the financial capability to compete with firms that are many times our size,” Chris added.
Like any company proposing a solution that is a radical departure from the status quo, Compass Datacenters had to overcome the “It’s always been done this way” mentality. Chris and the team grappled a great deal in their early days trying to determine the best way to effectively and concisely communicate to the market how they were offering a new alternative that provided a unique set of benefits. “I’d like to say that we immediately got it right, but there was a lot a trial and error before we were able to strike the right chords in our messaging and positioning. Fortunately, one of our core convictions is humility in, pride out meaning that we weren’t afraid to admit that we’d made a mistake and use that experience to direct our efforts,” Chris further said.
Open book relationships with the customers
Chris believes that what separates Compass Datacenters from its competition is the flexibility of its solutions set and the company’s “open book” relationships with the customers. “We started the company to offer customers the ability to get the type of data center that best suited their unique needs as opposed to having to accept the constraints of locating their compute and storage functionality in a pre-built facility. Certainly, things like the development of our Kit of Parts provides a strong foundation for delivering on this vision, but those capabilities wouldn’t be sufficient if we didn’t work collaboratively with our customers throughout the entire design, build, train and handover process,” Chris remarked.
Every company will tell you that they work closely with their customers but in Chris’s experience, these relationships tend to be relatively superficial. According to him, sending someone an updated Gannt chart every so often doesn’t fall within his definition of close. “When we say “open book” we mean just that, our customers have access to all the tools that we use on a project, and even if it means having to tell them that something has gone wrong and how we intend to correct the issue we don’t hesitate to communicate that information,” he further added.
Meet the visionary
Chris Crosby is a recognized visionary and leader in the data center space and has served as founder and CEO of Compass Datacenters since 2011. Chris has over 25 years of technology experience and over 15 years of real estate and investment experience. Previously, Chris served as a senior executive and founding member of Digital Realty Trust. Mr. Crosby received a B.S. degree in Computer Sciences from the University of Texas at Austin.
He is responsible for charting the course that enables the company to continue to grow. However, for him, growth is also a function of putting the right people in the right positions within the organization and giving them the freedom that they need to be successful. “There’s a certain leap of faith there but you have to have the self-confidence to admit that you don’t know everything and that success is a function of you being able to orchestrate the efforts of your team so that the organization is greater than the sum of its parts,” Chris said.
Continuing to adapt is the key!
The data center industry is changing at an unprecedented pace, and the functional requirements of data centers themselves are becoming increasingly stratified. Compass Datacenters has constructed a set of solutions that can address any customer requirement from large sites for Cloud/SaaS providers, enterprise end users and retail colo providers to locating data centers at multiple remote (edge) locations. Chris sees these distinctions and requirements along this continuum continuing to change, and that will require his company to continually refine every element of its business, not just its solutions set to continue to be successful. “We consider constant change to be natural in any environment, and another of our foundational principles is a commitment to continual improvement. In essence, we’ve structured the company to be able to compete in a rapidly changing marketplace, and I think this will be a competitive strength for us moving forward,” Chris concluded.
Management: Chris Crosby, Founder and CEO, Compass Datacenters