2020 has been a memorable year and counts as the ‘lost year’ for many. But not, thankfully, for Datum Datacentres. When we announced our expansion plans at the beginning of the year, little did we know what was going to happen in March. However, whilst most of us were confined to our homes during lockdown, our datacentre facility continued to buzz with activity – not just the continuation of ‘business as usual’ despite the pandemic, but the build out of the first floor of our existing datacentre offering space for around 300 racks.
Just as everyone began considering the move back to some form of normality after the easing of lockdown restrictions and the end of the summer holidays, our Account Director, Matt McCluney, celebrated his eighth year with Datum. This got us thinking about the Matt’s journey with Datum and Datum’s development during the same period. So, we spoke to Matt about his time at Datum so far to find out why he is looking forward to many more work anniversaries with us….
What led you to Datum eight years ago?
I was recruited in August 2012 by Dominic Phillips (Datum’s MD) as the first employee of Datum. Dominic and I started working from a portacabin in the car park (no mean feat during the winter) whilst the datacentre was being constructed around us. I had already worked in the data centre environment for over 20 years and moved to Datum from a very large data facility. Clearly, moving to Datum (which was in its infancy) from an established datacentre business was a risk, but I had total confidence in Dominic’s vision and was excited by the opportunity to play a pivotal role in growing and shaping this new business from the ground up.
“Because I’ve been here from the very beginning, and was involved in shaping the facility, I have an in-depth knowledge of the intricacies of the workings of our datacentre, which really helps me to support clients and understand how their requirements correlate with our offering.”
Tell us a little about building Datum up from ground zero…
At the very beginning, I spent my time introducing Datum to existing contacts and local businesses, and singing the praises of the amazing facility we were in the process of constructing (and which came online in January 2013). Our first clients bought off plan, so we are eternally grateful to them for having faith in us despite the risk they were taking. But we were utterly convinced about our datacentre facility and the service we would be offering, so we couldn’t imagine anything but a positive outcome – and I think that belief rubbed off on potential clients.
It quickly emerged that our Farnborough location and the security provided by our secure facility were key factors in clients’ decisions to choose us, so we knew we were definitely on to something. 12 months in, we had around 10 clients and began to win significant deals through our partner network. Our name started coming up amongst the movers and the shakers of the datacentre world, which was a huge highlight. Then, after three years, we were winning deals away from established providers. At that point, rounds and rounds of consolidation started taking place in the industry with numerous facilities buying each other out. This consolidation meant that clients were becoming starved of choice and were losing the personal connection to their datacentre providers.
“Consolidation in the data centre sector became a powerful argument to choose an independent operator like Datum. Our driving force has always been (and will always be) client satisfaction over and above the interests of vast swathes of shareholders, and we will do everything possible to give our clients what they need.”
And what about the ‘Datum difference’. What is that, exactly?
I’ve already alluded to Datum’s complete focus on client satisfaction – that is key. We care passionately about our clients and are driven by our service-enhanced approach. That means that we’re not about property-led colocation transactions (‘how many racks do you want?’) where racks go in and the client hears nothing until contracts are up and it’s time to renew. We ask a different question: ‘how can we help you change IT infrastructure/estate?’. Our service isn’t about a range of off the peg solutions but about partnering with clients to help them fulfil their strategies; we don’t look after the IT, of course, but we offer a safe platform so that IT can deliver what it needs to deliver. And our relationships with clients are based on transparency, openness and honesty:
“Dominic’s passion for service isn’t just words. He has always employed people to deliver top-class service using a layered approach. The whole concept of a quality facility and our passion for looking after clients has become key and separates us from other providers.”
So, our entire raison d’être is different from many other colocation providers. We offer a generous SLA and it is our job to fulfil that SLA regardless of client size. There is no such thing for us as a ‘most important client’ and we don’t perceive a client hierarchy– it’s as damaging to our reputation to lose a small client as to lose a big one, so we try our absolute best to please all clients, regardless of size. Our regular service reviews and feedback help clients to make informed decisions about potential changes to their set-up.
Another key part of the ‘Datum difference’ is the flexibility of our commercial offering. We offer our clients additional reserve space free of charge (based on right of first refusal) and we allow our clients to reduce their estate (if they begin to pursue cloud strategies, for example). This flexibility makes Datum an obvious choice for businesses that want to reshape their infrastructure and workloads, or consolidate their disparate IT. One of our clients consolidated IT from across 23 sites in our facility – the benefit of this is clear.
So, Datum is an independent provider. What’s the benefit of that?
Being the owner and operator of our own facility has many advantages. Many of the really big datacentre operators outsource aspects of their business to other service providers, which means that clients buy some services through partners rather than the datacentre they originally signed up with. And many larger operators sell a tranche of space to service providers to resell in smaller chunks to end clients, so the ultimate rack consumer is distant from the operator of the facility. This dilutes the supply chain and the ability to respond quickly and flexibly to incidents. And because of this business model, larger operators are only really interested in big auctions of space/power and are less interested in smaller clients.
In contrast, all our clients, regardless of size, have direct contact directly with the key people who can affect change. This means a personalised service, rapid decision-making and swift action:
“It might sound glib, but Datum is big enough to cope and small enough to care. We can deliver top-end infrastructure for high end government organisations/finance companies whilst looking after our smaller clients too. There is no hierarchy – all clients are equally important, regardless of what’s going on in their racks.”
What’s the latest on the new build at Datum?
In the same time period as my employment at Datum (eight years), the company has gone from two staff and a portacabin, to being shortlisted for the Best Performing Company (Data Centre & Hosting Services) award in the 2020 Megabuyte awards – that’s an achievement in itself. And now we are taking it one step further.
We have partnered with Keysource, who provide our critical facilities management, to build out the first floor of our existing datacentre to create space for another 500 racks of which 120 are already sold (we are fitting out the space at the moment and it will available in November 2020 ). We have installed the transformers to connect to the supply grid and we are now slotting in the infrastructure along two new streams so there will be no impact on the existing datacentre. Although the infrastructure is there to build out the whole floor, we will hold off and make the space available for custom technical design to offer larger kVA footprints for clients seeking more substantial data centre placements.