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Why flexibility matters for the data center provider
Why flexibility matters for the data center provider

By Rhett Gill · 4/6/2021

This is an episode of HawkTalk, datacenterHawk’s series of candid one on one conversations with executives and leaders in the data center industry. If you enjoyed this episode, you can check them all out on our blog. If you’d like to know when we release future episodes, you can subscribe here.

When Nicholas Laag, CEO and Managing Director of Prime Data Centers, was preparing to open new data center facilities in Sacramento and Santa Clara, his primary focus was on the end-user. The varying needs and demands customers have—from hybrid migration to combining the cloud with their own onboarding—make it crucial for data centers to be able to provide multiple solutions to the people they serve.

This mindset makes it possible for data centers to look less like products and more like partnerships. Understanding both the customer's needs and the ways the data center can create a solution is the best way to create a healthy relationship between providers and users.

Past behaviors won’t solve future problems

Even as recent as ten years ago, data center operators were more likely to focus on the efficiency of the build, only thinking of how the project best worked within their needs and their capabilities. Now, however, it’s more about the operator working in tandem with the customer. That’s why Laag and his team focus on providing a dynamic environment that can provide adaptable solutions.

For example, the Prime Data Center in Sacramento—which was chosen as a more cost-effective location to the Bay Area—was designed specifically with the idea of expansion in mind. Laag shares how at this location they have the opportunity to be 100% green, with the cost of power being significantly less than the Bay (and even less than Santa Clara).

They also built this campus on a zone that allows them to have their own substation, which has 50 MVA of available power, as well as room for expansion. This allows them to work long-term with companies who may themselves be growing. Building the site on property with room to grow means now that the location is fully leased, they have the ability to increase the footprint and density by 33%. Instead of providing six megawatts per the original design, they’re now able to deliver eight megawatts to the customer.

As Laag describes, “If you're not on point in terms of delivery speeds and design flexibility, you will be funneled into a small number of customers.” Having the ability to serve the different needs customers come up with will quickly separate the data center providers who are continuing with antiquated practices from those who are focused on adapting innovative and creative solutions.

The COVID effect and looking ahead

It’s no secret that the need for creative solutions stems, at least in part, from the increased demands on data centers as a result of COVID-19. Laag believes, however, that COVID is unlikely to have an exponential effect on the fundamentals of the industry.

Across the world, data centers have seen an increase in demand, much of which comes from mobile work and remote offices. The pandemic has certainly accelerated the need for and use of mobile work technology that has been available, and it’s reasonable to assume some of these practices will remain.

It’s the role of data center providers to understand this positive bump in data usage isn’t something to be counted on in terms of a business model. This again points to the competitive advantage flexibility provides. Being able to meet the heightened demands of customers during COVID-19 has been a real benefit to many data centers, but those who are prepared for a return to normalcy following the distribution of vaccines are best poised to maintain their current and new customers.

As Laag shares, “You need two sides to dance.” Some customers are experiencing remarkable growth and their data center providers need to be prepared to grow with them. Yet, at the same time, when the growth wanes, these same providers need to be prepared to move in tandem with their customers.


As Laag and his team prepare to open new locations in Virginia and Chicago, as well as overseas in Germany, their focus remains on flexibility and usability.

Preparing to meet the ever-changing needs of customers around the world continues to be both a unique challenge and an avenue for creative solutions. Data center providers who are able to strategically adapt alongside the needs of their customers are the ones most prepared for success in the future.

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