Learn how Compass Datacenters' patented approach to building data centers uses lean manufacturing, and also busts two design myths.
Compass Datacenters founder and CEO Chris Crosby is a self-professed myth slayer. Two myths he intends to slay are:
- Data centers are so complex that each one has to be custom designed, and
- High-quality data centers that cost less cannot be built in six months.
20 years of listening pays off
Crosby is a guy with a vision forged from 20 years of experience in telecommunications, plus 15 years in real estate and investments.
"Listening over the years, one learns some things," is how Crosby describes his tenure. There is an edge in his voice when explaining what he considers is wrong with the current process of building data centers. "Builders are not listening to their customers," says Crosby, adding the following example. "Data centers have absolutely no storage space, and more often than not loading docks are located in the worst possible spot."
In 2012, Crosby was done listening. That's when he founded Compass Datacenters and began building dedicated data centers like the one in Figure B that are Uptime Tier III Design and Constructed Facility certified, as well as LEED certified.
Building construction is based on IBC Category IV building architecture (which is the standard used by hospitals and emergency shelters), meaning the facility will withstand winds up to a Level 4 hurricane and the highest seismic standards. The rest of the design specs are:
- Loading dock with an ample debox area
- 1,100 square feet of pre-wired staging and storage space
- Generator-backed office space, lobby, breakroom, and restrooms
- Dedicated Fishbowl Security™ station with ballistic reinforcements
- 10,000, 13,000, or 16,000 square feet of column free raised floor
- 1.2 megawatt of IT load
Slaying the myths
Crosby slays the "data centers are so complex that each one has to be custom designed" myth by productizing the data center's design to include the above and no additions or exceptions; this allows Compass engineers to fine-tune the design. However, it does require discipline. Crosby mentions, "We have been asked to alter the design, but that makes it difficult for us to meet our mission statement of providing a high-quality data center in six months at a low cost. So I say no."
Referring to Figure A, Crosby explains why productization works, "The key to success is to provide a product that services the needs of the customer as cost effectively and simply as possible, while including the most common needs and wants as standard."
This allows many things to be in place ahead of time. For example: costs are known up front, and modules can be pre-built to exact specs and shipped to the location. Having all the mechanicals in place also means fundamental data-center operation is understood. In fact, Crosby says, "A manager of one Compass data center can go to another one and immediately understand how it operates."
Customers have options (60, I'm told), some of which are:
- Office-area layout
- Security system
- Fire system
This seems to contradict what Crosby just said. Crosby explains that the options only amount to about five percent of the overall data center, and do not affect productization of the design.
Next Crosby tackles the second myth, "high-quality data centers that cost less cannot be built in six months." Crosby, a lean manufacturing advocate, has fine-tuned the build process to where the company makes this guarantee, "Compass will deliver your data center in six months from initial ground breaking on a pad-ready site. We're so confident in our ability to achieve this goal that we will pay you $100,000 if we don't."
To keep from losing 100 grand each time Compass builds a data center, Crosby finesses the company's building supply chain. Working with companies capable of delivering their services anywhere in the US allows Compass to use the same suppliers for every build. For example, Fabcon builds the pre-cast concrete walls for every data center. The price is fixed, and Fabcon understands what is needed, and has the walls at the location when they're supposed to be there — all part of lean manufacturing.
One concept that showcases lean manufacturing is the innovative power-center design used by Compass. Rather than custom-build rooms in the data center to house all the complex electrical paraphernalia, an electrical company selected by Compass builds a modularized power center (it looks like a shipping container), puts the entire assembly through UL approval, and ships the power center to the job site.
Patented data-center design
Compass Datacenters now has a patent for its data-center design: U.S. patent 8839569 titled "Truly modular building datacenter facility." Crosby throughout the conversation intimates the need for a dedicated data center that can be located anywhere and meets the needs of traditionally underserved organizations. Crosby and Compass Datacenters seem to have found their niche.