As the industry continues to adapt and evolve to the impacts of Covid-19, the partnerships and conversations between data centers and customers are naturally developing in tandem. We’re at a crossroads, with many hurdles and opportunities facing the industry as we know it, and the conversations and actions taking place today are ultimately shaping the data center industry of tomorrow. But how can we best ensure we are continuing to nurture these relationships and that we are giving said partnerships the best chance of success?

Communication is key

With the world moving almost solely online over 18 months ago, the rush to connect digitally meant the pressure on data center infrastructure was at an unprecedented level, meaning communications between data centers and their customers became more important than ever.

As we move forward, many questions remain. What do we need to consider if people return to the office en masse or if society moves towards a hybrid way of working? How do we price for new cloud strategies and those customers now forward buying for the next four to five years? Although a lot remains uncertain about the future, keeping a close relationship and allowing room to be flexible should plans need to change is vital to ensure we keep things moving, no matter what the future may bring. By working strategically to determine what customers need from providers in both the short and long term, it will help their partners and providers unpick where the next capacity will come from and plan accordingly.

With this, it’s important for the relationship to be equal and collaborative, with providers taking on a more advisory role and using their expertise to push back or challenge certain requests, rather than saying yes to everything whether it makes sense or not. The relationship will be all the better for it with an increased mutual respect of each other’s expectations and respective skills and knowledge. Customers acknowledge that they often can’t deliver against internal demand by themselves, whether it's with power, land, planning, or supply chain issues, so fostering this relationship has never been more important.

It’s also fair to say businesses and consumers alike now understand technology and the public cloud much better, as a result of lockdown and having to move online. This has likely led to a greater sense of trust in the cloud, which is a positive thing when it comes to cloud migration and continuing the move towards hybrid data center solutions and should aid understanding between providers and their customers.

Location, location, location

As many look to expand to keep up with continued demand and expand their operations, providers need to be regularly asking clients what their plans are and where they want to be, and work together to determine what makes sense and where it’s worth taking risks. Should we be prioritizing secondary, tertiary locations such as Egypt or Athens, or continue to build in emerging markets such as Madrid, Warsaw and Berlin? Continuing to assess the wider landscape and regularly checking in on short, medium and long term requirements is essential to ensure sustainable and successful growth.

Pricing transparency

With materials and construction costs going up as a result of delays and pent up demand, as well as hyperscalers drawing upon any reserved capacity and wanting more, pricing has been a balancing act. As always, transparency from the outset is a necessity, with each party understanding the unprecedented hurdles that have been created on both sides as a result of the pandemic, and working together towards a common goal.

Trust is integral for a harmonious partnership, as once this is lost, the relationship can often crumble, so being willing to work together, even if it could involve delicate conversations relating to money and costing, is vital. It makes the relationship easier and customers value the transparent approach, with fiduciary duty and offering savings where possible also an integral part of the process.

Demand for bespoke design

‘Creativity’ and ‘data centers’ are not words you expect to see in the same sentence, however, this has been a notable outcome of how the industry needs to now operate and ensure their customers' needs are met. With customers buying and taking over a bigger percentage of data centers than ever before, they are demanding a more bespoke, personalized design and service, with the end result looking more like a customer branded building than that of the data center provider.

Taking the time at the beginning of any relationship to properly understand what a customer is looking for, and customers being open about what they are envisioning in terms of build, design and the level of customization expected can reap benefits as the process goes along. Regular check-ins to ensure progress is being made and to ensure expectations are aligned is also crucial.

With demand for data center space and capacity only set to increase, the relationship between providers and customers is going to be a continued dynamic that needs to be fostered and carefully managed. The data center industry is an ever changing landscape, with evolving technologies, building restrictions, energy restraints and sustainability concerns all playing a part when it comes to the deployment of data centers and a successful, mutually beneficial partnership for customers and providers alike. Mutual respect, an understanding of what’s expected from both parties and alignment on a common goal will all help ensure a collaborative and successful partnership.

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