datacenterHawk Q&A with Forsythe’s Steve Harris


Forsythe's Chicago Data Center. Click to Learn More

The Chicago data center market is growing. Within the last few months, QTS delivered their new downtown facility, Digital Realty purchased the former Motorola campus in West Franklin Park for expansion, and CyrusOne acquired and expanded CME’s data center. Demand in Chicago is at an all-time high and this is leading to success for data center operators. Forsythe is another data center operator who is growing in the Chicago market. The Elk Grove data center operator offers a variety of services from their purpose built, LEED Gold, Tier III certified Chicago data center.

We recently interviewed Steve Harris, Vice President of Data Center Development at Forsythe Hosting Solutions, to discuss Forsythe’s strategy and how it has translated into success.

Q: As the data center industry becomes more competitive, what are some differentiating qualities that help Forsythe stand out from its competitors?

A: We defined a new category, Retail+®, to describe what we were creating. It combines the best of what retail and wholesale space have to offer with innovative features that are still fairly new to the market. Differentiators include:

  • Privacy and security – A cage environment allows anyone walking by to see what equipment the owner of that cage has. In contrast, our customizable, scalable dry wall suites add a layer of privacy and security that doesn’t exist in a typical cage retail environment.
  • Power density customization – Our modular, high-density design enables clients to obtain higher power density from a smaller footprint: 40kW to 100 kW in 300 sq. ft. In our 1,000 sq. ft. suites power density ranges from 200kW to 300kW. Suite options range all the way up to 4,000 sq. ft. and 1.2 MW. The 1,000-4,000 suites offer client control for power, cooling and security equivalent to what wholesale space offers.
  • Scalability – Clients can start out from a smaller footprint and lower density and then grow; or start with higher density and a smaller footprint; or scale DOWN from their current larger, less energy efficient environment and migrate into smaller, higher density space with lower operating costs.
  • Innovative “greener” cooling technology (no water is released) and batteries (we are a pilot site for recyclable lithium-ion batteries that have an anticipated life of three times more than traditional lead-acid batteries) reduce maintenance and long-term operating costs.

The driving reason we built Forsythe Data Centers from the ground up was because we saw the need for a new kind of colocation space that didn’t exist yet. Over the past 15 years, our team had visited, assessed, built and/or retrofitted dozens of client data centers. You learn each time. You figure out how to design or build something better or at lower cost. We took the best of the ideas we had seen or executed ourselves and combined them into an environment that also provides a lower operating cost due to space and energy efficiencies.

Q: Forsythe is focused on providing a Retail+ data center solution, offering highly dense customizable, scalable private suites. Suites can start from 300 square feet to grow to 4,000 contiguous square feet. How has this tailored solution been successful for attracting customers?

A: Clients are contracting for every size suite we offer, with an emphasis on the smaller suites. In a high density facility, the need for floor space is reduced. As a result, many companies are looking for smaller footprints—hundreds versus thousands of square feet. There are more data center users looking for 50 to 300 kW of power than there are at 500 kW and up.

Q: Many companies have complex IT strategies and have data center needs that go beyond colocation. What kinds of solutions do Forsythe customers look for today as they face the unknowns of the future?

A: We see clients looking for convenient, comprehensive data center solutions. Another whole piece to Retail+ is the related services we provide. These include:

  • Data center and IT strategy consulting
  • Data center migration
  • Technology evaluation and testing in our 2,500 sq. ft. on-site testbed that houses more than 150 information technology hardware and software products for clients to try before they buy and install in their private data center suite
  • Integration and Configuration Center on-site with ISO 9001:2008 certified high-quality processes to install, test and configure hardware and software accurately and quickly—and roll it right into the data center suite when it’s ready
  • Professional services across network, server, storage, security and a breadth of IT operations disciplines
  • Managed security services, managed infrastructure services and managed hosting – which allow clients to pay a predictable monthly fee using OPEX instead of CAPEX.
  • Private cloud solutions
  • Backup and recovery as a services (BaaS)
  • Architecture design
  • Asset lifecycle management

Q: The IT/data center industry is always evolving and improving. How is Forsythe equipped to help meet needs of customers as this evolution continues?

A: Unlike many colocation providers, we are an enterprise IT company that now offers colocation among our IT solutions. We started in the IT business in 1971 and have evolved repeatedly over 45 years as our clients’ needs, the technology innovations available and the business climate in which we all operate have changed. We listen to our clients and develop new competencies as needed to continue serving them at the highest levels of excellence.

With regard to Forsythe Data Centers, we continue to keep our eye on technology trends and top client concerns. Currently, these include:

  • Higher power density
  • Security
  • Compliance
  • Flexibility and scalability
  • Availability
  • Connectivity—including to the public cloud
  • Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) systems
  • Standardization, and
  • Closing the IT and facilities divide

Today’s IT environments contain a mix of legacy, private cloud and public cloud infrastructures. A data center strategy that accounts for all of these infrastructures will offer the greatest predictability. However, running systems both inside and outside of your enterprise makes IT more complex. We have many years of experience helping clients with all of this.

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