Neal Elinski, Cologix’s General Manager of Software Engineering, joined Andy Davis, host of the Inside Data Centre Podcast, to talk about the data center industry and Cologix’s role in it.
Listen to the interview and read the transcript below:
Andy Davis: Welcome to the Inside Data Centre Podcast. I’m Andy Davis. In this podcast, I will interview the people working in the data center sector and tell their stories. If you’re working in the DC sector or you’re looking to work in the sector, then this is the podcast for you.
Welcome to the Inside Data Centre Podcast. Today, I’m joined by Neal Elinski, General Manager of Software Engineering at Cologix. Good morning, Neal.
Neal Elinski: Good morning. Good afternoon, I guess too.
Andy Davis: It’s always that confusing part, and I say it every week, of what time is it where the other person is. But yeah, we got it. So, hats off to us. Great to speak to you today. Obviously looking forward to having a bit of a dive into technology and Cologix as a whole and also learning a bit more about your career and how you ended up in this wonderful world of data centers. Before we start, do you just want to give a quick introduction of who you are and what your role is?
Neal Elinski: Absolutely. First, it’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for the opportunity. For me, myself – I am the General Manager of Software Engineering, as you said. That is a big way of saying I run the custom coding side of Cologix, a North American data center company. So, I have three different teams. They report up to me. They manage all custom code and IP as well as general customization of software platforms for the business. One of the crown jewels of that is our cloud exchange. Happy to talk about if there’s an opportunity here today. But also, our customer portal and all of our corporate and back-end systems as well, just to keep it all humming along.
Andy Davis: I always say when I ask someone to give a quick intro, they do it in one sentence. And it sounds like they think, “I do a lot more than that.” But it sounds like you’re definitely a very busy man.
Neal Elinski: Yeah, well, it’s a great time to be in the industry, too. Very busy, in a good way.
Andy Davis: Well, where I always like to start, it’s to just to go back to the beginning of your career. It helps listeners and paints a picture of you know, how you achieved what you’ve achieved and where and how you ended up where you are today. So, can you just give us an insight into how you first started your career and when you first made the move into the data center sector?
Neal Elinski: Sure. I’m happy to. Because everyone in IT seems to have a different path, interestingly enough, and I’m no exception to that.
So, I began about 15 years ago. I went into core IT. So, I was a sysadmin for a while for one of the major insurance companies out here in North America. From there, I ended up jumping over to IT security, which is really what my original training was in, and where I was trying to start my career. So, I became a pen tester for a while doing physical and digital security, forensics and other just overall IT security work. It was fascinating. But I did realize pretty early on there that billable hours weren’t for me. I didn’t necessarily want to be in that consulting space. It’s great for some, but I wanted to be in a little bit more of a steady full-time role. So, I was lucky enough to jump over and work for VMware from there for quite a while. I was in emerging product support. So, it was interesting going from the corporate side to the consulting side then being in a global support team for brand new products that had little documentation, little support and generally were in the cloud and automation space. That was a bit of a lucky break for me. I kind of rode through and around those sorts of teams until I helped VMware launch their first real cloud service that they had; globally brought a bunch of those support centers online. And that helped me move over into cloud architecture.
So, from the support side into helping customers design and implement and customize a lot of their cloud-based environments, and specifically hybrid cloud. So, a little bit that we can go into today, if there’s time, of that data center private side and with a connection or tether up into a public cloud hosted environment.
I was lucky enough from there to be able to jump into product management. So, not just building it, but helping to decide what the features would be, their prioritization and helping with major launches of products and services around the world as well as migrations for customers and for platforms, from legacy environments to newer ones or to newer sites. That helped me then jump over into software engineering, where I am today as a software engineering leader in the data center space. So, I’ve been here specifically in data centers for about four years now. Before that, I spent, I guess, about seven in the virtualization space, and then everything before that was all security and product. So, I guess in some terms, I’m still fairly new to the data center world on that. But it’s not a far cry from the hosted space that I was in with cloud for quite a while. Because, of course, we were hosting in data center facilities and have been working in and around that kind of structure and mapping for quite a while now.
Andy Davis: Yeah, great. And so, four years is a long time in the data center sector. We say data center years are very different to normal years.
Neal Elinski: It is fascinating to see, right? Because you have people that are just joining into this new wave and this transformation, that data center space. But then, every once in a while, I run into a veteran who has been working here 25,30-plus years, which is fascinating. And it ends up typically being a lot of the operational people that are running the data centers tend to have been here just a little bit longer, I guess in my experience, versus on the software and corporate side. You’re starting to get a lot of talent coming over from software companies, virtualization companies, cloud companies and so on and helping to build that up and sort of take the data center space, which is deeply rooted in tradition, and then move it into some new areas. Is that what you are seeing too?
Andy Davis: I totally agree. That’s a really interesting point and something I wanted to pick up on – the software side of this sector is not that well known. It is very much, like you say, the engineering, the construction, the operational side of it that gets a lot of the spotlight and a lot of the attention. But, you know, there’s a lot that goes on behind the walls, so to speak, you know, that people like yourself are involved with. Do you think that we’re going to see more of that and therefore, more people will be making that transition into the sector because they’re more aware that it exists?
Neal Elinski: Absolutely. Yeah. I have been witnessing a shift for the last couple of years where companies in the data center space that only focus on traditional space and power haven’t really been thriving so much. There’s only so much you can scale at that level, right? So, one of the issues you run into is that you can throw people at the problem to be able to manage that space and power and service delivery as a big piece of that. But that tends to become very expensive and very limiting really quickly. You can only hire so many people in your surrounding area who you can train up in the data center space to handle that, where software can manage your service delivery, your reporting, your monitoring and a lot of self-service for your customers. And you can turn your customers into their own workhorse for your business, where they’re able to choose what they want, price it out, get it delivered and then manage it through its lifecycle, potentially without ever having to talk to a person in your business. They can come to you, of course. You want people for support, to keep things running. You’re always going to need physical security and physical people in that data center to operationally manage it. But again, unless you want to have a massive reporting and an alert service delivery and even sales team, you need software to help you scale up. And so that’s going to be the best way to manage that and get to a larger addressable audience – through software. I mean, it can be online 24/7, where your people may not. You want to give them a chance to rest. So, I do see a bigger move to software, a bigger move to integrate with more systems and a bigger move to automate this industry where even five, six years ago, it wasn’t really there.
Andy Davis: Again, I agree with that. And I think the industry needs to scale because it’s going to plateau at some point, just on the basis that there aren’t enough people to be able to grow with the sector. And obviously, that brings us on quite nicely to Cologix and what you guys are doing. For the people that have not heard of you before, can you just give a bit of an overview of who you are and what your operation is in the U.S. and North America?
Neal Elinski: Absolutely, yeah. So, the key there is North America. So, Cologix was founded by a couple fiber networking experts, probably the best way to put it, who came from some of the major carriers before. And they saw a need in the industry for a data center business that was built around carrier hotels. So, that idea, that concept is just generally that fiber is a physical asset, right? It’s going to run under the streets, commonly following highways and major routes across the country, and that’s going to collect within a city in one or two buildings normally. There’s going to be a hub, right? And then everything spokes out. That’s a common network topology – not everything is going to be meshed and interconnected. You’re going to have that hub, everyone’s going to meet there and that’s going to be the point where traffic is going to jump between different networks and different providers and different vendors. So, that’s going to be the carrier hotel, where normally it’s a building that you could have driven past a dozen times and never realized it. But that is going to be a huge interconnection hub for a city where all the fiber comes together. And because of that, a number of providers come together to do business with each other. So, all of your cellphone carriers and other telecoms and your phone management companies and other managed services businesses are going to do business around that fiber point, that carrier hotel.
Well, Cologix and our founders realized that, and they realized there was a battle starting to happen around that in Tier I markets. So, these major cities – New York City, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Washington, D.C. – around North America and the United States, those were becoming heavily interconnected. But so were a lot of other markets. So, they started to find these up-and-emerging cities and find, purchase, upgrade and then manage the carrier hotel there. So, it started early, through acquisition and through builds across North America and Canada. And then the company got to this tipping point where we realized there’s only so much space downtown, right? Especially in a skyscraper with that kind of connectivity. Some customers need to spread out. So, we started to build out our edge site facilities that will be in and around the market, one hop away, typically in other buildings in the downtown area. It can help customers to spread out with massive deployments. That could be dozens to hundreds of cabinets of servers. And then over time, we realized that wasn’t enough.
Bigger deployments were coming in to take advantage of the networking of the other providers of these edge deployments and they were needing massive space and power and networking within that area. So that’s where we launched the ScalelogixSM brand in just the last few years, to be then on the edge of the city nearby that can be these multi-megawatt deployments. So, these are upwards of million-square foot facilities that we can have large deployments for major customers that have large needs. Think cloud service providers, some of the biggest technology brand names in the world. They still needed to be there in the city. But they’re not going to be deploying downtown, right? They’re going to be nearby, tethered in with the spread-out deployments that can manage their scale.
So that’s where the company has just grown organically over almost the last 14 years now to encompass in North America that center carrier hotel, again at the core as a hub, out to these edge and cloud edge sites around the city and then out to the Scalelogix sites that are these huge, just amazing facilities that customers can then use to tether in from those outermost spokes. And really, that’s where we are today – continuing to expand across North America in Tier I and Tier II markets and beyond. And especially across Canada as one of the leading providers in that country.
Andy Davis: And it’s really interesting because obviously, what we’re seeing globally – in the US, North America, everywhere – is obviously this sudden demand, huge demand, but lack of availability from a land and a power perspective. So, this connectivity approach is kind of, I guess, ahead of the game. I think what you have done is what we’re going to see more of in other cities and other locations as you need that connectivity from a customer perspective. But you can’t build those scale facilities in the center of a city, you know. You need to move further and further away. So, the fact that you’ve got that connectivity enables the customers to be kind of comfortable in your environment, that they’ve got that quick connectivity to the city but also the scale may be slightly outside the city.
Neal Elinski: Absolutely. Yeah. I think every colocation or data center provider needs to have a specialty, right? Everyone is looking for the value they can bring to their customer base. Otherwise, what are you selling?
So, the majority of businesses that we see do have some sort of a data need. And that data needs to travel across some form of a network, and they need to lean on other providers to help them transport that data for processing, for delivery to customers, whatever it could be. So, this could be everything from hosting your business’ website, to your assets, to whatever service you provide digitally. Customers can be media streaming, that could be IT services. You could just be even a government entity, a bank that’s transactional. Everything is online using some form of data. So, unless you are an isolated business that doesn’t have a network need, yeah, you’re probably kind of want to be near a density of network services that’s going to give you the best performance and it’s going to give you the best range of services to choose from for whatever you’re trying to solve from that IT side.
So, let’s say that you are a media streaming company. Yeah, you’re not going to want to be too many hops away from wherever that core carrier hotel is and where that fiber is. Because every hop that you put between you and that core hub in your city, or your regional area, is another piece of equipment you have to go to deliver your product. And that means worse performance, that means more risk of a fiber cut or a failure. And even the further you get away, the less providers you’re going to see, the density of other providers using that or being part of that ecosystem is going to shrink and shrink and shrink as you get further out. So, sure, you could deploy in a cornfield somewhere in a massive data center complex. And for some, that’s going to work for your use case. But what we’re tending to see in our world, where I sit, is that customers want to be really close to that fiber density. So again, they reduce their hops, they increase their performance. If you could be one hop away from Amazon Cloud, wouldn’t you want to be? Similarly, a hop away from major carriers like Lumen (Technologies), to be able to then get out to all the businesses that are on net, to get to all those eyeballs, all those users and all that internet real estate and bandwidth that they’re helping to serve back in. So yeah, I do see big shifts in the customer base looking for highly connected and even carrier-neutral data centers, so they have that choice of providers and the choice of networks for their business.
Andy Davis: Yeah, definitely. And you also touched on edge, which is something I love talking about because I just love the way that everybody has a different view on what edge is. But I think you’ve kind of already answered this question with regards to what edge is and why it’s important. But do you want to just sort of explain from your perception, kind of what we mean by an edge data center, and why we need them in that connectivity kind of approach to ensure we’ve got that A to B to C and reduce latency etc.?
Neal Elinski: Yeah, I can do that. Thanks for picking up on that too, Andy. You’re absolutely right.
Edge is a bit of a contentious word in some ways because there are so many versions of edge. But generally, what we’re talking about in the industry is going to be where the border of your network and your services then spills over to your customer base. Where’s that line between you and them? And how can you shrink that?
So, of course, we hear about versions of edge cloud and edge compute that could be moving your servers and your services closer and closer to your customer base at the extreme. I know people love to talk about (how) this could be a container that someone deploys for a micro data center out in a parking lot in a suburban area. Or it could be a small box of servers. They can sit on a telephone line in an area and being able to serve out, you know, this Next-Gen level to a regional area for customers that are nearby so it can have that data and processing right next to where they are. I don’t know how realistic a lot of those are. So, a traditional data center tends to be a good seed for an application, right? And so, colocation would be a good place; private data centers are fine for that. But what you want to do is somehow seed your product and your services right on the edge of where your customer base is to get to them in a distributed fashion. So, I think distribution is a big part of that rather than centralized. So, for us, that means putting your workload as close to the fiber and to those network services as you can in a distributed way around your customer base. When we talk about edge in my industry, it tends to be hyperscale edge, cloud edge and a service edge, some version of that, of having that service right next to that connectivity. It’s for exactly what I brought up before – this is where you want to reduce the hops, reduce the latency, reduce the risk between you and whatever person is going to be consuming that data that you’re sending back to them.
So, streaming is a great example of that. No one wants their stream to stutter. No one wants their podcast to stutter or have a latency issue. That could be even audio streaming, that can be just general data delivery, or a shopping cart experience. You don’t want your customer to go to your website and then have an issue with it loading every page. Some of the research and the numbers that got thrown around are if a web page would take more than five seconds to load, a customer would lose interest and then start to move away. I mean, that’s an old adage that I remember hearing.
So, by taking your application and moving it closer to edge sites, you are then distributing that across your customer base and then giving them better performance and a better experience, which means they tend to want to come back to you over your competition because you can serve them a better product. So instead of very, very traditional networking putting your product, let’s say, in New York City – good luck to all of your customers that are on the West Coast of the United States here out around California. They’d have to come across the country.
I would expect similar, of course, having served data center sites over in Europe. Of course, you don’t want customers to have to come from the southern tip of Italy all the way up into your UK data center site. You can – there’s a great density of providers in and around London. But if you could host a data center closer down to where your customer base is with a version of your product down there – again, they’re going to have a better experience for what you have. And we would consider that in some form an edge site – the edge of where your network ends and your customer network begins.
Andy Davis: Yeah, perfect description. I love your point around latency and our need now for instant response, whatever it is. You know, everything has to happen straightaway – whether it’s your website or your messaging. A lot of us use (Microsoft) Teams, and it’s instant messaging. And you can see the person typing back before you finish your message and you think, “How’s that happen?” Obviously, that’s all impacted through the data center sector which again, a lot of people just don’t understand. So, thanks for explaining it like that because it’s an important message.
Neal Elinski: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I mean, Teams is probably a great example. Microsoft isn’t hosting that centrally in one location for the world – they have that spread out to edge locations with their cloud deployment, running on their services, getting close to core hotspots of their customer base globally. So, a great example of something that’s gone from a centralized model to a distributed one near major network sites, near major population centers, on that edge of their service and their customer base.
Andy Davis: We can be chatting on it from one side of the world to the other and it doesn’t impact, which will always baffle me. But there you go.
I also wanted to touch on and kind of use your expertise, really, regarding technology. You know, we talked about it briefly, but technology is having a huge impact on the data center sector in kind of an unknown way to a lot of people. There’s so much new software – AI (artificial intelligence) and systems – coming into this industry, which is going to have a huge impact over the next couple of years. But I just wanted to see if there’s any particular developments you’re aware of or, you know of, that you think are going to have quite a big impact on the sector.
Neal Elinski: Yeah, there’s quite a lot here. I think that the biggest one that, you’re right, we touched on was that automation piece. We’re seeing data centers lifted out of tradition, which has always been physical engineers, technicians and so on in the space doing every single part of service delivery and maintenance and management and monitoring for their customer base. And that just can’t scale. So yeah, automation, I think, is going to continue out not just to serve people within the data center, but starting to bring in people outside of it, to where we can use software to allow customers that may be in their headquarters or other sites, to tether into a data center to get access to the ecosystem of providers there. So, software canstart to help with that in ways that people can’t so much and again, not at scale and not at speed.
I know a cross connect is a great example. A physical fiber cable between you and, let’s say, a telecom who’s going to be providing you a bandwidth service for you to serve your business website. That, in most data center companies, a great data center could deploy that in one to two days if you have everything ready. You have all of your order, your authorization… where’s that cable going to? If you have everything you need to onboard the entire network stack and get that online – one to two days is amazing. I see a number of data center companies out there that do five days. An old metric we used to work on is from a customer wanting a cross connect in through delivery, it’s traditionally been six weeks for a good history of the data center world. From you as a business coming in and saying, “I would like to connect to this telecom”, to actually receiving an onboarded service, has traditionally been six weeks. That’s a long time.
Software, as we’ve developed it, in one of my groups, now we can deliver that in 30 seconds. So, we run the cable from the customer to our business rather than their other providers. So, they get onto an active switch network, and they can do that the second they come into the data center. So, we get the physical part of it done. And then we can spin up the rest of the circuit, getting them end to end, from where they are to where the provider is. In this case, for example, serve them internet connectivity. And we can really build that up in about 30 seconds and give them immediate feedback of every step of that build out, where it’s at and when it’s up and aligned and healthy. They’re going to start to share layer two or layer three traffic with that provider so that they can move forward. That’s amazing – six weeks down to about 30 seconds for delivery. And that’s what software can start to do at scale. And I can do this coast to coast today. So, you want to circuit from the East Coast of the United States over to the West Coast, that’s the same 30 seconds, even if it’s a dozen switches between you and there. We can still do that and set that up very quickly and efficiently. If you want a network engineer, even as good as they could be, they’d have to log in to each one of those, configure that, test it, manage it – software can just do it so much faster, and that enables businesses to accelerate.
So, automation in that case, big for everyone in an industry where not just the speed and performance of your service to your customers but speed to market continues to be a key factor. You want to get to your services, get past those blockers and get online with your products and scale them as quickly as possible. So, I think we’ll continue to see that. Now, I think we could probably spend another hour talking about all the other elements here. But just the speed and scale of where everything is going is fantastic these days – not only just the software, but we’re starting to see 400-gig network delivery for customers. So, not just one gigabit, 10-gigabit networks anymore. But it’s becoming a common service for 400 gigabit, which is just fantastic to see when I remember the days of one gig and even 10-meg network links. Yeah, this is a fun time to be in the industry.
Andy Davis: Yeah, it’s a perfect example. So, as we said earlier, one year in data centers is not a normal year. The advances, on obviously software and technology as a whole piece, not just related to data centers, it’s amazing. But also, you raise a good point about the impact it has. You know, there’s a reason for this and what this can offer to other businesses in growth and communities and everything. It has a knock- on effect across everything when these businesses scale as a result of those improvements and enhancements in technology.
Neal Elinski: Exactly. It’s an exponential growth of technology because every technology can build on the technology from before it to make something better. So, we’re continuing to see that as everything is getting faster and bigger and easier in a lot of ways.
Andy Davis: I also want to just quickly touch on ESG (Environment, Social and Governance), as well. Because again, I’m having a lot of discussions with technology, software – those types of developments are having a huge impact on ESG as well. Obviously, a lot of companies have now set these targets of 2030, 2040, 2050 – whichever company you are – for achieving net zero. Technology can help that in a big way, can’t it?
Neal Elinski: Oh, it absolutely can. You’re right here. So, we’re seeing ESG too. Not just from other businesses in the same space as us, but from our customers. We have a large volume of customers that are asking for it and asking for the metrics because this is not just a shared responsibility – there’s a big data sharing piece of this as well on it. In the data center space, I think it’s highlighted more so than any other industries because we are such a large consumer of power and water traditionally around the world. So, everyone is aware of the impact of that, that it has on their society and the regional areas that they’re a part of – but then on the bigger globe for it. So, it’s interesting, It’s definitely become a bigger conversation. We’re definitely seeing more action on that. I know in my space with Cologix specifically, just in the last three years, we’ve gone from the first year announcing goals and initiatives and investment in ESG for the company to then our second year, we announced the metrics and our KPIs – what were we going to try to meet, what were our goals on that and how are we going to start to make progress. And then now in year three going on year four, we’re reporting on that regular progress and how we’re continuing to grow and head toward those targets. And we’re not the only one. Most major colocation and data center facilities globally are starting to do the same, to report on their Scope 1, 2 and 3 metrics. Just for the audience out there, that’s our power that is generated for the business versus the power that then we consume and pass off to our customers, and then that power that they can consume and roll up for their business and their own reporting – on top of, again, the other sides, not just the environmental, but the social and governance targets, as well, to continue to evolve the business.
Andy Davis: The sector’s doing some amazing work around it. And it’s always good to highlight it, I think, because again, it doesn’t necessarily get the get the attention that it probably should.
Before we finish up, just kind of a few more specific, you know, quickfire sector questions just to get your opinion, really. But we’ve covered a lot already. But the sector is obviously facing a lot of challenges at the moment, and you know, we’re overcoming them, like we have done for probably the last five years. It seems to be quite relentless with challenges. But what do you think are the main challenges from your perception that we’re going to face for across this year and into next year?
Neal Elinski: I know that I’m not going to be the first one that said this here. But the supply chain continues to be a challenge. Now, we’re seeing it alleviated in a number of areas. There was a time there through COVID where networking equipment, I was seeing 18- and 24-month timelines from order to delivery. That’s wild. Where traditionally I’ve been able to order equipment and get it from a standard vendor or distributor within two to four weeks. So going from two to four weeks to almost two years from order to delivery was wild. And it’s not just networking equipment and other hardware that I’ve needed for my teams to be able to do their work and launch their products – but of course we’ve seen it across the board in construction and power delivery and cooling and other maintenance. So, it’s continuing to be there. Now, again, timelines are getting better. But it has also forced us and others to get very creative, to build a more diverse sourcing network. So where in the past we would have had one or two trusted vendors and really work for them for everything, now we’ve had to expand a bit and build some new relationships and find others that can help us find the equipment we need ahead of time when we need it. We’ve also had to make decisions much earlier.
In the product realm, we tended to have three- to five-year roadmap plans, but not that well-formed past the next year, just because of the speed of industry. It’s hard to plan that far ahead when things are changing so rapidly. But now we have to. We absolutely have to have fairly strict plans laid out for this year, next year and then beyond with four- and five-year roadmaps here to make sure that we are ordering well in advance. So, I think that’s going to continue to be a challenge for a while, but not an insurmountable one. (It’s) one that I do see us and others in the industry continuing to find creative solutions for.
Andy Davis: Again, I think it’s demonstrated the agility and like you say, the creativity of this sector to continue to grow like it has with all the challenges that we’ve had thrown at us over the last, say three to four years. It’s quite amazing when you look back and it’s also hard to kind of appreciate it because you’re in it and you’re dealing with it on a day-to-day basis. You have to sort of stop, take stock and think, “How did you do that?” Sometimes you know, like, actually have a look back and think “Wow, I did a good job.”
Neal Elinski: Yeah, absolutely right on that. And we’re just in a whole different world today than it was just a few years ago – even just last year. But again, in a good way. Continuing to evolve.
Andy Davis: Yeah, exactly. That is it – evolution, not revolution.
A couple of final questions before we close up. If you could ask everyone in the data center sector to start or stop doing one thing, what would it be?
Neal Elinski: Very personally on that, it would be shutting out competition. Now, I worked in the cloud space for a while, and I saw this big shift there and was a part of it. When you look back six, seven, eight years ago and you had all the cloud services providers and virtualization providers, hardware providers, saying they would never work with the others. So, VMware said in an executive at the time, this probably was about 2014 said, “We’re never going to work with Amazon.” And you had others you know, Oracle, they would have said, “Yeah, we’re never going to work with VMware.” VMware and Dell and others fighting. Now, VMware and Dell they, for a while, became the same company.
But you started to see the shift in that industry from the talk of isolated silos and people would say to Hotel California and the lock-in of one vendor who would not work with the others to then partnership and multicloud and multiservices and the whole dialogue there has shifted to everyone should work with everyone else. And there’s this element of, choose the best tool for the job, and there’s plenty of room for everyone to thrive in that. And so now you’re seeing, especially in the cloud space, multicloud, even Amazon and (Microsoft®) Azure and Oracle (FastConnect) and Google partnerships across the board with other providers in the virtualization software and hardware space and coming back into the colocation space and others beyond that, there’s this element of again, every business has different needs. So, let’s give them a rich buffet of options to choose from, and they can choose what’s right for them and build out their solution piecemeal, and we can all be a part of that together and everyone can grow together.
I think data center space is still rooted just a bit in some isolation. And so, I know we’ve opened up a good bit more and are looking for others too in the industry that are opening for more partnership to give more options and availability to customers on that, especially for some of these stricter assets. So, an element of everyone playing together looking for shared partnership and looking to better work together for the customer base to find space for everyone to win. I think that’d be the goal – kind of follow the trail of what the cloud service providers and other software vendors have started to do.
Andy Davis: Yeah, great point. I’ve always said collaboration can solve a lot of challenges, can’t it? You know, working together is much easier than just trying to do it on your own, whatever it is.
Neal Elinski: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Andy Davis: Final question before we close up: If you could give one piece of advice to anyone looking to work in the data center sector, what would it be?
Neal Elinski: I’d say it’s a great idea. The data center sector tends to be an exciting place to be but also a very stable place generally. Here as these are good, rooted businesses that are continuing to grow and grow in good ways. And even with a consolidation that you see, that’s part of a larger growth strategy. As the data center world continues to evolve, there’s always going to be a data need, and we’re just seeing that expand year over year. So, I think it’s a good idea and as a part of that I’d say that there is room for everyone.
So, I don’t think anyone should count themselves out on that. It’s not just that traditionally, what would I began thinking about. I mean, my first experience with data centers over 15 years ago was with DC ops. (That) would have would have been the title. So, data center operations would have been the ones with their hands on in there and then others in the business may not touch it. That’s not really the way anymore. Again, you have software teams working alongside your physical technician teams outside your IT, IT security, physical security, and all these people under the technology umbrella. But then of course, you still have to have your finance, your legal and other corporate services that are all supporting that together as well and have a bigger hand in it with your procurement and your risk management and other departments. So, I would say there’s room for everyone in the industry. I think there’s a lot of opportunity here, again, a lot of growth and I don’t think anyone should count themselves out.
There’s a lot of businesses out there in the data center space looking for help right now. I’ve got a number of positions open on my team, let alone others for our business. In a time when you’re hearing other industries that are downsizing, we’re not really seeing that here. There’s continued growth on that. And, man, some of the markets, if you go out looking for a job, you’d be surprised how many data center groups there are in your city. I know I looked at it just a few years ago – Montreal, so again, a major city, major market. There are over 50 individual providers, data center providers, in the city alone, not to mention others that were suburban, out and around, and tethered back in. So, plenty of opportunity for people to start in and plenty of room to come in, learn and grow.
Andy Davis: Definitely great advice. And I think the fact that it’s open to all, it’s a great way to end the podcast. And I think it’s one of the reasons why I love interviewing people on the podcast, to be honest, because you hear all the different stories of how they got into the sector and what their background is and what their role is. Because the sector is a bit closed sometimes and you can, from an outside looking in, perceive it, as I say, like a construction sector or an engineering sector or an IT sector – when it’s all of them put together. There’s loads going on in the industry.
Neal Elinski: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And it’s a real estate business. It’s a technology business. It’s a software business. It’s a little bit of everything. Because of that, it’s fascinating the people that you’ll get to run into.
Andy Davis: Exactly that. One hundred percent. And the people make it what it is.
Thanks for your time today. I love that conversation. We could talk all day, but we better not. We’ve both got things to do. So, we’ll leave it there. But I’m sure you’re happy, if anyone’s got any questions or wants to learn more, to (let them) reach out to you directly.
Neal Elinski: Yeah, absolutely. I am up and online on LinkedIn, and we can share other contact details here afterwards as well.
Andy Davis: Yeah, definitely. We’ll share it all when we post it. But thanks again, Neal. Great to meet you. We’ll obviously catch up again in the future and good luck with everything Cologix.
Neal Elinski: Of course. Thank you so much. Great conversation. Anytime you want to talk, I’m here. Love to chat.