Episode 1 - Data Center Management Best Practices with Pete Sacco - Device42

Data Center Management Best Practices with Pete Sacco


Device42 hosts the podcast, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to IT, featuring Pete Sacco of PTS Data Center Solutions on best practices in IT and data center management.


There used to be a time when all of a company’s data centers were within the same building, always in a room chock full of different devices with heat emanating from within. It was usually very expensive and complex, and often included a host of complications and safety hazards. With the advent of technology, a lot of those issues have been eliminated. Companies now partner with facility managers with deep knowledge and access to resources to help set up and manage different types of data centers. These range from enterprise, managed services, edge, colocation, hyperscale, and cloud data centers—the latter being the main topic of discussion in today’s podcast.

What does the current state of IT operations and data center management look like today based on a cloud-first mentality?

Device42 opened up the discussion on today’s episode of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to IT. Host Michelle Dawn Mooney was joined by Pete Sacco, the CEO and Founder of PTS Data Center Solutions, to talk about the state and future of IT and data center management best practices.

  • Critical components for effective IT operations and data management programs
  • How strong the linkage is between the organizational structure of an IT operation and data center management and the actual business that it supports
  • Sustainability for IT teams

Podcast Transcript

Narrator: [00:00:03] Welcome to another episode of Hitchhikers Guide to It. Podcast brought to you by device 42. On this show, we explore the ins and outs of modern IT management and the infinite expanse of its universe. Whether you’re an expert in the data center or cloud, or just someone interested in the latest trends in IT technology, The Hitchhikers Guide to it is your go to source for all things it. So buckle up and get ready to explore the ever changing landscape of modern IT management.

Michelle Mooney: [00:00:37] Hello and welcome to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to It, a podcast brought to you by Device 42. I’m your host, Michelle Dawn Mooney, and today we are talking about it and data center management best practices from the perspective of an expert. And I am pleased to bring on today’s expert. My guest, Pete Sacco is the CEO and founder of PTS Data Center Solutions. Thank you so much, Pete, for being with me today.

Peter Sacco: [00:00:59] Thanks, Michelle. I’m really looking forward to what we’re going to talk about today.

Michelle Mooney: [00:01:02] Yeah, looking forward to this as well. So before we get started, can we learn a little bit more about Pete? Can you give us a brief bio before we get into the big conversation?

Peter Sacco: [00:01:10] Absolutely. Absolutely. And so I founded PTS some 23 years ago, really before data centers were a thing, right? Everybody had a data center at one time. And what we’ve seen is the evolution of data centers to go from where everybody had their own data center, their infrastructure, sitting wherever their people space was to co-location to cloud, which we’re going to talk about today. We’ve been building them since way back in the day for everybody. And to this day we are still that company. We are a design build services company and one division in which we provide facility design capabilities for mostly enterprise clients, but we also support co-location and hyperscale facilities as well. And and we provide IT services around their hybrid advisory services, around what workloads to choose and why, which is the heart of what I think we’re going to talk about today, I’m pretty sure. And so but we’ve been doing it for 23 years. We’ve got just about every household name of product that you’ve heard of. We probably at one point have worked within their data center facilities, either transitioning, building new data centers, moving them to co-location, moving them back, helping them transition to cloud. And so we’ve been around a long time as the hair as the hair proves out.

Michelle Mooney: [00:02:22] So let’s start off with this. What do you think the state of IT operations and data center management looks like today, given a cloud first mentality? You talked several times about the cloud. So do you think on premises environments will change in the next few years? And if so, how?

Peter Sacco: [00:02:38] Yeah, inevitably. And we got to talk time scale first, right? Because, you know, we’ve watched the evolution as I’ve started out already from co-location and cloud. We call that a hybrid economy or a hybrid data center economy, one that has on edge site coexisting along with the likes of co-location. And just to put it context, co-location means your equipment, but in somebody else’s facility that could be managed by you or managed by a third party as opposed to cloud, where we take that application and workload and we put it really in somebody else’s data center on somebody else’s IT ,that somebody else manager You really own the data and the analysis that you’re doing now. The cloud is very, you know, lots of different cloud too. But we it’s most ubiquitous with the public cloud, the Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Services and AWS. And yes, most clients today, even my most large, my largest and my most aged clients have a cloud first mentality, but they don’t any longer have a cloud only mentality. But you have to dig within the organization to find that out, because from a bean counter perspective, I say lovingly to all those CFOs out there, you know it operationally, that’s an attractive way to operate. Unfortunately, when you talk to the CIO and the CTO, technically it’s difficult because on site workloads, edge workloads, wherever I have people process and technology have typically four characteristics. One, they need to be semi-autonomous to the rest of the organization. So for instance, one of my largest clients who I built all of their data centers throughout history, I won’t name them by name, but I will just say they’re a very large and in the news global Pharmacy company that may or may not been involved in the vaccine.

Peter Sacco: [00:04:30] And so they’ve got 1200 sites around the globe that they support. But years ago they went into co-location and they very much have a cloud first technology. What they’ve learned over time, though, is wherever they’re doing manufacturing, distribution, modeling, whatever it is that they’re doing on site somewhere, there’s some need for edge infrastructure and storage there because it needs to be autonomous if the rest of their world goes away. Internet Connection Links to other data centers. Links to other edge. So in the Hybrid world. We’ve made data center operation extremely complex because it is complex. We have three major operating platforms and everybody’s doing it slightly different and there’s no religion behind it. And so what we’re seeing today is a much more complex, difficult to rein in, way more difficult to digitally secure this hybrid environment. And what does that mean for the future? It means it will continue to evolve. I do a lot of speaking all over the place, and I’m a big advocate that I believe the next bastion of the data center revolution is upon us, and I like to refer to it as the distributed edge revolution. And what I mean by that is most of the data centers, most of the managed service data centers, the co-location data centers, sit in what I call the pro football cities, the Denvers, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, right, wherever there’s a pro football team.

Peter Sacco: [00:06:00] And we were talking, right? So we’ve got that football connection. But I think what we’re about to see is the need for the cloud and and large hyperscale providers to get their cloud capability further down to the edge. And what that’s going to mean is we’re going to see a proliferation of data centers in the college football cities. So don’t think Dallas think the 14 major cities that surround Dallas within 100 miles. Right. And those are going to be where there’s going to be a burgeoning community. I say college football city because college football cities have lots of commerce around them. And so I think that’s going to be the next bastion. The difference is they’re going to be much smaller data centers, much more nimbly built, much less physically hardened. We used to build data centers for what we would call Tier four, meaning it could withstand anything. But today we’ve moved that. We have moved that level of resiliency down into the IT stack today. So as long as I have multiple data centers and I can move data around, that is going to be the key. So that’s how I believe we’re going to see a distributed edge. We’re going to be living with edge infrastructure for the long term. It can’t go away because of performance, bandwidth requirements, autonomy and a bigger scale of governance and security. So we’re always going to have an edge requirement. The trick is now how do I balance that?

Michelle Mooney: [00:07:24] So when it comes to effective IT operations and data center management programs, are there critical components that are needed there? And if so, what are they?

Peter Sacco: [00:07:33] Yeah, and there it is. So if we if we go on the premise that we have four attributes which keeps something at the edge, we now have to have an effective tool in our disposal in order to be able to figure out where should it reside within the hybrid data center stack, what is the characteristics of something that needs to be on the edge versus something in co-location versus something in the cloud? And now granted, there has to be an interconnectedness of there. So for me, it looks like this at the edge is where performance matters, in the co-location is where aggregation of data takes place. The data that I own sometimes on my own infrastructure, sometimes not, but the aggregation of data sits there and that aggregator and typically the pro football cities serves as the conduit between my edge and my cloud. Most of those football co-location providers today are connected to the public cloud operators, and the cloud is where elastic, deep thinking happens. We have not seen the flight of enterprise workloads into the public cloud. It is still the fastest growing segment and will be for some time. We will see co-location continue to grow, though slower than cloud and we will continue to see the persistence of the edge. It’s not going to grow. It’ll never be what we’re never going to go back to 2012, right when everybody had their own data center.

Peter Sacco: [00:09:02] That would be ridiculous. We have evolved and so but we are always only going to have that balance. We’re only going to get better by companies like working with companies like Device 42, being able to provide a tool set whereby we go in and we can map the workload not just from the physical asset. We want to go back into what is the function, what’s the workload, what application does it reside on, what application sits on what hardware from compute storage, virtual server and network? What are the interconnections between those? How do those map to power distribution? How do those map to space inside my cabinets, my pods, my rows, my entire data center? And how do those map to the cooling and the other things that I need in the data center facility? So we work as the professional services arm with people like device 42 who in my opinion, have one of the most robust tool sets to be able to do IT  asset discovery. And we’ve used that tool set to say, Okay. Where does it best reside? Does it best reside in the edge, the distributed edge, the co-location or the cloud? And here’s why. And then we use that to to to manage it in perpetuity.

Michelle Mooney: [00:10:22] Let me ask you this. How strong is the linkage, would you say, between the organizational structure of an IT operations and or data center management and the actual business that it supports? Yeah.

Peter Sacco: [00:10:36] The answer is strong, but it’s not recognized strong enough. And so if you go into, you know, the majority of large organizations try to get a handle around this, they try to use an IT SM to manage it. From a software perspective, what all the assets in their IT stack look like and in the services and they use various applications to create that and try to manage that, but could tell you that is the bastion of the big boys. And unfortunately we live in a world where most of the value of our society is delivered by small and medium sized businesses. And so the small and medium sized business, the only thing worse they are at managing their it is managing their cyber security. Right. As as witnessed today by the ever pressing problems that we’re seeing, you know, in in the cyber world, we really still do not truly understand what digital assets are and how they need to be digitally secure. But, Michelle, we were talking beforehand. That is a whole separate discussion of the migration to the Web 3.0 blockchain and tokenized world that in my opinion, is inevitable. And by the way, why a company like PTS is going to forever be relevant because there is always going to be this thing called a data center. In fact, we’re only just beginning to see, like I said, the next burgeoning part of this.

Peter Sacco: [00:11:55] But companies need to work better. Smaller companies need to work better to streamline this operations and use digital software and third party experts to be able to manage it for them. Because the other thing that’s pervasive in the world is a lack of talent. There’s just not enough people to do this. And that’s great because we’re about to see, you know, Generation Z is going to drag us into more innovation that has ever existed before in any time and place. And we are going to be able to automate these workflows and structures. And there’s a bunch of old dogs like me that have been around for a long time, but they’re in a unique place. Most of the hire is Generation Y and generation. You know, X and Y is like me and younger than me that are envisioning what that is going to look like. Right? I’m Generation X, We invented all the technology, but we’re going to see the Y’s and the X’s and the Z’s. Now take that and do things with it and none too soon because we are going to need to automate all of this in order to manage it effectively, because we will have a lack of human capital.

Michelle Mooney: [00:13:00] And it’s exciting to see how fast technology is moving. And with that, with all of these new pieces that we’re seeing come into play, of course, rules and regulations do play a role. So let’s talk about that. IT audits and compliance, something that we should have a focus on and should IT teams have a role in that?

Peter Sacco: [00:13:16] Oh, of course. And again, in those platforms, IT is a part it is a piece of what goes on there. And the larger you are, the more the idea of auditing and regulations and greenness and sustainability and art comes into play because it’s no longer just the effect of operation, but is the perception of your public persona that has to be witnessed. I mean, if you go out into the world and you look some of the things that happen, you have some of the world’s largest hospitals that have been hit with ransomware that have taken them down. And we’ve seen the value of ransomware go from what used to be five digits to six digits. Now we’re in, you know, nine and ten digit ransoms. Right. Because they’re bad. You know, I’m a partner in a cybersecurity company. And one thing I can tell you is the bad guys move way faster than the good guys, right? We are always in adaptation, you know, and they’re always pressing the envelope, but they’re well organized today. And so it is one of the problems We have to do a level of governance and control and auditing of our systems. And again, that is left best left to automated software based technologies. And I feel that we do a pretty good job with partners like Device 42 of bringing that to bear in industry.

Michelle Mooney: [00:14:39] What are your thoughts on sustainability for IT teams? Should that be something that is proactive or reactive? And if you’re taking the pro approach, any ideas or suggestions on how to do that if there is no direction in that field?

Peter Sacco: [00:14:51] No, that’s a great question. And we’re seeing some guidance there with ESG rules and things like that. And again, sustainability unfortunately, is driven from the top. I think that there’s a catch 22. The younger the generation, the more they are caring about our world. My generation that invented the technology was just so excited to see automation and things that I’m not quite sure that it was built into our DNA to worry about sustainability, ability over resiliency, right over functionality. But the very young or the much the younger and the corporate executives, because of public persona, are the people driving the idea of sustainability. Now, sustainability used to mean, at least in the terms of an organization that is operating data centers, Right. Push it to the cloud. They’re the most sustainable way, but we’re finding that’s really not the case. Why? Because all their data centers were built 20 years ago now. And at a time when there really was no sustainability, there was really no pertinent efficiency gains that came from it. We just needed to operate? How do I operate the least expensively? Now all of a sudden it’s rearing its head. I could tell you this. My latest data center design, what I call my data center facility, Reimagined 2.0. How I build a greenfield data center.

Peter Sacco: [00:16:12] That means we’re going to start from the ground up. Right. It’s pertinent from everything from a one megawatt data center all the way up to infinite scale, right. Very large or even brown, meaning modifying an existing data center and prove it. I can design and build that space for 30% cheaper than I could build it, say, ten years ago. Now we’ve seen some of that erode now because of the supply chain problems, right? And we’ve seen everything get more expensive. But if we go back to, you know, 2015 dollars, I’m definitely 30% cheaper to both CapEx and OpEx building by the approaches that we’re using. And by the way, Michelle, they go back to what I said before, we are very quickly learning how to be a decentralized society, right? We see it already in our since COVID. We can work with distributed workforces. And what does that mean to the organization? We could see it in terms of energy, right? We’re no longer we’re going to find in the next decade that our electric utility is ill prepared to provide the amount of power that is going to need. Forget about just data centers. That is probably the largest power consumption, but how about the transition to electric vehicles? So what do we do? Do we not provide power? No.

Peter Sacco: [00:17:28] Human ingenuity would never allow us to do that. We will do a distributed energy play. We will take natural grass fed through fuel cells, Hydrogen fuel cells, create electricity on site, combine that with wind, combine that with solar, combine it with the electric utility, combine it into a micro grid and then deliver it in a highly resilient, cost effective manner. And it is going to be the only way. So we’re seeing distribution in the energy sector and dare I say, we’re seeing distribution in the currency sector, right, for all its failings right now, just like in 2003 when we saw the very first co-location industry fall because it didn’t really have the right application. We’ve seen the the crypto industry collapse right before its stratospheric rise. In my opinion, it’s inevitable the utility of a distributed currency and outside of the central bank’s fiat view of the world has its place. And so we’re going to see that. We’re seeing a flight to the distribution and data centers will be included, just like I said, going from the the centralized hyperscale data centers and public cloud into the distributed pro football cities and to the forthcoming distribution into the college football cities, and by the way, and smaller.

Michelle Mooney: [00:18:40] As we’re wrapping up here, if you could leave it managers with one piece of advice, what would it be?

Peter Sacco: [00:18:46] It would be this. It would be that you have to you have to not be afraid to go against the conventional wisdom. I talked to way too many CIOs that are gearing their CFOs to say everything in our future is going to be cloud based. That’s not to say that I am anti cloud, far from it, but everything has its place. What we do see right now, it is not near the return on investment that it was thought to believe. And for the first time we are actually seeing budgets reflect that, where they’re realizing that this cloud is not the panacea to everything we do. Yes, it is somewhat easier, but it is not without its problems. It’s expensive. It gets as widely overprescribed as did our data centers. Right. Underutilized assets, straight assets that we’re not using every time have a performance problem the answer is from the service providers. Throw more resources, digital resources at it. That’s not always the answer. And so we see it becoming a problem budget line item. The problem is for the IT manager to think about them holistically and start by mapping what your workloads are and what their interdependencies are. How are you going to manage that life cycle in a series of glued together highly integrated softwares that make sense? Leverage people like PTS that have all done it before, for many, right? And so that is going to be that is my prescription is that it needs to start to say what does it look like from the workload all the way through my both physical and and digital work stack, use the tool to become your holistic management platform for your infrastructure, whether it’s digital or whether it’s physical or virtual, forever, and use it as part of your IT SM stack to manage the governance control configuration.

Peter Sacco: [00:20:52] Databases as one integrated stack so that as we have to move workloads either from the distributed edge physical world to the co-location semi physical world to the to the cloud world where it’s all digital, we have actually a roadmap that or I should say a monitorable reference to say what will be impacted and how and how do we do that most effectively. And like any good plan, you need to do it with as few resources as possible, as automated as possible, reducing the amount of layers of infrastructure and complexity as much as possible. It’s possible in certain areas today, but not possible in other areas today. But you need to think about your IT infrastructure holistically and get a way to sum it up. Get away from the belief that one model on site co-location cloud fits everything. You’re going to be forced to learn how to manage in a hybrid environment and then layer a very complex digital security platform over the top of all of that and then use an IT SM and discovery tool in perpetuity to manage all of those pieces.

Michelle Mooney: [00:22:00] Always have a plan. Change is inevitable. So having that plan in place, as we hear, is crucial. If there are people out there, Pete, who are taking all this great information and saying, you know what, I have a few more questions. What’s the best way to get in contact or learn more about what we’re talking about here today?

Peter Sacco: [00:22:14] I would love for people to reach out to me. I mean, you could find me speaking in a lot of places, but may I give my email address and so people can reach out to me there. So it’s the company is PTS data center solutions, but you would easily find me on LinkedIn, but you could find me at Psacco, first initial last name at PTSDCS. Papa Tango, Sierra Delta, Charlie You can see my military background kind of bleeding through there. And so find me there, drop a line. I’d love to have a discussion with you. You know, we still to this day, though, we have lots of entities that we do and data is my day job. I like to say, is in data center facility design and build and hybrid advisory services. I’m across this industry. When you look at my LinkedIn, I’ve got blockchain companies, I’ve got Web 3.0 companies, I’ve got cybersecurity companies. And so we know this industry, you know pretty well. I’d love for people to reach out to me, talk to them, because you can never know too many people in this industry.

Michelle Mooney: [00:23:13] That is true. Great conversation. Great information, Pete. And as you heard Pete said, he’d be happy to give you more information. You have the contact details there. So Pete Sacco is the CEO and founder of Data Center Solutions. Pete, want to thank you for your time today.

Peter Sacco: [00:23:26] Michelle, it’s been my pleasure. I’ve absolutely enjoyed our conversation.

Michelle Mooney: [00:23:29] It really was so interesting to hear how things have come so far and how they are inevitably going to change very quickly. And the biggest thing is be prepared. So thank you all for listening out there to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to IT. Of course, it is a podcast brought to you by device 42. And if you’d like more information about Device 42, you can go to Device I’m your host, Michelle Dawn Mooney. Once again, thanks again and we hope to see you soon.

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