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Episode 31 of The Andy Show

Episode 31 of The Andy Show

ALEX ISZATT [00:00:52] Welcome to The Andy show. And it’s Tuesday and a beautiful June day outside. Now everybody is trying to move towards how we’re going to deal when we go back into the office. But are we looking to see how we’re going to make sure that we are getting ahead of the game? Well, one company that is is TeleData UK. And joining me today is Matt Edgley. Thanks so much for joining me today, Matt.

MATT EDGLEY [00:01:15] Alex, hi. How are you?

MATT EDGLEY [00:01:17] I’m good, thank you. So obviously, your company has been dealing with this COVID-19 pandemic in its own unique way. And how are you making sure that you are also looking ahead to the future?

MATT EDGLEY [00:01:30] Well, actually, we already, were in a lot of respects. I mean, a lot of the technology we were putting in place anyway was about improving remote capabilities and early warning systems on remote monitoring. That kind of thing. Everything from alerting you to issues to predicting potential issues as well, which helps us reduce the number of engineers we need on site only one side. But it also makes us a lot more proactive instead of reactive in terms of issues that might happen. So I think we were already looking down that way anyway. You know, we’ve been quite pioneering in terms of the technologies that we’ve been putting in place, such as joining the smart grid. I think we’re one of the or if not the first co-location facility in the U.K. to do that with battery storage. So it’s kind of built in into everything we do anyway. And what it has allowed us to do is focus more on some of the products we have in the pipeline anyway. And some of those are becoming to market a lot quicker because of the time we devoted during lockdown and having observed the different ways that people are working now.

ALEX ISZATT [00:02:44] I would say right at the beginning of this lockdown, everyone had to move fast and to try and keep up with technology. But how have you found that people have come to you and what the challenges that you’ve come across?

MATT EDGLEY [00:02:58] Well, it used to be that I’ve been in the data centre industry for about 15, 16 years now. And the traditional, they say, was all about power and cooling and U.P.S. fire suppression, the very physical bits and pieces that still make up a data centre today. But data centers buyer were pretty much picking one data centre to host their equipment. And I think buyers is becoming a lot more savvy these days, you got edge comptuing. People are spreading their workloads over multiple sites now, and it’s becoming more about how people can interconnect with a wider range of content providers, network providers, Internet exchange points and how that kind of all fits together to deliver a wider strategy. So I think we’re having to be a lot more intelligent about the type of providers and customers and technology providers that we can attract. Which in turn helps us attract the customers that you know are innovative and real kinda growth customers that they’re using data centers in a more intelligent way these days. So I think as the data centers providers these days, you’ve got to be much more aware of what your strategy is in terms of the providers that you’re attr to the site as well.

ALEX ISZATT [00:04:24] And obviously, people are becoming more savvy and then using a lot more data centres and Cloud based centres. Does that mean that you will have to change the way that your security is because you are trying to adapt to them?

MATT EDGLEY [00:04:36] Yes, in terms of physical security. I mean, being a data center we have to enable 24/7 access for customers to go in and look after their own kit, which is co-located within our site. So they are having their own equipment within racks “where you the power on to be the”  infrastructure cool but we still need them to get to their equipment in an emergency and make that happen in a very secure way. So we’ve got multiple layers of security, but we have the intelligence within that security to make sure the people with the right credentials can be at the equipment within minutes. So we’ve got everything from AMPR at the Gates that work with online access control systems. We’ve got multiple barriers at the front of the building, including double doors, turnstiles that we’ve got “data” sense amongst shops with card, pin and retinal scans before you get into the site. So if you haven’t got your card, your pin, your AMPR records, your iris with you for whatever reason. Then you’re not going to get very far. But if you’ve got all those credentials with you because these systems are all working together. You will be literally out your equipment within minutes. So from a compliance point of view, we certainly take all the boxes from a I need to get to my equipment quickly point of view. Then we take all the boxes from that point of view as well. So it is a balance because you want people to get in but you want to make sure that all those checks  are made as well.

ALEX ISZATT [00:06:12] I think that’s important that they’re investing in that security and those biometrics sounds absolutely crazy.

MATT EDGLEY [00:06:20] I think that kind of thing is quite normal within the data centers now, fingerprint or iris scanner type technology. It’s just making sure the processes are in place, to… Well, you’ve got multiple barriers. Make sure that people can get through those barriers quickly if they’ve got the right credentials with them. And it’s the same with online technology. We take the same approach with physical. So multiple faxes, multiple layers, which gives you a full audit trail that you can report on to make sure that people can get to the right areas. And that’s we’ve changed a little bit during lockdown because obviously we’ve got to reduce the number of people within the data centre anyone signed. It’s being, we’re a bit concerned about how that might work initially because, you know, people need to get their equipment if they need to get there, they need to get there. It’s normally quite critical. But we’ve got remote armed services. We’ve kept 24/7 support guys on site. Classified as keyworker’s because of what they do and…

ALEX ISZATT [00:07:25] I think it’s a minor,  we just have a little bit of a pause, a little bit. Sorry, Matt, are you still there?

MATT EDGLEY [00:07:39] I’m sorry. Yeah.

ALEX ISZATT [00:07:40] Might be my connection then. Sorry. You’re talking about how you have the essential workers.

MATT EDGLEY [00:07:47] Yeah. So, like, they’ve been on site all the way through. And the level of service that they’ve given to our customers during the COVID situation has been excellent. And I think… I’m hoping the customers will back me up on this. But our levels of service has been as good, if not even more reactive than they are normal day to day basis, because we’ve got marketing guys at home, sales guys, HR, myself, primarily at home, some of our technical team at home. These guys have been coming in day in, day out following the government advice and communicating with the customers which I think has been the most important thing is to make sure that you get that communication out there so everyone knows where they stand. Everyone knows what amendments might be made, security procedures or access procedures. But it’s worked really well and I think that’s probably testament to the level of the team that we’ve got and the closely the employees we’ve got. And so the customers in terms of the way they’ve worked with us on the amendment.

MATT EDGLEY [00:08:56] I mean, obviously, that sounds really great that you’re making sure that you’re getting those key aspects to your customers. But have you found that maybe customers are a bit wary about having physical data centre in this, especially these times, because they’re scared about coming in, have you next is more of a move to the Cloud platform?

MATT EDGLEY [00:09:16] Well, we did. We obviously we’ve got a Cloud platform as well. One of the reasons we built, I think it’s 2016 that we first launched the Cloud platform was that we could offer more of a hybrid product because people have got the “static workloads”, they’ve got elastic workloads and I think customers who are currently looking at moving into the Cloud are future proofing by making sure they’re going with providers that can also offer that option because the late 2000s where people were moving “rocks” into a data centre, and that was it, we were gonna be there for the next six, seven, eight years. That can’t be taken for granted anymore, even expected, you know. People’s strategies are changing very, very quickly. So I think when people are looking to move equipment or considering moving equipment into a data center, then naturally looking at the other services that will be available by that provider or by other technology providers within the data centre. So I think. Rather than looking at data centres as a very physical thing, I think you’ve got to look at the whole ecosystem as a customer. So understand whatelse is available from that site or with that provider. So that’s our challenge is to make that ecosystem continue to grow. And you do that by working with other customer that using the “site”.

ALEX ISZATT [00:10:44] And obviously, you’re learning from customers every day. You just sit there but you know, communication with customers is really important. So what best in class service are you offering to these customers, a potentially new clients coming along?

MATT EDGLEY [00:10:57] Yeah, I mean, I think from our point of view, we’re still an independent data centre provider. There’s not many of us left. It’s certainly “Manchester” at the moment. Can call ourselves truly independent. So it makes us a lot more agile. I know that’s the word this overused, but in our case, it’s very true. We can make quick decisions. We’re expanding the data centre, which not even released in the news yet, it’s the first time we mention it.

ALEX ISZATT [00:11:26] Exclusive.

MATT EDGLEY [00:11:26] Yeah, exclusive. So we’re building out another obviously, 7000 square foot in the next 12 to 18 months. So we’re flexible. Our services can be guided by customer needs to a large extent. I mean, we’ve got our own strategy, but we only have to look at the last 2 or 3 months to see how there’s been a massive step change in the way that people are going to start working over the next… Well from now on, which really. And we’ve got the team, the platforms, the nuts and bolts of the data centre itself as well. So really adapt pretty quickly. So I think from our point of view, I’m less worried than if we were a much larger organisation that found it more difficult to adapt to that change.

ALEX ISZATT [00:12:12] It does as quite a unique take, isn’t it? That you’re actually expanding. I think a lot of people, especially in these times, are looking to consolidate what they’ve already got and trying to make it a bit more streamlined. So what was the idea behind that to be bigger?

MATT EDGLEY [00:12:30] I think at the moment, people need what we do and people need what our customers do. And I think technology is a massive factor. I know there’s a lot of challenges at the moment, but if we didn’t have the technology and the providers and the online availability of services that we’ve got today, then this whole situation could have been 10x worse. So I think data centers are very much part of a critical national infrastructure, really, in terms of making sure that the country can continue to a certain extent. Although it’s been a challenge for everybody. There are certain clients of ours that enable remote working that, you know, the Cloud providers themselves as a Cloud provider in a data center provider. People do actually need more and rely more on the kind of things that we do at the moment to continue. So we’ve seen sustained, if not increased demand in the kind of things that we offer. And this is where our collaboration with the providers and content providers, network providers and Internet exchange points like “Manchester or links”, it becomes more and more important because that’s what is enabling the technology shift. You can’t do it on your own anymore. You’ve got to work with the vendors, with the providers.

ALEX ISZATT [00:13:52] Well asolutely, collaboration and partnerships are definitely the way that we’re all going to get on the same page. Well, you mentioned earlier about the smart grids and being a bit more energy efficient. And that’s also where the collaboration isn’t it for you?

MATT EDGLEY [00:14:07] It is,I think we’ve got responsibility as data center provider to continue with those efficiency measures. Carbon reduction is is a huge thing. Climate change is a huge thing. The.. you know we’ve got a 100% renewable energy contracts. We’ve got. Now we try to minimise our energy wastage, but we’ve gone a lot further than that. We’ve put in place low cost transformers. We’ve put in voltage optimisations. So minimise energy wastage. We’ve invested about a million, just over a million in two megawatts worth of battery storage so that we can.. We’ve got 100% renewable energy. So we’ve now got the ability as well to store that renewable energy where the grid hasn’t. So we can intelligently switch between battery storage and grid feed at various times of day, which, again, from a customer point of view, helps us insulate against the more expensive “Rud’s Narges” of electricity. Because we can avoid those periods of expensive charging from the grid. And I think as we go forwards, I mean, I think it’s widely expected that tariffs in the way that charges will be made from the grid are gonna change. And they might fluctuate between seasons, between months, between periods of high use. And again, comes back to intelligence, we’ll be able to selectively choose where we’re getting our power from. Whether it’s from our storage plan or whether it’s from the grid, which again, helps us during periods of uncertainty on the supply as well, because we’ve got effectively a third power source. So we’ve got mains, the generators and the battery storage as well as the internal UPS. So there’s more to it than as part- as part of this smart grid, we’re also helping the grid more locally balance out the frequency, which reduces the possibility of brownouts on the local ring as well. So there’s a lot to be said for it. You know, the grid during periods of are very, very low in demand, which was seen recently. We’ll actually be paying for renewable energy providers to turn off their energy generation because it was too much in the grid. We’ve got no storage ability. So the more storage ability that can be brought on in the U.K., the more of that renewable energy can actually be saved and not wasted. And I think we’re going to see more and more, more of that happen over the next few years, especially in battery technology gets better and better and better as well.

ALEX ISZATT [00:16:43] Obviously, that’s something that you’re doing in Manchester to make sure that you’re probably at the forefront?

MATT EDGLEY [00:16:50] Yeah, yeah. I think we’re the first UK co-location facility to do it. I think we have to get a massive amount of thanks to the growth of Manchester for giving us the confidence to do that, because we’ve been working very closely with them to reduce our energy and they’ve provided us with independent consultant “self as a SaaS the technology”. They sat with us and, you know, taught us things that probably gave us the confidence to do something we would never have had the confidence to do ourselves. But they’re 100% interested in saving carbon, I mean they’re pretty aggressive carbon saving targets over the next few years. And we’re better to look than a data center when we use as much power as a small village. So in some times, it’s just making our behavioural change. But if you can build a mass systems and intelligent monitoring systems into what you’re doing day to day, it’s amazing how much carbon electricity and ultimately cost you can save by being more efficient and just having those controls in place.

ALEX ISZATT [00:18:01] Absolutely. I think this is unfortunately with this pandemic that’s taken over, people have forgotten the beginning of the year, especially a lot last year we were all fighting for this change and making sure that we were efficient and energy efficient and climate change is a big deal. And honestly, now our priorities seem to have changed, that things like that shouldn’t have- we shouldn’t be left by the wayside because our planet is still gonna be here when this virus is over.

MATT EDGLEY [00:18:29] Absolutely. At first glance, you look at data centers “and what they are using” two megawatts of energy. What environmental “wants to they are” but much more efficient is as shared environment for more of customers and people having equipment on site with an inefficient air conditioning units inefficiently UPS, unreliable power supplies. And I think we feel a responsibility to be doing that because that then helps our customers achieve their own efficiency goals as well. So if we can say, look, by moving your equipment. So we’re doing X, Y, Z from an efficiency point of view. Know that’s something they can shout about as well because it’s part of their investment into their technology and the way they’re hosting that technology, you know, that they’re making that decisions go out carbon by using us as well. So it’s a win win really for us and for the customer. And every form of carbon you save goes straight on the bottom line. But I think a lot of people mistrust the gains you can actually make from be more efficient. So when people don’t like being the first to try anything. But we’ve been we’ve been quite different and so unusual in the data centre arena for people to want to be the first. But we’ve got a different mentality. Thankfully.

ALEX ISZATT [00:19:52] I guess also people start doing it’s amazing their equipment over then that potentially could save costs elsewhere by maybe they don’t have to have those offices that you talked about. They’re inefficient. And I’ve see a lot of people now working from home saying that’s also changing the landscape. You mentioned some of your staff are working from home. And obviously you can’t. You are you’re expanding and you aren’t getting any smaller. But what do you think about the future of the workplace then?

MATT EDGLEY [00:20:22] I think it will change. I think mindsets have changed as well. I think it’s hard to imagine now everyone feeling like we’ve got to be in the office at 9:00 and then start stone screen until 5:30, every evening. We already set a degree of remote working any way. But I think this is just shown as long as you’ve got the right workforce and you’ve got the right people and the right places. There’s absolutely no reason why people can’t even be more productive. By changing up the working patterns, because I think there’s a lot to be said for spending that extra time at home as long as you can make it work and set aside the right kind of working environment. I think it will change. I think the way offices are used and the way staff is, the right staff are demanding. Not what demanding “back to white” working class patterns going forward is going to change as well. So people like us, we’ve got to make sure that we can enable that. And I think the last few months has proven that moving equipment to a data centre is a key element or to a Cloud platform is a key element of enabling, not because we’re key workers. The key locations are not gonna be turned off during a pandemic is probably the most the safest place for your equipment to be.

ALEX ISZATT [00:21:48] And do you think then that you’re evolving or do you think that you would have been in this situation, regardless?

MATT EDGLEY [00:21:54] Of where we’re going in terms of… Maybe not as quickly?  I think we’re quite modern in the way that we’ve approach the workplace anyway. But I think it’s reinforced what we thought anyway. And we probably go a little bit further with maybe we would have had the confidence to do previously. I think, again, that comes back to having the right people in place, in the right position. Having the confidence to go further with it. And that’s been our culture. And that methodology within your team is probably the hardest thing to achieve. But once you’ve got I think it’s quite easy to move so that more adaptable working environment.

ALEX ISZATT [00:22:42] And what do you think now is going to be… To make sure that you aren’t just adapting and revolving to this situation? How are you going to make sure that you’re ahead of the game going forward?

MATT EDGLEY [00:22:53] Well, that’s the challenge, isn’t it? Because we we’ve got to be able to predict. Where people are going with that technology, again, to make sure that they can connect with the right partners and providers and the ecosystem to make their technology work for them. I mean, what we’re quite fortunate, again, by being that comparatively small providers to some of the larger ones, like I won’t name any names, but very much large stakes and providers and those that probably find it harder to be as close to their customers as we are. But, you know, we’ve got one data center based on site. We see the engineers. We speak to the engineers. We obviously keep regular comes up with kind of that board level strategy guys. So we understand what people are looking for and where they’re going. And that’s I think just having that understanding will help to guide us and keep us at the forefront.

ALEX ISZATT [00:23:52] “Until my technology but as I say” obviously the big one at the moment is those same 5G interconnectivity. Is that something that your waiting for? Or are you trying to move ahead and get in there quickly?

MATT EDGLEY [00:24:05] Well, we’re not massive network providers ourselves because, again, part of delivering quality data center for end users is making sure you’ve got as many network providers as you possibly can on site with the new ones coming into us all the time. Bringing new technologies to the table as well for customers to then deal directly with them. So I think. That will be led by the connectivity providers that are already in here, I think, and how they start configuring user network and the type of products that they continue to deliver. So I think because of the number of providers we’ve gotten here, we will start to see product based on the latest technology. But that’s what we’ve seen over the past 5, 10 years anyway really.

ALEX ISZATT [00:24:53] With the expansion as well. Opens up more for more clients to come on board and potentially adopt the way that you’re working.

MATT EDGLEY [00:25:03] Yeah. I mean the building, because of the amount of intelligence that we’re building into the infrastructure. More or less looks after itself to a large degree. Yeah, there’s a lot of physical servicing and maintenance. And what would be in parts replacement here and there but, you know, we build “into” everything we build resilience into everything. This threshold’s alarms on, you know, every piece of equipment you can think of. So we don’t need a huge number of stuff on site to be able to react to the various things that are happening, the type of systems that were put in place, relieve and take into account things like the weather forecast. So we can predict based on Machine Learning of what’s happened in the past in similar situations. Any temperature fluctuations we might see in the date center, any extra stress we might see on the air conditioning units or the condenses outside will pretty much be able to predict if there is a potential issue in the future. And the critical supplies that we’ve got in place to maintain that will also receive that information. So it just means that we’re not waiting for an issue to happen before it becomes an issue. So the people “we’ve got on site are generally done” so you know, that’s a reaction to those kind of incidents. But we can focus more on the support of customers and deliver new solutions for people. You just don’t need a huge number of people on site on a day since as long as you’ve got it running properly. You know, it tends to work pretty well on its own. And you just need to look after it and make sure it’s happy.

ALEX ISZATT [00:26:43] It’s always… and it’s happy.

MATT EDGLEY [00:26:45] Yeah, absolutely.

ALEX ISZATT [00:26:47] And obviously, though know, you do have those staff. You did mention that they’re working from home now. You don’t want to completely make sure that they aren’t involved in the way that you’re working. How have you been adapting to make sure that those people still feel like that’s still part of the team, even though they’re not there?

MATT EDGLEY [00:27:03] I think it’s just having the right tools in place. We have got now online meeting points and collaboration points for members of staff. We already had a lot of the technologies in place to enable remote work. And because we’ve got a number of stuff that did that anyway. And I think to maintain that culture is going to be important going forward to make sure that there is still that team, feeling of being part of a team. So I think it’s still going to have to retain that central point being in the office that the people will collaborate and face to face when they want it. And so far, we’re doing well with it. But I think we’ll see how things need to change after you’ve been doing it for six, seven months or so. And just, you know, you gonna make sure that nothing falls on the cracks. You got to make sure that people are happy. You’ve got to make sure that they stay motivated and they understand the direction that the company is going in. And that’s the challenge for managers and… “the like” to communicate with our team members and keep our communication going.

ALEX ISZATT [00:28:14] Absolutely. I see happy data centre and its happy staff and happy customers.

MATT EDGLEY [00:28:18] Yup, that’s the key, simple, simple.

ALEX ISZATT [00:28:20] Keep it simple. Oh, thank you much Matt for joining me today to talk about the TeleData UK. And also thank you again for giving us the exclusive that you’re going to be expanding. That’s so great news. And we look forward to seeing you not just take a red carpet neutral Manchester, but to the whole of the UK?

MATT EDGLEY [00:28:39] Yeah. Yeah, I think so. Absolutely.

ALEX ISZATT [00:28:42] We look forward to it. Thank you once again, Matt.

MATT EDGLEY [00:28:45] Thanks Alex.

MATT EDGLEY [00:28:46] So that’s The Andy Show for today. Really interesting how are you making sure that you’re energy efficient, but also keeping ahead to the future to make sure you’re head of the game? Why don’t you come back tomorrow and find out who else is going to be joining us. But if you want to rewatch this again or get involved. And don’t forget that you can go on to Facebook, you can go onto LinkedIn. You can go onto Twitter. You can also go onto the website, whichever way you do get in contact. See you soon.