Cavern will double in size for the 3rd consecutive year with 60,000 square feet of state-of-the-art data center space coming online December 5th. Writer Shirley Siluk sat down with Cavern’s CEO, Pete Clune to better understand where Cavern Technologies has been and where they are headed.
By: Shirley Siluk
Despite starting right before one of the deepest recessions in U.S. history, Cavern Technologies has grown dramatically since it first opened its data center doors in 2007. With the company now about to wrap up a 60,000-square-foot expansion that will make it the largest colocation facility in the Midwest, CEO Pete Clune attributes Cavern’s success to a simple, time-tested business philosophy:
Take good care of your customers. Keep your customer base diverse so your survival doesn’t depend on just one or two big clients. And don’t expand until you have a customer lined up for the new space you’re building.
“We’ve modeled Cavern on an old-line economy,” Clune says. “We elected not to build anything until we had an order.”
If that approach sounds a bit old-fashioned for such a modern, high-tech industry, it’s helped Cavern Technologies survive and thrive over a period that has seen plenty of other promising tech firms rocket into wild growth before quickly flaming out and crashing because they took on too much, too fast.
“Locally and nationally, customers really like our model. We adapt our model to their needs and create a custom solution that give the customer that just in time inventory to support their IT operations as they scale into the future,” says Clune.
Clune recalls being “intrigued” when he first saw the space that would eventually house Cavern Technologies. Located 125 feet underground and encased in strong and solid limestone, the facility had previously been used for storage and several other types of businesses. It was his son, John – who serves as Cavern’s president – who came up with the “visionary” idea of using the space as a data center.
“He was seeing what was going on in the marketplace,” Clune says.
The volume of data being generated was beginning to grow rapidly, virtualization was making remote- and cloud-based operations increasingly easy, and dramatic changes were taking place in information-intensive sectors like healthcare and finance. Put together, all of these trends spelled huge potential clear for a large, rock-solid and fiber-connected underground space with a year-round temperature of 68 degrees F and ample access to low-cost power.
Seven years later, Cavern Technologies has shown it has made the most of that potential. Its latest, 60,000-square-foot expansion – set to be completed in December – will bring its total operating space up to 160,000 square feet. With even more space (up to 900,000 square feet more, Clune says) available for future growth, Cavern can have a new server room ready for any client that needs it in 45 days, compared to the typical year-long build period for a new data center.
In all the years Cavern has been in business, no customer has once lost power, Clune adds.
“We’ve been blessed,” he says. “It’s pretty unlimited potential … if we stay true our core competencies and our focus on operational excellence.”
Cavern has proven that it can deliver what customers need: a strong secure space that’s easy (hence, cheaper) to keep cool and protected from above-ground hazards ranging from careless backhoe operators to sometimes-wild Midwestern weather. It also helps that the company has reliable access to plenty of power that’s “50- to 100-percent cheaper than you could get on either coast,” Clune says.
“If a company’s got good IT people, they come out and they see the value,” he says. “We provide the infrastructure to support their mission critical, and we do that really well.”