Expedia’s Christopher Neil: “Don’t Be Okay With What Your Data Center Looks Like Today — Continue to Improve”

Dec 4, 2017
by Josh Anderson

PHOENIX, AZ — Christopher Neil is the Director of Data Center Services for Expedia, overseeing infrastructure support for all Expedia brands, including Travelocity, Truvago, Orbitz, Wotif, Ebookers, TravelDo, CheapTicket, and HotWire. He has been involved in data centers and mission critical facilities since he was an electronic technician in the U.S. navy 28 years ago. At our Southwest Data Center Summit in Phoenix November 2, Neil took part in an “Up-Close with Expedia” Q&A led by Luke Denmon of the Data Center Solutions team at CBRE. Below is the final installation of  Insider Reports on this Q&A.

Denmon:  So for the folks in this room, it’s probably accurate to say that your feedback is some of the most material for their business, because at the end of the day, if a company like Expedia is not buying data center space or not growing, then none of us really have a reason to do what we do. So what would you say are the three most important things for folks that are trying to become an integral team member to a big enterprise? What are some of the most important things that people who want to work for you can recognize on the front end and seek to deliver proactively?

Christopher Neil, Director of Data Center Services – Expedia

Neil: For me, it really starts with the relationship. Having a strong relationship with those that you’re doing business with. There are so many times where I nee to call up and say, well we had this issue, and I need your help. And because we have good relationships with our vendors, they’re on top of it. So if you don’t have a good relationship, I encourage you to start that process and bring it in. From a technology standpoint, continue to improve. Don’t be okay with what your facility looks like today, with no plan of moving forward. Continue the improvement process. Continual improvement is something that is buried into every single dev-ops team. So if you haven’t heard it yet, I’m sure that you will hear it soon. Because that’s what everyone is using your equipment for is those dev-ops team.

And the last thing I will say, and this may very well be the first thing on your mind, is safety. Safety inside a data center is key and critical. Everyone knows that. Make it important to your organization that you cover up the tiles that have holes in them. Make sure that when you’re doing maintenance, you have things marked off. If you’re cutting latter racking, make sure that you end cap it correctly, otherwise people will get up there trying to run cables and will bump their head. Make sure that you make safety your top priority.

Denmon: So, how do you get better deals on travel?

Neil: So as an employee, we do get a few perks here and there. But for the most part, when you’re on Expedia’s website, when you look at flights, the cost of a flight there is pretty much the same as going direct. There’s really not much difference. No one is really making money off of flights. Flights are flights, they’re the taxis of the skies. It’s pretty much a set rate.

Hotels is where it’s at. There’s a lot of flexibility in hotel rates. So when you’re looking at Marriott, directly on their site, it could be a different price from what you see on any of Expedia’s websites or any of our competitor’s. That’s because of the deals that are worked in the back to buy blocks. So there are agreements with those provider that we show their properties in a certain fashion, in a certain light, and providing a certain price for them.

At the same rate, the big reason why you go to Expedia and not other places is the package deals. When you start packaging them up, we actually start lobbing off percentages of those costs. Go and check it out sometime. You don’t have to hit Buy. But you can go through and say, I’m going to look at this flight, then I’m going to look at this hotel, then I’m going to bundle them together. See if you have a different price. That’s where the difference is. Then when you put a car on top of it, or we’re starting to get more into tickets for local events, those kind of things.

And by the way one of the things that I didn’t know, I didn’t find out until a few years ago, when I went to Hawaii. I loved going downtown in Waikiki. And one of the sub-divisions that we have is called Expedia local expert. We have kiosks there with guys who know all of the little hotspots. They have tickets to all the events. They know which luaus are good and which ones aren’t. So you can find those local experts and they can tell you what’s good and what’s bad in that area. So the major cities have them. I know that in places like Vegas and LA, those are really the hidden gems. Especially in Hawaii, where you’re inundated with all of these different options to go and do things – to have someone there that know all of the ins and outs makes it a little bit easier.

For more from this Q&A, please check out our previous Insider Reports with Christopher Neil:

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