I know it’s cliché, but it really does seem like yesterday, the $6.1 billion purchase of American Power Conversion by the French industrial giant with the German name. The idea was to take the leader in the IT room or white space of data centers – APC – and combine it with the company with the leadership position in the grey space or electrical rooms – Schneider Electric – to create a single data center powerhouse.
While both companies were selling into the data center industry, neither routinely ran into the other in the accounts they sold to. This reminds me of a quote from an executive with the largest data center physical infrastructure provider at the time, 15 or so years ago. When asked about APC, he said, “I know they are a public company with high revenue and profits but I have no idea where they sell their stuff because we never see them.” It was true, APC had found a rare emerging market that no one else was serving. In the time when local area networks (LAN) were emerging, companies turned to their network managers to build in-house data centers. These network managers went to the partners they trusted to find a data center – their IT resellers, where they found turnkey small data centers from APC. A true and classic form of channel isolation meeting differentiated value.
Schneider, on the other hand, was busy building up global, end-to-end power train solutions for every possible vertical application – manufacturing, hotels, oil and gas, mining, hospitals, etc. Schneider was on a mission to not only be the world’s largest power train supplier (breakers, panel boards, switchgear, busway, UPS), but also wanted to be a solution provider, and data centers was a market they wanted to play in. The goal was to and add value and to simplify their customers’ lives.
How well did it work you ask? As with any relationship it took a lot of work – ask anyone who has ever been married. Progress has been made in integrating the sales process as well as the technology stack. From a sales perspective, Global Account Managers, Enterprise Account Managers, and Data Center Solution architects are now able to represent the Schneider data center hardware portfolio from 10,000 volt switchgear to air economizer cooling units, all the way down to rack-mount power distribution strips that computers plug into. Data center reference designs are available complete with schematics, detailed spatial layouts, and complete bills of materials for data centers from 80 kW all the way up to 80 MW hyperscale facilities. Integrated software is available to manage everything from connected devices, edge facilities and large data centers, including power, cooling and IT rooms, with analytics located in the cloud. This software is now called EcoStruxure and is the platform that brings it all together.
I may be biased, but I would say Schneider Electric has accomplished its goal of becoming a data center powerhouse, meaning the acquisition is working out pretty much exactly as intended.