6 Life Lessons from the Father of the Data Center Industry7 min read

by | Oct 30, 2013 | Blog

The following is a transcript of a eulogy delivered by Upsite Technologies’ President John Thornell at Ken Brill’s funeral in August, 2013. Ken founded Upsite Technologies in 2001.

As the father of the data center industry, Ken has many accomplishments to his name. These accomplishments are the product of an insatiable curiosity, and an unrelenting passion, focus and drive. Sometimes this presented challenges for people, including myself. Ken and I achieved a lot together, but we also had our differences. In fact, in 2008, I left The Uptime Institute largely because of those differences.

A year ago March, Ken called. We hadn’t spoken in years. In fact, when I saw his number on my phone I almost instinctively sent it to voice mail! Instead, I answered. And I am glad that I did. It was a different Ken on the line. He was reflective and appreciative. He was even apologetic about those differences he and I had prior. But, more importantly, for the first time, Ken seemed content. With the Site Uptime Network launched in Asia, the Uptime Institute had become the global organization he envisioned.

Since that call in March, I’ve joined one of Ken’s companies, Upsite. Working with Ken again, I also noticed that he seemed to be in a mentoring phase of his career and life. In individual meetings he would coach not command. On board calls, he would give input not instructions. Ken seemed to have finally broken the entrepreneur’s curse! His diagnosis didn’t slow him down, either. He talked about offering a course at Redlands and other ways to share his experiences for the benefit of others. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with this new Ken.

So, it is in this mentoring spirit that I would like to share with you, Ken’s family and closest friends, excerpts of a set of core values that he assembled over the years. These values were drafted, as Ken said, to help people “make decisions and set priorities between conflicting objectives…” Some of the more common are:

  1. A well-defined problem seeks its own solution
  2. Think both/and, not either/or
  3. Be hard on ideas, not people
  4. Set people and projects up for success, don’t move the goal posts
  5. Acknowledge and learn from problems, don’t hide from them
  6. Recognize and celebrate success

Ken maintained nearly 40 of these core values. In my time working with him, I was surprised how frequently we used many of them. They would serve as short-cuts to remind us to “address structure, instead of content” which is yet another core value.

I am flattered that Ken asked me to join Upsite. To help fulfill the vision he has for the company. To contribute to his legacy. I regret not being able to work with him now, but will continue to use many of the experiences I’ve had with Ken, including his core values, in my life personally and professionally. I encourage each of you to do the same.

No doubt, Ken would be as pleased about helping others as he was about his own accomplishments.

For additional eulogies from Ken’s services, please visit Jonathan G. Koomey’s Blog.


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