In his pursuit of meeting the adult industry’s unique hosting needs with the high-tech yin-and-yang harmony that MojoHost’s colorful logo promises, Brad Mitchell has spared no expense with his new Detroit, Michigan data center. Fittingly dubbed “Zen1,” the facility forms a trinity with its sister operations in Florida and the Netherlands, balancing opposing-yet-synergized forces. To tame electrical currents so that they neither overload nor fail to power the voracious energy needs of data servers, and temper those fiery servers with blacksmith-like cooling finesse, Mitchell meticulously planned and executed Zen1’s construction with a keen eye towards ironclad engineering and elegant visual design.
This makes Zen1, in many ways, an extension of Mitchell’s personal brand. While he may don many-hued coats to stride aglitter through trade shows, beneath all the flair whir a legion of mental gears that enable Mitchell to rattle off complex software and hardware lingo while sitting on expert panels among his peers.
The basis of our business is care, concern, relationships and deep industry experience that makes the difference with successful technology deployments.
What sets Mitchell and Zen1 apart from mainstream providers is his rigorous adherence to attending to the adult industry’s particular needs, especially in a world that stigmatizes the business and shuts off its lights on a whim. Beyond furnishing his state-of-the-art facility with everything from backups for his backup plans to a button-activated steel door that slams shut like something from an old James Bond movie, Mitchell has worked to safeguard his clientele and their liberties by funding his venture without relying on big financial institutions too easily spooked by the tweets of anti-porn crusaders and keyboard warriors. MojoHost is free to move about the cabin, and so are its clients.
Mitchell sat down with XBIZ for this executive seat interview to discuss the data center’s journey from initial concept to ultimate execution, to shed light on how Zen1 fits into his overarching goals, and to share a peek at future plans.
XBIZ: What inspired you to build the new MojoHost data center and move beyond existing facilities?
MITCHELL: This thoughtful expansion of our business adds a new northern data center adjacent to my new corporate headquarters in Detroit. It expands our global footprint from two locations — Florida and the Netherlands — to three, allowing us to best serve our international clientele and the world’s largest market, North America. Over the last two decades, I have weighed the pros and cons of being a data center tenant versus an owner. With careful consideration, I decided that now is the right time in history and my business career to make this mark on the global stage.
The stock market rally consolidated most of the world’s data centers into a small group of publicly traded companies that deliver worse service at considerably more significant expense, year-over-year, providing less to their customers. When I weighed this and the discriminatory practices of other publicly traded service providers, banks and social media giants, I recognized that we, as an industry, could do better. We could be safer. I asked myself: “As it pertains to servicing our most valued liberty, freedom of speech, who is unencumbered by the pressures of public opinion and the stock market? Who can provide service reliably, globally, without bending to the whim of public opinion?” I know it is MojoHost, and while there may be other options, this will be my legacy. You’re my people and always will be.
My dad is my hero: an immigrant entrepreneur who started with nothing but a broken home life, discouragement and challenges in the place where love should have lived. He and my mother found each other, thankfully. They did a fantastic job inspiring my three older brothers and me to believe we could accomplish anything our hearts and imagination desired. As a boy who grew up dreaming big in Michigan, I aspired to build a business of my own and create quality jobs with real opportunities. Today I’m able to work on what I’m passionate about, and it was my dad who led the way. For that, I’m eternally thankful.
For the second time in history, we will export the future from here in Detroit, the epicenter of the Industrial Revolution and the most remarkable failed city in America’s Rust Belt. We will become the critical infrastructure for future technologists.
XBIZ: Discuss the most immediate changes or benefits clients will see from MojoHost Zen1.
MITCHELL: The first thing we did to celebrate this launch was free your bandwidth. All dedicated servers at every MojoHost data center now include unlimited bandwidth over their gigabit connections, with low-priced options for 10 gigabits readily available. We are delivering substantial value to our entire industry with no bandwidth charges or overages, ever.
At Zen1, we have introduced a completely new server product line that includes the fastest CPUs and Gen4 PCIe storage. It harnesses AMD’s Ryzen and Threadripper technologies reliably within the data center, dramatically outperforming competitors.
Lastly, we have timed the launch of several exciting MojoCloud products to coincide with the grand opening of our Michigan data center in Southfield, a northern suburb of Detroit. Customers can now choose from multiple tiers of scalable object storage. We compete aggressively against every other cloud service provider with hot and cold storage types. We have already scaled to tens of petabytes, delivering big savings easily to anyone hoping to migrate off AWS or similar. While we continue to build private clouds expertly, we are similarly excited to announce new public cloud computing and managed Kubernetes product offerings.
XBIZ: You’ve touted the 17,000-square-foot data center as “one of the world’s most green hosting facilities.” How so?
MITCHELL: MojoHost’s Zen1 data center utilizes state-of-the-art technologies to cool its servers, which results in a very high power usage effectiveness. Using Motivair Free Cooling Chillers outside, heat is cost-effectively removed from inside the data center. They become more effective as temperatures lower, providing 100% free cooling during winter and partially free cooling during most other Michigan seasons.
Inside the data center, heat is removed at the source, right at the rear of servers, using Motivair ChilledDoors. They absorb all heat generated by servers directly into a chilled water-glycol solution contained in their manifold, exhausting room temperature air into the data center and warm water outside to be re-chilled.
Lastly, Zen1 uses an environmentally friendly and more efficient technology called “flywheels,” instead of batteries, to create the power required to operate infrastructure while generators turn on. Flywheel technology is energy-efficient, harnesses the power of centrifugal force, is not a fire hazard and does not need to be replaced like batteries. These infrastructure choices cost more upfront to deploy, but deliver more significant savings in power usage over the life of a data center, starting immediately.
XBIZ: In what ways is the Zen data center facility in Southfield, Michigan more heavily secured than its predecessor?
MITCHELL: All MojoHost-occupied facilities are heavily secured. Truthfully, there are more guns and three-letter agencies on the Miami, Florida facility premises. Zen1 is physically secure in all the ways one would expect, plus some that my team and I invented during construction. I want to emphasize the other value a Michigan data center brings to MojoHost’s customers. I am physically present with my largest team, overseeing management and successful deployments. We obsess over correctness. I stare at this infrastructure from my desk, through two glass walls — one with a retractable steel security wall that can be shut at the press of a button. It is incredible to have my hands back on our technology.
XBIZ: What challenges sprang up during the build, that you are proud to have overcome?
MITCHELL: Where to start? COVID-19 shutdowns, global technology supply chain carnage, engineering challenges and banking discrimination come to mind. I am, however, most proud of independently financing this construction and all of the required assets using a decentralized banking approach. I utilized dozens of banks instead of a single bank’s credit facility or Small Business Administration loan. This allowed me to be dynamic in our design choices and “go bigger” when the project scope grew.
MojoHost is just an internet service provider, the same as AWS, GoDaddy, AT&T and Google are. MojoHost should have the same rights and opportunities afforded to all ISPs. But the hard truth is that discrimination exists at all levels of banking because we host you. It doesn’t matter that every other ISP also does, because they have so much diversified revenue from different industries. Things today would likely be functioning at much slower speeds if not for the early internet demand for adult entertainment.
We are proud to have the added security of financial independence. MojoHost is decoupled from the importance of any single banking or financial relationship. This is a win. It further protects freedom of speech in today’s continuously challenging political environment.
XBIZ: What kinks are still being worked out?
MITCHELL: I walk the data center regularly, and just the other day, I noticed some areas in the data center were unnecessarily cold. We take temperature readings at the front of the server, rear of the server and back of the cabinet. We have thousands of data points to consider cumulatively. There is value in making observations in person that might be missed on a dashboard or spreadsheet. To operate at peak energy efficiency, we strive for continual process improvement.
I will forever be shamelessly asking questions of talented engineers because it’s only when you challenge everything that the best results can reveal themselves. And in a mission-critical environment’s day-to-day operations, it is paramount always to be vigilant and highly observant. When the stakes are this high, it’s crucial that your whole team feels a true sense of ownership and pride about the details. I do my best to encourage and empower my co-workers, appreciating when everyone speaks up to say their truth, especially if it’s unpopular. It’s mutual respect, and we are learning to provide better service daily.
XBIZ: Discuss the symbolism behind the Zen branding, MojoHost’s logo and your overall approach to the business.
MITCHELL: People don’t ask me very often what “Mojo” means to me. I was young when I picked the brand name MojoHost. I brought my belief system to our team, services and the brand, and then pivoted from our original marketing. Austin Powers movies resonated with me; they were very light-hearted and made me belly-laugh. Yeah, baby! I was inspired by Mike Myers’ comedic portrayal and the groovy ’60s “free love” theme and imagery. My first thought was, “MojoHost.com is a cool domain,” followed by the hopes that someday I could afford a brilliant designer to help me bring a wonderfully fun brand to life. My friend Jay from JuicyAds helped me realize my vision and created the now-trademarked slogan, “That’s Good Mojo.”
Life is hard, and nothing worthwhile has ever been easy to me. I fell in love with the yin-yang symbol with a gear around it after rejecting dozens of designs presented by my now-late designer friend, Michael Murphy. So much of our life experience is the pull of opposing forces. Whether it is the fight of good versus evil, light and dark, or work and play, always wanting to “do good” resonated deeply with me. So, to me, “Good Mojo” means doing the right thing … and maybe being sexier at it, like Austin Powers.
The fact that MojoHost’s 23 years of ethical and responsible stewardship make the internet a better, safer place is compatible with every religious belief system. Protecting children by working with law enforcement and being on the board of ASACP helps us to lead by example. Advocating publicly for the safety of at-risk communities and making it hard for bad people to do bad business online does make a difference. I’m also on the board of Pineapple Support, a wonderful mental health charity for adult performers that has saved lives, and I am so proud that I have been a small part of its success.
I am 47 now, and what I desire most is Zen. Peacefulness and calm are my goals, and our clients appreciate this approach to solving their complex IT problems. To undertake such large projects here, I had to fully re-commit myself to working harder and smarter than ever before. When we do our job well, it creates client success, and this is so rewarding. I believe the Mojo in Zen is putting good out there to share with everyone, and doing this without expectation is when the circle completes.
XBIZ: Given your investment in emergency backup capabilities, how often have you seen a need for this and how readily can you adapt?
MITCHELL: We have unreliable power delivery in the area where I built a data center. What I created gets tested weekly by my team and nearly as often by DTE Energy. I see the need for tremendous reliability every second of every day. The weight of client responsibility lives on my chest, and I feel it as I breathe. Fortunately, with my experience as a web host, I have been conditioned for over two decades to exist continually in a mission-critical environment.
As a tenant and client of other data centers, I have seen nearly every infrastructure component fail. So we overdesigned mine in every aspect that we could conceive of. The goal was not to be the biggest but to be as great as possible. The data center in Miami set the bar for my design. It was the inspiration for the design and deployment at Zen1.
XBIZ: How does Zen1 fit into your overall international expansion strategy?
MITCHELL: Since its inception, MojoHost has been a beautiful sandbox for the team and me to learn and build amazing things. Meeting the demands of our customers has been an experience like none other. MojoHost’s public cloud computing offering starts at Zen1, allowing us to finely hone our operational and logistics experience within its new, larger footprint. With the flexibility to grow the business to several times its current size and deploy so much infrastructure in our own data center and campus, we will develop and launch great things here. The template for success will be replicated in the coming years as we expand our cloud technologies across a growing global footprint.
XBIZ: What’s your pitch to less tech-savvy laypeople, in a nutshell, for why Zen1 makes MojoHost a must-have service?
MITCHELL: If you can read all my words and still think that you would be better served elsewhere, MojoHost may not be for you. The basis of our business is care, concern, relationships and deep industry experience that makes the difference with successful technology deployments. No other cloud or hosting service providers actively participate in or give back to this industry, or are accountable for its continued success. Companies that venture outside for professional services experience expensive learning curves and discrimination. MojoHost clients demand and expect the best; they expect “Good Mojo.” Supporting a technology provider that supports you is like voting with your dollars in the face of all the contempt and challenges in the world. I can’t think of a more compelling reason to choose us, because #ThatsGoodMojo.