Is Your Data Center Up To Snuff?

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I have a penchant for finding humor in everything.  When I was in the eighth grade, we read Macbeth and were assigned to write a report on any part that interested us. My paper was titled “The Humor in Macbeth.”  I remember all this because the teacher made a spectacle of it and used the word “iconoclastic” to describe me. She then rolled her eyes and sighed. I could not wait to find out what iconoclastic meant and have worn the moniker with pride ever since.

But where is the humor in data centers that crash and burn – literally. If there is any, it is sick humor. So here we go. We had a data center on the eighteenth floor of an older building in downtown Atlanta.  The batteries were so heavy that they had to be located against the wall. If they had been in the middle of the room, they would not have stopped falling until they hit the ground floor of the parking deck beneath the building. (A little like the movie: The Italian Job!) I remember the time one of the batteries exploded and the technician on duty ran in to see what he could do. The acid ate the shoes off his feet and ruined most of his clothes.

This really was not funny, but we laughed at it years later. Thankfully no one was hurt.


Consider the mnemonic at the right as a way of illustrating the data center hierarchy. The point of the spear is the Application. No business invests in enterprise computing just for the fun of it. We do it for the business app. We do it to do things better, faster, and cheaper. So we carefully research the application before buying it. Oh, and then we need a computer to run it on. The person selling the software may have minimized the platform needs in order to get the sale. It is like an iceberg. The part below the water may kill you.

Here are some questions to ask to help evaluate your IT foundation:

  1. Have we tested the backup and recovery?
  2. If a backhoe cut the fiber to the internet, would we survive?
  3. Do we have trained and certified professionals in every shift?
  4. If the power failed and the generator did not start, what then?
  5. Are we using fire prevention for people or computers?
  6. Are we compliant and can we prove it?



About the Author:

While I was at Stanford, I got to know Dr. William Schockley, the inventor of the transistor. While at Bell Labs I produced the first computer generated animation, I worked on the first packet switch and the first picture-phone. I worked with the inventors of Unix and C. I produced multiple compilers, operating systems and microcode. I worked with the Snobal language - the precursor to Perl and Ramis the precursor to SQL. The building I worked in was home for 5000 of the smartest people in the industry. We had Phd's cutting the grass. (just kidding). I never had it so good again. Today that building is empty and for sale. After the Bell System, I spent 25 years in the satellite industry. I led development teams in the VSAT industry. I started and grew early stage companies in this industry. Recently I have been involved in cloud computing startups focused on infrastructure and virtual desktops.
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