Data centers

09:06 AM
Tony Kontzer
Tony Kontzer
Commentary
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Give Thanks To The Datacenter

Datacenter professionals, once a quiet bunch, have been thrust into the limelight in 2013. Here's why they should appreciate their new roles as infrastructure heroes.

In many ways, 2013 has been the Year of the Datacenter. With trends like cloud computing, mobility, and big data dominating IT talk, the datacenter's ability to change and mature into the flexible and dynamic nerve center necessary to support modern enterprises has placed a spotlight on technologies formerly considered decidedly unsexy.

And that means datacenter folks, who used to toil in obscurity as the proverbial people behind the curtain, have emerged as modern enterprise heroes. So with the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, here are eight reasons you should be especially thankful as you carve into your turkey.

1. You're not on the NSA's hit list.
In a year that has featured one story after another about the NSA's questionable collection of private information, datacenter operators surely felt the pain of their brethren at Yahoo and Google. They also were probably quite relieved not to have to be called into the CIO's office to brainstorm ways to keep the NSA out.

2. The business world has taken serious note of what you do.
This gets back to the whole behind-the-curtain thing. Sure, datacenter pros may have enjoyed their relative anonymity in the past. But now that the datacenter is a key enabler for so many important technologies, getting a little recognition can't help but cause the staff to puff their chests out.

3. The websites you support are better thought out than HealthCare.gov.
Fewer site launches have been more problematic than that of the Obamacare portal. The federal IT staffers responsible for the boondoggle are hard at work trying to fix the site, but private-sector employers would have taken a different approach known as pink slips. Then again, most of them pay sufficient attention to testing and validation to avoid such messes.

4. Your days of having to babysit servers are nearing an end…
Between enterprises' growing acceptance of the public cloud and the fact that most of their infrastructures are largely virtualized, many corporate datacenters are now running a fraction of the physical servers they did previously. And though virtual servers certainly have their challenges, at least there's a lot less time to be spent crawling around and under racks checking for damaged or disconnected cables.

5. … and you no longer have to explain why servers are running at 12% capacity.
If there's one thing datacenter administrators are sick of doing, it's having the "Why aren't we making better use of our servers?" discussion. With the move toward software-defined datacenters (SDDCs) picking up steam, datacenter pros are looking at a future that will be geared toward helping the business react and grow, rather than monitoring hardware efficiency.

6. The C-suite finally understands the value of disaster recovery and business continuity.
The move toward virtualization and SDDCs -- which has made coping with unexpected outages much less expensive -- has a lot more to do with this than any come-to-Jesus moment in the executive suite. Even so, a lot of datacenter managers are sleeping sounder knowing that they can reprovision datacenter resources with a few clicks or swipes.

7. The trend toward green datacenters is chipping away at your rep as a power hog.
When yearend accounting time arrived, those pesky datacenter power bills were a sticking point. It wasn't unusual for datacenter operators to face questions such as "Why are we spending so much to power servers that are barely ever even used?" or "Can't you do something to lower our power bills?" Now that companies have wised up to the value of placing datacenters in cold-weather locations, investing in renewable power sources such as wind and solar, and engaging in things like water conservation, datacenter pros figure to spend a lot less time answering for their power consumption.

8. Advances in technology improve the work-life balance.
Datacenter pros have historically faced countless interruptions of their Thanksgiving dinners (and Christmas celebrations, kids' birthday parties, big football games… the list goes on) when the infrastructure supporting mission-critical, round-the-clock systems failed. With today's ability to monitor, diagnose, and even repair such glitches remotely, there should be a lot fewer datacenter widows (and widowers) holding the fort on special occasions.

That's a lot for which we can be thankful. What else about your job makes you grateful this holiday season?

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Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Ninja
11/26/2013 | 9:50:43 AM
Cloud a double-edged turkey knife
Not to be a killjoy, but cloud and the maturation of co-lo facilities may just mean that by next Thanksgiving, engineers in typical midsize enterprise datacenters understand what it feels like to be a turkey on Nov. 20th or so. 
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
11/26/2013 | 10:24:48 AM
Re: Cloud a double-edged turkey knife
LOL, Lorna, that is definitely a glass-half-full observation. You are right that smaller and mid-sized businesses run the risk of their datacenters being replaced by other resources. I think the article is leaning more toward established datacenters that will most likely leverage the infrastructure they already have and adapt to new technologies. But maybe the #1 thing to give thanks for is having a job in the first place.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2013 | 11:10:17 PM
Re: Cloud a double-edged turkey knife
@Lorna: There's probably a grain of truth to your comments, at least for companies who choose to go entirely to the cloud. It seems to me though that many companies are mixing and matching between external and internal cloud for their compute resources. Hopefully that will mean that most people simply end up managing a somewhat different infrastucture. Either way though, change in the data center means change in job roles, and - just perhaps - reduction in jobs if some services are outsourced. But maybe as suggested by others, the jobs simply move to the cloud providers instead? Of course, this begs the question as to whether resource needs scale one for one for a real cloud environment versus a legacy environement (I fear not). Still, adaptability is king, as always!
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Strategist
11/26/2013 | 10:35:19 AM
Infrastructure
While dedicated datacenters might be on the decline, at least the growth of mobile infrastructure and those within cloud facilities themselves are on the rise. It's all getting centralised, so your job may go in one location, but others will be opening up elsewhere. 
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
11/26/2013 | 11:13:05 AM
Re: Infrastructure
Whoopty, excellent point. The datacenters will exist someplace, if not within the walls of your current company. And they will need to be managed by skilled professionals, because preventing any loss of service will be even more critical.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/27/2013 | 8:26:23 AM
work-life balance
With today's ability to monitor, diagnose, and even repair such glitches remotely, there should be a lot fewer datacenter widows (and widowers) holding the fort on special occasions.


Hopefully that applies applies to mobile monitoring, as well. I wouldn't want to see our infrastructure heroes sitting at the Thanksgiving dinner table eating the bird with their right hand and checking their smartphone for an update on the status of a service disruption at their CSP. 
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
11/27/2013 | 9:17:00 AM
Re: work-life balance
Marilyn, I'm sure the cloud providers have very sophisticated remote monitoring. But really you are just passing the buck. The cloud datacenter managers are probably checking their smartphones (or tablets) while they're at the dinner table, or watching football. But it still beats running to the physical location every time there's a blip on the radar.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2013 | 12:14:24 AM
Re: work-life balance
Marilyn, I do agree on your point - the work-life balance is very important for a vital and productive team. We cannot debate the importance of it. The technology evolution should not mean just only more powerful servers or the capability to handle big-data analysis. The datacenter should be smarter as well to relieve the IT stuff from monitoring, disaster recovery and emergency call-out duty.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2013 | 8:26:22 AM
Re: work-life balance
To your point, Li, about how smarter technology improves productivity (and quality of work life) through better tools, automation. and remote monitoring That's all very true.  Let's hope that we'll have even better tools and more datacenter jobs to be thankful for next Thanksgiving.
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