The Deep Dive and the Data Center

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

Here’s an interesting fact: Jacques Cousteau invented scuba because he was mad about exploring caves. It’s great where following your passion can lead you. When I’m underwater (a new skill I’ve acquired) I really get what Cousteau meant when he said: “He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free”.

Of-course, freedom is great, but being in an alien environment, I suddenly found things I normally take for granted taking on a different dimension. What happens, for example, if there’s suddenly no air to breathe! As a relative novice and not having developed a sixth sense for such things, I’m hugely dependent upon instrumentation (especially for monitoring gas tank levels) to help keep me safe. In fact, my dependence on my equipment as I dive also makes me consider the precariousness of having to operate without instruments, especially in unfamiliar surroundings.

The human brain is a wonderful thing in many ways. Humankind has learnt to build machines and develop software to carry out tasks. So far these machines are not “sentient” as such; not able to operate outside of defined parameters which have been set for them. And, of course, unless we program machines to be able to analyze all factors or variables, then we can’t expect them to come to a “correct” answer either.  But as a species, we don’t want to become entirely dependent upon decisions made by machines, and unable to think for ourselves.

In the context of a data center – it’s people that decide how data centers are operated best. People that have walked the aisles and plant rooms with tool belts at their sides that have taken the biggest steps towards making today’s facilities as efficient and effective as they are today. That knowledge and best practices are what companies have tried to capture and encode into DCIM – giving expert people great tools to help them do their jobs better and more easily.

Today, there is an implied promise that all you need is software in order to be able to run a first class data center. Against an increasingly opaque background overshadowed by density, complexity, availability, regulatory and efficiency concerns, only software is able to shine a light. But I’m increasingly of the opinion that unless the use of software is accompanied by sharp minds and experienced professionals, the full advantages DCIM brings to operations will not be realised.

So, I had this thought as I slipped underwater with my life support system strapped to my back, chronometer set and time visible; that I can survive quite well (for a while) in an environment which otherwise couldn’t support this particular carbon-based life form. But I wouldn’t necessarily want to do so without training, experience or adequate instrumentation. Perhaps anyone could make a go of it if unexpectedly thrown into the deep end. But whether the use of resources could be extended as effectively as someone who understood the equipment, the discipline and required behaviour is quite another thing.

As far as the data center goes, DCIM is about getting the right information into the right hands for better decision making about all resources. And ensuring no-one gets drowned in a sea of data.

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