To most outsiders the datacenter industry may seem to be quite parochial. A niche blend at the intersection of building and IT technologies. Even to many senior business managers both of these areas in and of themselves are not necessarily considered business critical. As such, little if any time is spent concentrating on the issues this space. That is of course until it becomes business critical. At that time many business managers struggle to navigate this complex world. That complexity can drive frustration, confusion, and is prone to misinformation ultimately leading to bad business decisions. In many cases it might even be the first time they speak to those in the organization responsible for these assets.
Conversely, those who have had responsibility for the care and maintenance of the data center facilities themselves are now thrust into the spotlight and into a foreign world of business-speak. Usually these professionals report in through Corporate Real Estate services, where skill sets tend to lean towards more generic building issues. Real Estate groups tend to minimize the complexity of these facilities and apply what they know rather than what is truly happening. It leads to an interesting time for data center professionals who tend to be more engineering focused. Normally quite content to talk at an engineering and operations level, they now find themselves thrust into a world of business jargon, return on investments, capital planning, and business impacts. Out of their comfort zone and frustrated by the inability for management to grasp the engineering aspects of the issues at hand, cynicism increases and tempers can flare.
To make it even more confusing the IT organization, normally the largest user of those facilities and the primary advocate and buffer between business management and the data center organization rarely understands the issues within the facility itself or the challenges the advancements in server and IT technology may actually have in the environment in which their services run. Even when they believe themselves to be assisting their data center comrades they may unintentionally be causing more harm than good. Data Center professionals (at the facility level) rarely understand server and application technologies which are increasingly placing strain on their facilities.
Three worlds have collided and its never pretty. In my experience and in conversations with many customers in all three categories its a time that fosters frustration, mistrust, and stress. Its also a wonderful time for less than scrupulous vendors, contractors, and consultants to take advantage of the situation and cause poor decisions to be made. I am not saying that all consultants are bad or ill intentioned, in fact, there are some phenomenal organizations and products out there. Its just that you need to be aware of the biases and “religious” debates in this space. If your a business manager think about the debates around out-sourcing versus in-sourcing, off-shoring versus near-shoring. If you are an IT professional think back to the times of Ethernet versus Token Ring, Oracle versus SAP, Windows versus Netware or Windows versus Linux. While it may it may seem strange to people in IT and business management, the data center world suffers from many of the same things. Concepts like AC versus DC, batteries versus rotary-based UPS systems raised floor versus on-slab. Different firms have different biases and religious affiliations.
With this post, I am kicking off a series of posts in which my sincerest wish is to help all three groups during these stressful times. Having spent significant time in all three camps I will offer up my own personal take on the issues at hand. I am calling them Chiller-Side Chats. From time to time I will post my thoughts on various issues aimed at bridging the communication between these organizations. I strongly encourage anyone reading these posts to drop comments or offer up suggestions so we can have a lively discussion on these topics.