Data centers are like life

We commonly hear that such-and-such an experience is "like life." Often the phrase is applied to youth sports. But closer to our collective professional sphere, I have observed that in some ways, data centers are like life.

We commonly hear that such-and-such an experience is "like life." Often the phrase is applied to youth sports. But closer to our collective professional sphere, I have observed that in some ways, data centers are like life.

Take, for example, Dieter Studer's article about cabling large-scale data centers. He eloquently explains how it's possible to cram a lot more gear into a space than you ever thought you could. Density rules. In life, by my observation, people everywhere are increasingly challenged to cram more not necessarily into their facilities, but into their time. To the extent that work is life, think about your daily work schedule. Take the tasks that must be done in a given day and add up the time it should take to do them. You're already in a time deficit. Then add unanticipated (and time-eating) circumstances to the day, and you're like a data center operator trying to fit 20 percent more computing operations into a finite and already-full space.

Data centers continue to grow more complex, at least in part due to the densification just discussed. Physical and logical connectivity, along with consumption of resources like electricity, require planning for the known and readiness for the unexpected. Life also is complex (to put it mildly in many cases). Who comes home from work at a reasonable hour, puts their feet up, and relaxes until they're good and ready to do it again the next day? Recently I saw that an individual registered to attend one of our upcoming webcast seminars at 1:00 a.m. local time on a Saturday. I bet if we looked at all the circumstances that resulted in this individual being on a seminar-registration web page at 1 a.m. on a Saturday, "complex" would not begin to describe them.

Standards exist to guide the design, deployment and administration of data center infrastructure. The TIA-942 and BICSI-002 series may be chief among them. In life ... I have tried not to use this space to tell anyone what to think or how to live (with the possible exception of imploring everyone to keep fiber endfaces clean). Nonetheless, it's a reality that standards of behavior and decorum exist, whether or not we choose to observe them. Above all, each person's individual values are the guideposts by which we navigate through real life.

There's one important way that life is not like data centers: Downtime. In data centers, it's verboten. In life, it's essential. So now I will use this space to tell you how to live: Schedule some downtime for yourself. Unlike a data center, you're not supposed to be operating 99.999 percent of the time.

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