September 4, 2013
Okay, let’s have a show of hands. How many of you have been to Disney World? Most of you probably went for the first time as kids, so you have fond memories of the rides, a smorgasbord of kid friendly food and a plethora of character-themed souvenirs that graced your room until they fell victim to the “uncool” factor. For those of you who have returned to the Magic Kingdom as adults, I think we can all agree that it was just a little different than you remembered. Was it always that hot? The last time the Crosby clan paid Orlando a visit, the heat and humidity combined to make our trek through the land of fun and merriment analogous to something like the Bataan death march. When did the food get so expensive? I don’t remember the churro stand accepting credit cards when I was a kid. And weren’t the trinkets sold at intervals of every 20 or so feet better than the Ariel Sno-Globe I bought for my daughter whose bottom fell off and subsequently flooded Mrs. Crosby’s purse like a small Tsunami?
But for all the potential for disillusionment, some things were still the same as I remembered. The “It’s a small world” ride for example. This animatronic tribute to the common ties that bind us all was just as annoying as I remembered it. As I sat in my little boat observing the very un-PC depictions of the citizenry of the world—the kid from China was set in some kind of rice paddy like scenario rather than in a classroom outperforming his American counterpart—with my teeth set on edge by that mind numbing jingle, I couldn’t help but think that although Disney World probably hasn’t closed the geographic and cultural divisions that separate us, data centers certainly have.
In the past week alone, I saw articles announcing new data centers scheduled to be erected in New Zealand, Finland and Sweden. That’s pretty diverse. If we use the Small World ride as our guide, that’s the sheep kid and the two Nordic looking blonds wearing only slightly less clothing than the smiling Eskimo outside his igloo—apparently the Disney folks had never paid a visit to any place further north than Fresno. Data centers are springing up everywhere. If you are even a casual follower of the industry, you know that data centers are spreading faster than the global tentacles illustrating communist infiltration throughout the world in those old 1950’s educational films that Disney used to help produce. Apparently, Walt was a “better dead, than Red” man. New markets are springing up in South America and Western Europe, and the Pacific Rim is proving to be the next great growth frontier.
Obviously, Disney did not foresee this growth in data centers. I think most future visionaries probably did, and Disney World opened up way back in 1971. And let’s face it, even if the Disney guys had anticipated this growth in the need for homes for massive data processing and collection, how the heck would you have portrayed an animatronic data center? While no one raises an eyebrow when they see the German kid dressed up in Lederhosen, there really isn’t any traditional, or generally accepted data center garb. In today’s world no one wants to risk offending anyone.
I think that this proliferation of data centers says a lot about how the power of technology joins us together no matter where we live. While we still don’t have flying cars, and you can’t vacation on the moon—I’ll bet Disney already owns property there—you can do a real time financial transaction between Dallas and Beijing, and the world can watch Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance on You Tube no matter what time of day that it is. This, for better or worse, is progress. Maybe not what we anticipated, but breathtaking nonetheless. I think that because the future so rarely turns out the way we picture it, we come to look affectionately at those things in our life that have proven to be timeless. We know that in their unchanging nature we can always count on them as a respite from our continual attempts to navigate a course for the future. Maybe one day we will look back at data centers in the same way that we do Disney World—but without the annoying soundtrack and that Swiss goat herder kid.