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The Transformational Data Center

The Transformational Data CenterMany things can be repurposed. Those old jeans you have can be transformed into “Daisy Duke” cut-offs, a rain barrel can become a planter, and as every bridesmaid knows, you can cut that dress down and make it a tea length—although I think this is more to justify the expense associated with buying a really ugly dress rather than a statement of fiscal practicality. Even the most esoteric item can be used to provide a service that its inventors couldn’t possibly have imagined. Take some pieces of wood and cinderblocks and, viola, you have bookshelves, or a cable spool can become a fashionable coffee table in any student house in America. One time my friend even hung a stuffed Barney from one of her fruit trees to keep the birds away. It worked, but her three-year old was reduced to tears upon discovering her favorite purple dinosaur swaying in the breeze from a peach tree branch. I bring this whole repurposing thing up because the data center industry seems to be fascinated by the fact that old buildings can be turned into data centers, and I don’t understand why.

It all started the other day when I read a headline about a former grocery store being turned into a data center. At first I almost glossed right over it. Seemed like a good idea. Grocery stores tend to be rather cavernous, so I was just about to skip over the story until I realized that somebody considered this “news”. Naturally, my curiosity was peaked. I just knew there had to be more to this story. Was Piggly-Wiggly getting into the data center market? Now that would be something different. Would they offer fresh produce in the cold aisles? A data center with a deli where you could buy one of those roasted chickens—I love those things– how convenient would that be? And since grocery stores are always located in strip malls you could add some capacity, get a haircut and pick up your dry cleaning in a single trip. Talk about your mass markets. Data centers could be as ubiquitous as those “Pack and Ship” stores.

As I plunged into the article, questions just kept popping into my mind. If you’ve got a data center and a grocery store, where do you put the beer and wine aisle? I don’t think current CFD modeling tools are equipped to handle this, and with the new ASHRAE guidelines, I’m pretty sure you couldn’t operate at a temperature suitable for a Napa Valley Cabernet. Would they have one of those horses in front that your kids can ride for a quarter? And how about a floral area? I guess you’d locate it by the card aisle so guys could easily pick-up both for that last minute anniversary or Mother’s day offering. Imagine my surprise when I delved deeper into the article to see that it was just about an old abandoned grocery store that was being turned into a data center. Big whoop.

Since converting most buildings pretty much means stripping the interior down to the studs and putting in all the necessary accouterments does the type of abandoned building that this takes place in really matter? I used to work for a company that had a data center in an old printing building but it wasn’t like they were running copies of Sports Illustrated in one room and processing commodities trades in another. In other words, keep walking nothing to see here.

Although I’m a fan of the sensational headline, and I’ll bet your are too—who hasn’t had the urge to pick up a copy of the Weekly World News when you see that headline telling you that Michael Jackson was actually the love child of Diana Ross and Elvis—this is why I felt a little gypped by this article. I understand slow news days, but shouldn’t there be some type of moratorium on headlines that advertise something really out of the ordinary only to read about the same old thing? After all, if I can’t read about a data center that’s also a grocery store, I might as well read another article about whether Big Data is bigger than the cloud.