December 18, 2013
Note: Chris was busy this week so this blog has been written by me, Steve Flaig, VP of Marketing
Okay, guys, raise your hand if you have suddenly found yourself hooked on a show that your wife got you started watching? If you’re being honest, I think most of us are reading this right now with our hands in the air. Since we are all in a sharing mode, I’ll go first and admit that I can’t stop watching these house hunting shows on HGTV. It started innocently enough. Mrs. Flaig was watching some young couple being shown a variety of prospects for a potential new abode, and I happened to notice that one prospective domicile only had one bathroom, and it was in the basement. Naturally, one thing led to another, and now I spend my evenings yelling things at the TV like, “Don’t pick the classic Cape Cod. Houses with attached garages have better resale value”. Honestly, how clueless can some people be? In watching these televised travails of eager home buyers, one common element has become abundantly clear to me—a lot of houses weren’t built with the homeowner in mind. Aside from the aforementioned basement bathroom, I’ve seen houses that required their owners to reach bedrooms by passing through others, hallways that can only be navigated by moving sideways, and patios populated by all manner of appliances. The other night as the Mrs. and I were contemplating why someone would put the washer/dryer combo next to their outdoor gas grill it occurred to me that many data centers are like the houses on these shows.
I’ve been in the data center business for almost a decade and one thing that has become patently obvious is that while there are a number of considerations that affect data center design, the regular operations of their end users isn’t one of them. The reasons for this user unfriendliness are pretty straightforward. In multi-tenant environments, the goal of providers is to maximize the area of rentable raised floor. All other considerations thus become tangential, so necessary, but non-revenue producing elements, are located wherever they can be accommodated. While perhaps not as mystifying as the “bathroom in the basement”, this design parameter does help answer the question of “why I need a map to find the POP room?” The rationale for the architectural idiosyncrasies of pre-fabricated solutions—“It’s a 12’x40’ box, what did you expect”—while perhaps easier to accept, provides little solace when you’re carting boxes of new servers through the facility to “your data center”.
Since data centers are far from static environments, and activities like performing moves/adds/changes and unboxing and staging new hardware are regular events, you would think that that providers would use tighter guidelines than “within the same zip code” in locating site features like the loading dock and storage and staging facilities. Unfortunately, “user friendly” doesn’t seem to have made it past the white board stage for most data center designs. While attributes like a low PUE, and the type of fire suppression system used are certainly important customer considerations, I suspect that ergonomics is going to become more important to address the increasingly dynamic data center environment. Data centers that facilitate the ease of customer operations are the next logical step within the industry, albeit to the detriment of providers whose architectures reflect their requirements and not their customers.
I’ve always found it interesting how revelations or insights, like the flawed ergonomics of most data centers, can be derived from seemingly unrelated sources. While I am still the “King of the Clicker”, based on my recent experiences, I find that I am less dismissive of the television fare enjoyed by other members of the Flaig family. In fact, I am broadening my viewing behavior in search of further inspiration. While Newton may have had his apple, he didn’t have The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills…