Earlier this month, Uptime Institute Network members convened in Atlanta at the Ritz Carlton in Buckhead for the North America Fall Meeting.
One of the predominant themes of the event (and persistent discussions in the industry in general) is the looming retirement of the current generation of data center professionals. The data center industry doesn’t have a very good farm system: an organization or activity that serves as a training ground for higher-level endeavors.
“Over 75% of our facilities staff are between 55-65 years old,” one attendee said. “We all grew up in the industry together.” And many organizations worry that all of these skilled, experienced people are going to retire together as well, and a second generation of data center operators is not waiting to take their place.
Part of the challenge in hiring junior data center staff is due to poorly-defined titles and responsibilities often associated with these positions. “If you’re not specific on the job posting, you get apartment maintenance guys,” one of the Network’s panelists said. “But if you get too specific, good people are turned away because they think they’re under-qualified.”
Data center operations experts don’t have a clear career path. Senior staff often work their way up in an organization from different backgrounds and professions. Having a experience in electrical engineering or IT systems management are obvious desirable skills, but many new data center hires will not come from those fields. Hiring managers are looking for specific traits and attributes that aren’t easily recognizable on a résumé. One attendee recently hired an employee who’s last job had been in a bakery — the desired traits and attributes matched up for a person predisposed to working in a critical environment: attention to detail, ability to follow instructions, ability to learn, and mechanical/technical aptitude.
“The perfect candidate doesn’t exist. They’ve already got a job,” one panelist said. “One of our recent data center job applicants was a chiropractor. His cover letter was fantastic: I don’t know what you do, but I’m a doctor and I’m sure I can learn it. If we look outside the box, we can train new employees on the technical details.”
So how do you hire to those attributes that may not be apparent from a job application? One panelist suggested interviewing your best employee. “Find out what his traits and attributes are, and design an interview that gets at those traits.”
Other tips from the Network for hiring better data center staff included:
-Keep a data center technician position open on your company’s Web site all the time to get a steady stream of new applicants.
-Try before you buy. Bring in temporary employees for a couple months and hire the best candidates full time.
-Work with your local community college to create a mission critical facilities curriculum. Offer to help build labs and simulators.
The North American , EMEA, APAC and Brasil Uptime Institute Network represent mostly Fortune 100 companies for whom site infrastructure availability is a serious concern. The Networks offer a community that allows companies to collectively and interactively learn from one another as well as from Institute-facilitated conferences, site tours, benchmarking, best practices, and abnormal incident collection and analysis. Click here to: View a video of Network members testimonials and to see the full list of benefits.
As reports come in from the East Coast of data center operations impacted by Hurricane Sandy, it is important to consider your own organization’s disaster preparedness in the case of a regional emergency.
“The data center manager and their team should have dusted off a natural disaster plan days ago to review and prepare for what they are experiencing today,” said Keith Klesner, consultant with Uptime Institute. “The challenges of critical facilities in this case could include flooding, electrical utility transients, availability of diesel fuel for engine generators and availability of operations and maintenance staff. Any one of these elements could lead to an outage event for a data center.
“Significant weather events such as Hurricane Sandy can place major strain on data center infrastructure and cause outages for those operators who are unprepared. Most critically, data centers who have properly tested and operated on their diesel engine generators are better prepared for this type of event. Resilient data centers will have planned for several days of autonomy both with diesel fuel, staffing and provisions to support days of continued operations without utility power or outside support.”
According to Vince Renaud, Uptime Institute’s VP and Managing Principle of Uptime Institute Professional Services, one of the biggest challenges for data center operators in disasters of this magnitude is the ability to actually get more fuel. “Especially when a state of emergency has been declared, most or all fuel is directed towards hospitals and other emergency facilities. That is why we recommend the contracting (as a backup) with out of state sources.”
Our thoughts are with the millions affected by this storm.
Happy Halloween from Uptime Institute…
The recent NY Times feature on data center efficiency may have the industry running scared, but you don’t to be just another victim! Fight back and Join the Uptime Institute Server Roundup.
The Uptime Institute Server Roundup contest was introduced around Halloween 2011 to encourage the removal and recycling of obsolete IT equipment in an effort to decrease data center energy use. Last year’s first place winner, AOL, rounded up close to 10,000 zombie servers and saved its organization over $5 million. That’s some scary savings.
Decommissioning a single 1U rack server can result in a savings of $500 per year in energy costs, an additional $500 in operating system licenses, and $1,500 in hardware maintenance costs.
Text of the video:
Sit back and let me regale you with a cautionary tale
of a data center gone rigid and stale, where the IT managers
cowered in fear of unplugging outdated servers and gear.
Obsolete applications ran on neglected racks, waiting
for long-abandoned business units to come back.
All the while, sucking up mechanical cooling from the CRACs,
and the dark lords of license fees collected their tax.
The worst part? It didn’t have to end this way… Kill zombie servers.
Sign up for Server Roundup Today.
Server Roundup Rules here, or email Matt Stansberry, Director of Content and Publications for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The days of meeting your IT-driven business objectives in a single data center are long gone. Many organizations own multiple enterprise data centers and use outsourced hosting providers and cloud services to address demand. While the market for new data center builds and retrofits remains strong, a recent Uptime Institute sampling of senior-level executives with responsibility for IT and data center facilities at large global companies found that the majority also use third-party compute services:
Type of Service
|Colocation or hosting services||85%|
Managing a global organization’s digital infrastructure portfolio is a complex task. When you include IT-driven sustainability initiatives throughout the organization, it’s almost mind-boggling … but the potential rewards of a holistic sustainable IT strategy are equally significant, both in terms of savings and corporate identity.
That’s why we’ve introduced a new category to this year’s Green Enterprise IT (GEIT) Awards competition: Green Digital Infrastructure Strategy. This Award recognizes exceptional energy and resource efficiency beyond an individual data center. Case studies may involve any or all of the following initiatives:
- Facility builds and/or retrofits
- IT upgrades (e.g., consolidation/virtualization efforts, de-duping and other ways of implementing efficiencies, etc.)
- IT-related initiatives implemented across the entire enterprise (e.g., PC power management; initiatives that facilitate collaboration without requiring travel; telecommute initiatives; supply chain efficiencies; transparent eWaste recycling programs; use of BMS or similar IT-related sustainability measures in office spaces, etc.)
- Use of outsourced service providers (e.g., colocation, hosted, or cloud-based services) that provide granular energy- and resource-use reporting and/or have transparent Green IT credentials.
The Green Digital Infrastructure Strategy category looks beyond an individual project or facility to spotlight the organization’s Green IT vision. Your GDIS case study should display your corporate portfolio of Green IT initiatives.
Does this mean you can’t profile an exceptional individual project or facility by applying in another category? Absolutely not! You are welcome to submit that individual project in one of our other categories as well. That project or facility can still be included in your Green Digital Infrastructure Strategy case study, along with your other Green IT initiatives.
The 2013 GEIT Awards competition is now open. To be considered, applications must be submitted by January 18, 2013, but don’t put off applying … end-of-year reporting and the holiday season are closer than you think! Further information is available here.
This is the second blog post in a series that features continuing discussion with various senior staff of the Uptime Institute in response to the New York Times feature on data center energy use. The following was drawn from a discussion with Julian Kudritzki, Senior Vice President of Uptime Institute.
Many data centers are inherently wasteful due to the governing (mis)economics of cheap, high-availability computing. As long as IT reaps economic benefits divorced of true costs, then discipline in server procurement, utilization, and data center management is a ways off.
These favorable economic conditions delay motivation to change, but once dissipated, will transform our industry’s characteristics.
Hydro power west of the 100th meridian in the US is fundamentally government subsidized. (See Marc Reisner Cadillac Desert.) Federal investment in Grand Coulee generated massive amounts of inexpensive and reliable power. Today’s result is that Quincy is a desirable data center location. Power commissions seek data centers as the ideal customers of high concentrations of power. Now those bulk power deals are unavailable in the Pacific NW (scroll past login for full article).
Cost are no longer sub-3 cents, but susceptible to market fluctuations. Arguably, Quincy’s data centers are the last IT beneficiaries of a federal spend made over 50 years ago. If new data centers flock to available bulk power, which is dwindling nationally, the cost repercussions will compel a new data center mindset that looks at the IT provisioning and utilization and data center capacity deployment with a much more clinical and harsh eye. And, if we look beyond western hydro, there will be cost and lifecycle consequences of the existing carbon-intensive power generation.
The commodity server model allows for cheap and short-lived deployments. But, commodity servers are viable due to leveraged global labor pools and variable environmental regulations to dispose of the troublesome contents of a decommissioned server. Similar to hybrid cars, the sticker price does not reflect the cost of throwing it away. If foreign outsourcing of server recycling (i.e., teardown) was performed onshore at the scale of disposal, what would the total cost of a throwaway server become?
The consumer’s approach would evolve to extending the life of that server rather than replacing it. The irregular and need-based operation of diesel engine generators pales in environmental comparison to server disposal toxicity. Uptime Institute Survey shows 20% of IT departments pay their own power bill. Thus, is it safe to assume that the same percentage pay their own garbage bill?
For the enterprise, data centers and their contents are often treated as a cost center. For the IT and data center teams, the mission of uninterruptible uptime has been paramount. Thus, the prevailing management mode has been to hold nose and sign check. Budget reductions will threaten headcount in operations teams, but overall data center budgets continue to grow.
The unintended result of the favorable economic conditions is an unrealistic and unsustainable end user mindset of all IT functions available all the time. Many apps whose business value is not of the highest order have luxuriated in a ‘buy new now’ servers and enterprise-grade data center platform (i.e., power, cooling, monitoring, and automation infrastructure). Forward-thinking enterprises have been analyzing and distributing applications to match data-center infrastructure-level support to business value. But, these leading companies do not indicate industry prevalent behavior.
Debating whether server utilization is 7% or 12% or even 20% is a distraction. The issue is the economic factors that allow those low numbers to be perpetuated. There is a move afoot to compress IT, such as virtual server instances. But, the fact that this is an emergent trend shows how far we must travel and so fast.
OUTCOME: A BOON FOR OUTSOURCERS
A disruption in the economic conditions that IT has been enjoying will compel a new level of discipline and consequence in IT decision making. And, outsource alternatives will rush to propose a host of solutions to this economic crisis.
Many of these options will be so complex, or have such efficiencies of scale, that more enterprises will continue to divest themselves of data center facilities or entire IT assets.
A 2012 Uptime Institute survey of global owners revealed that 85% utilize colocation or hosting. Yet 54% had no confidence in their ability to compare outsourcing alternatives dependably. This is to the detriment of both enterprises and providers, as it calls into question the basis and viability of such commitments.
Previous IT decisions were based upon a narrower set of competitive offerings. Currently, the vast majority of enterprises deploy a hybrid computing environment. The decision is no longer binary—whether or not to outsource. It’s multi-faceted—how many and how much of each alternative to deploy.
Uptime Institute has been intensively developing the FORCSS methodology to weigh deployment alternatives with a full look at the major benefits and constraints of these options. FORCSS is the theme of Uptime Institute Symposium 2013. For more information on FORCSS click here.