Interesting Data Centers

I’ve spent a couple decades in technology working with lots of companies. As an employee, a consultant, or a sales engineer, I’ve had the chance to visit quite a few data centers over the years, some of which were quite interesting. A few impressive, and perhaps a few more that were quite scary.

When I started working in technology, the “server” was often just one box that lived on a desk in the office. In a few of my early small business clients, our server was often used by the secretary for Wordperfect typing while also serving applications and acting as a file server. In a few larger clients, including at a state government agency, multiple servers were piled on shelves in a closet.

Over time, lots of small businesses, and a few larger ones, learned that hot closets don’t work for multiple servers, nor does a lack of clean, UPS power serve them well.  I’ve worked with quite a few companies to upgrade their facilities to include better power and cooling, often racing to keep up with the proliferation of server systems.

As time progressed I found many companies that didn’t want to invest in a data center, including us here at SQLServerCentral. In the early 2000s, companies began to trust co-location facilities, those professional data centers built and run as a business. I toured many and saw some well built environments, and some not so well built. One small company SQLServerCentral visited had two corners of an office building downtown, on separate floors, with cool hoses (about 2ft in diameter) run outside, up the side of the building.

As we look to move to the cloud, which is the next evolution of the co-location facility, I expect that more and more of us may never visit a data center in our lives. Some small startup companies don’t even own servers, outsourcing their email, VCS, build systems, and more to some vendor.

That’s not for everyone, but it is becoming more commonplace. Vendors are even trying new ideas to lower their costs, while still maintaining the level of service we expect. There are data centers being built in mines, which provide cheaper cooling than traditional buildings. There are container based systems, and while electricity and water don’t usually mix, Microsoft is looking to try putting data centers in the ocean. Of course, not all ideas are good ones, as the ill-fated Sealand showed.

The future of data centers and where and how we run server hardware will certainly be interesting. I wonder how many future DBAs may never physically touch the actual hardware that contains all their bits and bytes.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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