Data Center shortage is not Power, Cooling, or Network, but executives - Apple hires Microsoft's Data Center GM

Much of what you hear about data centers is from the vendors who have marketing budgets to sell solutions for power, cooling, and networking issues in data centers.  But, you know what is one of the scarcest resources around? Data center executives.  If vendors had a way to package up executives, we'd hear more.  Wait maybe that is a way to think about the new wave of Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) tools.  Data center executive in a box.  Interesting idea, but that is a later post.  Back to data center executives.

Whenever I sit down with a data center insider to catch up, we almost always discuss executive movement to other companies.  In some ways it is a short hand way to discuss what is going on in the industry as it can mean many different things why an executive moves from one company to another.

News that a bunch of us have been discussing is Apple hiring Kevin Timmons (GM of Microsoft's data center services group).  Don't expect any press releases from Apple or Microsoft on this one.  Here is probably one of the last articles we'll see featuring an interview with Kevin Timmons talking about green data centers and knowledge sharing posted by DataCenterDynamics. 

Datacenter Leaders Q&A Kevin Timmons, Microsoft

Kevin Timmons, General Manager, Data Center Operations, Microsoft believes in sustainability, knowledge sharing, security and modularity

Published 13th April, 2011 by Ambrose McNevin


DCD Q: What can the data center industry do to increase its influence over government policy?

KT, A: At Microsoft, we think there is an opportunity for everyone in the industry to help share our collective knowledge to help the entire industry evolve and influence policies that benefit all our customers and increase greater efficiencies. We are committed to driving software and technology innovations that help people and organizations improve the environment.

The position Kevin is going to fill is not known and is not the position vacated by the departed Olivier Sanche.  Olivier's position has been filled by another data center operations executive. 

It is such a small world in data centers and especially smaller for the executive rank, information flows as recruiters call and others want opinions on various candidates and companies to work for.  Besides the executives, senior data center design engineers are heavily recruited like Facebook recently hired a senior mechanical engineer from Equinix and Google's Daniel Costello who also came from Microsoft.  Mike Manos is proud of his renegade action to recruit Daniel from Intel to Microsoft while he had the job that Kevin Timmons had filled and now departed.

I called him [Daniel Costello] and told him I needed him for my program.  No HR.  No Recruiters.  I wanted the best talent possible and he was it.   I offered him the job on the spot over the phone.   We were building something incredible.

One of the interesting problems is at many companies working in the data center group is not respected and as well paid as other technical positions.  In fact, some technology companies probably don't even think of their data center staff as technical.  Which then leaves the opening for the neglected to find greener pastures.  At Google the data center group is respected.  At Facebook, the data center group is respected.  At Apple, most learn about data centers from the media as there is little news on Apple's data centers discussed.

In one of the data center insider conversations a friend jokingly mentioned The Manchurian Candidate where sleeper agents are placed in strategic positions, and later are activated for covert activities.  With so many executives moving from competing companies will there be psychological analysis looking for latent devious action?  Nah. But, it was good for a laugh.  Which by the way is part of chatting about who is moving where.  We eventually start laughing about some move somewhere which could make this appear like gossip.  But, we know the data center executive shortage is real, and where the scarce resources go influences the system. 

Data Center Gossip can be useful.

Have You Heard? Gossip Turns Out to Serve a Purpose


Published: August 16, 2005


People find it irresistible for good reason: Gossip not only helps clarify and enforce the rules that keep people working well together, studies suggest, but it circulates crucial information about the behavior of others that cannot be published in an office manual. As often as it sullies reputations, psychologists say, gossip offers a foothold for newcomers in a group and a safety net for group members who feel in danger of falling out.

"There has been a tendency to denigrate gossip as sloppy and unreliable" and unworthy of serious study, said David Sloan Wilson, a professor of biology and anthropology at the State University of New York at Binghamton and the author of "Darwin's Cathedral," a book on evolution and group behavior. "But gossip appears to be a very sophisticated, multifunctional interaction which is important in policing behaviors in a group and defining group membership."