Simplicity and the Data Center, a path to a Happier Data Center?

One area I use to gauge how good a data center designer is whether they talk about simplicity in the data center.  I can think of people at Google and Microsoft who regularly use simplicity as a design goal.  And, there are many others.  Why simplicity is important is articulated well in this post by Matthieu Ricard who discusses simplicity as applied to an approach to life, and for many companies data centers are their life.  If data centers suffer, then the company suffers.

In praise of simplicity

Friday 27 March 2009

« Simplify, simplify, simplify… » These refreshing words written by Henry Thoreau remind us that much of our suffering comes from adding unnecessary and disturbing complications in our lives. We seem to be continually weaving elaborate conceptual webs around even straightforward events. We distort reality and shroud it with complications by superimposing fabricated mental constructs. This distortion invariably leads to mental states and behaviors that undermine our inner peace and that of others.

How many human enterprises and noble causes have failed due to such unnecessary complications! We need to simplify our thoughts, simplify our words, and simplify our actions. We need to avoid falling into circular mental rumination, pointless chatter, and vain activities that waste our precious time and engender all kinds of dysfunctional situations.

Having a simple mind is not the same as being simple-minded. Simplicity of mind is reflected in lucidity, inner strength, buoyancy, and a healthy contentment that withstands the tribulations of life with a light heart. Simplicity reveals the nature of the mind behind the veil of restless thoughts. It reduces the exacerbated feeling of self-importance and opens our heart to genuine altruism.

Who is Matthieu Ricard?  A really smart guy who got his Ph.D. degree in cell genetics at the renowned Institut Pasteur under the Nobel Laureate Francois Jacob, but figured out he wanted to do more with his life and decided to be a buddhist monk, so he spends a lot of time thinking about ways to live a happier life.  And, maybe there are things to learn from him on how there could be better data centers.

Since 1989, Matthieu has served as the French interpreter for the Dalai Lama. He is a board member of the Mind and Life Institute, an organization dedicated to collaborative research between scientists and Buddhist scholars and meditators. He is engaged in the research on the effect of mind training and meditation on the brain at various universities in the USA (Madison, Princeton, and Berkeley), Europe (Zurich) and Hong Kong.

For an entertaining talk watch this video.  One of the funny parts is when he makes fun of fellow French and intellectuals at time mark 1:40.

He has figured out how to be the happiest person in the world.

He has been dubbed the "happiest person in the world" by scientists.[2] Matthieu Ricard was a volunteer subject in the University of Wisconsin–Madison's testing of happiness, scoring -0.45 which was off the scale compared to hundreds of other volunteers, where scores ranged between +0.3 indicating depression and -0.3 denoting great happiness.[3]

Another way to interpret the need for simplicity is the desire for cloud computing.  This post by Joe McKendrick on ZDNET references material written for Database Trends and Applications.

Paradox 5: Complexity Increases Simplicity. “There is pressure on data centers to provide more services, scalability and availability than ever before. That’s why cloud computing approaches are gaining in popularity—companies can ramp up capabilities by hiding away the complexity. “We do not see the concept of the data center disappearing, instead, we see the concept of data centers becoming more amorphous,” says Martin Schneider, director of product marketing at SugarCRM. “The emerging trend of cloud computing kind of ties all of the major trends around data centers, in that it enables companies to run far simpler data centers, if not obviating the need for them in some instances.”

Do you think of simplicity in your data center design?  Or are you one of those who believes adding another feature will solve your data center problems?

Maybe we need a happiness metric for data centers?  I bet there are plenty of data centers we could add to the list of suffering data centers.  How many are happy?