Learning from Google and Microsoft, First Ask the Question “Are you at war?”

Google and Microsoft are at war in many ways, and part of it is in data centers. We all pay attention to what they are doing, competing in PUE and energy efficiency. But, you need to understand their views as they are at war with each other.  There are those of you love or hate each of these companies, but it doesn’t mean you are at war with them. So, ask yourself are you at war with Google and Microsoft? If not, maybe what they are doing is not appropriate for you.

WSJ has an opinion article about Google and Micorsoft.

Techdom’s Two Cold Wars


Columnist's name

Why didn’t the U.S. and the USSR just ignore each other and save themselves the cost of an arms race? Answer: Each had the potential to do such serious damage to the other, they dared not risk it.

Microsoft and Google also have the power to damage each other, and are better off if they don’t. They too spend a lot of money on deterrence—a puzzle since both are inevitably owned by many of the same shareholders, including large mutual and pension funds. Even more than the Cold War superpowers, they have every incentive quietly to agree to be deterred without investing quite so much on an arms race.

These are thoughts designed to trouble the naïve delight of many who heard Google’s announcement last week that it intends to roll out an operating system to compete with Windows. Partisan Google fans imagine Google finally is preparing to go toe-to-toe with its nemesis. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Google might do so if Microsoft were unilaterally to disarm in some way. That’s not going to happen. Microsoft merely is being reminded that its fat Windows margins are vulnerable to attack.

Microsoft sent the parallel message to Google when it spent millions to launch Bing, a new search engine that’s receiving good reviews even from Microsoft haters. Bing, Microsoft hopes, will finally prove a weapon that can seriously threaten Google’s margins, though only to keep Google from raiding Microsoft’s.

Sticking with the war metaphor, another perspective on ways to manage data centers is comparing Churchill vs. Hitler two people who were at war. Here is a BBC article on their Secrets of Leadership. First the similarities in approach which both Google and Microsoft have.

Fundamental similarities and differences

What both Hitler and Churchill did have in common, however, was a terrific tenacity of purpose. This was forged in their 'wilderness' years - Hitler's in the 1920s, Churchill's in the 1930s - when they were out of office and generally derided by the political classes.

By not altering their message to suit their audience, but by carrying on insisting that they were right, they both garnered huge support when events finally seemed to confirm their view of the political situation. Thus, once economic circumstances changed in Germany in the depression years of the 1930s, and after the British view of appeasement changed when the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939, both men were in a position to capitalise on that most satisfying phrase in politics: 'I told you so.'

But, they had different management styles.

Of the two men, Hitler was actually kinder to his immediate staff than Churchill was to his. In terms of man-management, Hitler was - astonishingly enough - the more considerate boss. Churchill's secretaries often became exasperated by his rudeness and lack of indulgence, whereas the Führer was adored by those who worked closest with him. He remembered their names and birthdays, visited them when they were ill, and they repaid him with lifetime devotion, even after his crimes became generally known. Churchill was loved by his staff because he was 'saving civilisation', not because of his off-hand way of treating them (in 1940 things got so bad, his wife had to remonstrate with him about his manner).

Although Hitler might have been a better people-manager in some ways, his tendency to attempt to micro-manage the Third Reich once the war broke out led directly to his downfall. Whereas in the years leading up to the outbreak of war Hitler took a back seat in terms of administration, after 1939 he insisted on taking decisions that ought to have been left to far more junior officers. At one point during the war in the east he wound up ordering small-scale maps and directing Wehrmacht troop movements all the way down to battalion level.

Churchill did the absolute opposite, although as First Lord of the Admiralty he did get too involved in detail - he enquired into the number of duffel-coats issued to individual ships by their commanders, and gave orders that backgammon rather than cards should be played on Royal Navy vessels. But once the war was underway he managed to concentrate on the bigger picture, concerning himself with the broad strategic sweep of the war rather than the minutiae.

In this, Churchill was greatly helped by the fact that he was not a totalitarian dictator. The British chiefs of staff could stand up to Churchill - and under their chairman Field-Marshal Lord Alanbrooke they frequently did - in a way that would have been inconceivable with the Führer. As a result of Churchill's never once overruling the service chiefs, the grand strategy of the war was run in a rational and logical way that was simply impossible in Nazi Germany.

Now you can argue which is better Churchill or Hitler, but consider they were at war.

Are you at war in your data center efforts? 

If not, maybe you need to learn from someone who isn’t fighting a battle, planning a strategy for sustainable data center operations, someone who thinks about green data centers.