Top Data Center Mistake, Not Asking Why, Then Track the Accuracy of the Answer

It is popular to share the Top Best Practices in Data Centers.  Google, Microsoft, eBay, and Sun have done this as many others have.  But, what is interesting is how little time is spent on capturing the top data center mistakes.  There are lots of experts discussing details that feed into a better PUE, and their experiences.  New technology is promoted as being greener and energy efficient than other systems.

The latest term I’ve heard quite a bit is “holistic” approach in presentations at events like Data Center Dynamics. OK, I want a holistic solution where people are looking in the big picture.  This fits with someone saying we are going to lower your TCO.  Sounds good, I don’t want to buy from someone who is going to increase my TCO and create silo’d thinking.

If you don’t build data centers often you are at the mercy of the design and build data center construction trade. Mike Manos touched on the issues.

First a simple observation – the Data Center Industry as it stands today is in actuality an industry of cottage industries.   Its an industry dominated by boutique firms in specialized niches all in support of the building out of these large technically complex facilities.  For the initiated its a world full of religious arguments like battery versus rotary, air-side economization versus water-side economization, raised floor versus no raised floor.  To the uninitiated its an industry categorized by mysterious wizards of calculus and fluid dynamics and magical electrical energies.  Its an illusion the wizards of the collective cottage industries are well paid and incented to keep up.   They ply their trade in ensuring that each facility’s creation is a one-off event, and likewise, so is the next one.  Its a world of competing General Contractors, architecture firms, competing electrical and mechanical firms, of specialists in all sizes, shapes and colors.   Ultimately – in my mind there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.  Everyone has the right to earn a buck no matter how inefficient the process.

WSJ has an article on the mistakes of investing that can shed some light on how people think about their decisions and mistakes.

The Mistakes We Make—and Why We Make Them

How investors think often gets in the way of their results. Meir Statman looks into our heads and tells us what we're doing wrong.


What was I thinking?

If there's one question that investors have asked themselves over the past year and a half, it's that one. If only I had acted differently, they say. If only, if only, if only.

Yet here's the problem: While we know that we made investment mistakes, and vow not to repeat them, most people have only the vaguest sense of what those mistakes were, or, more important, why they made them. Why did we think and feel and behave as we did? Why did we act in a way that today, in hindsight, seems so obviously stupid? Only by understanding the answer to these questions can we begin to improve our financial future.

The author throws out a simple idea of behavior.

This is where behavioral finance comes in. Most investors are intelligent people, neither irrational nor insane. But behavioral finance tells us we are also normal, with brains that are often full and emotions that are often overflowing. And that means we are normal smart at times, and normal stupid at others.

The trick, therefore, is to learn to increase our ratio of smart behavior to stupid. And since we cannot (thank goodness) turn ourselves into computer-like people, we need to find tools to help us act smart even when our thinking and feelings tempt us to be stupid.

The problem with the data center mistakes is it is an emotional event that you want to hide and go away.  But, if you had tools/software to help you act smarter as your thinking and feelings tempt you to do stupid things. Bad decisions are swept under the rug, fixed behind the scenes, costs transferred, excuses made, and as long as you are on schedule and budget, then most don’t care.

The tool can be simple, an excel spreadsheet tracking the decisions and SLAs of various technology used in a data center.  What people made the decisions, what problem was it addressing, what are the expected results, costs, and ROI. You can treat these as stocks in a portfolio of investments in your data center.

Your perspective changes when you think of a portfolio of data center technology investments that have expected returns.  Some will work, some will not.  If you don’t list them. How will your learn from your mistakes?

Throw your data center construction team a “whack on the side of head.”  Ask them, how are we going to track the mistakes we make in the data center construction?

I am waiting for the when someone adds this to their top data center practices. “We track our mistakes.”