Common language. Common norm. Common understanding.
Do we need data center standards?
Data centers are being built at a rapid pace beyond our comprehension. They are also transforming at a staggering speed. Sometimes having rules, guidelines and methodologies that are measurable and applicable are liberating. They are liberating in the sense that they provide a clear-cut approach and the necessary tools for organizations and professionals to measure their efficacies. Absence of these standards will create anarchy and an anomaly that will be hard to manage. If there were no rule of law and consensus on preset agreed-upon guidelines, there would be chaos at each traffic light; disorder, commotion and uncertainty would dominate the atmosphere. The same applies to the information technology, big data, IoT, cloud, and data centers. Without a cohesive and universally acceptable set of standards, disasters will erupt beyond our ability to deal with them. The more we virtualize and the more we transform to digitization, the heavier our reliance on our data centers will inevitably be. Therefore, the lack of common understanding and common sense approach towards data centers will be an expensive proposition. Most of such expense will be paid for by the “end-users” of the data centers. End-users are truly the ones who suffer the most because they have no way of comparing apples and oranges, or quantifying the actual service and performance they would be recipients of. When every provider uses a different benchmark for design, implementation and operation, end-users won’t know how to rate or compare the offering of one provider vs. another, when it comes to the selection of site, facility, IT infrastructure, compute or any layers of the application ecosystem (AE). Standards would fill that gap by providing a common language, a common norm and a common understanding at the horizontal and vertical junction and interchange of all the AE layers.
When technicians move from one company to the next, the smallest things that require adaptation to new standards, which dictate company’s data center culture, can be detrimental to the organization and their job security. Seemingly ordinary issues such as labeling or color scheme for cables confuses them, and at times of emergency or panic results in them pulling the wrong cable, because their mind subconsciously thinks red is crossover, for example. Wouldn’t it be sane if everyone used a common matrix so that they could spend less money to change the culture of their new recruits? Also, when speaking to your potential clients, vendors, providers, peers, affiliates, etc., having a common language simply makes sense. This industry is wasting so many resources because IT doesn’t understand facilities, facility doesn’t correspond to IT, commercial data centers don’t relate to their own audience, government doesn’t know where to begin and how/what to benchmark itself against to save all this waste of resources. Standards establish that common understanding, a preset set of acceptable rules and methods by which everyone is presumed to comply with. If we want to know how important standards are, we must think about how much we are loosing by not possessing them. Those losses are mind-boggling today, and the curve is inclining towards the future.
Do we have applicable standards?
It is imperative for any industry to, ultimately, follow a common set of standards. However, not having standards is far better than having numerous contradictory, out-of-date, out-of-touch and impractical standards. Such standards will lead us into an illusion, thinking that we actually do have standards that we can utilize; yet following them will be even more tragic. Sadly enough, this is the story of the data center industry today. We have tens of so-called standards and best practices that talk about data centers without really understanding their essence, or vivid biases towards cabling, power, cooling, civil, security, etc. instead of having a truly holistic and multidimensional data center approach. Therefore, the existing standards, end up doing more damage than good. They confuse consultants, they delay stakeholders, and they damage the industry’s health and prosperity by a landslide.
What are the characteristics of an effective standard?
An effective standard is the one that reviews the past, but addresses today and possesses the capacity to digest the future. Standards should reflect the future as much as they talk about the past. We don’t need the standards to remind us of traditions. Traditions are only useful when they are applicable and logically make sense to still be implemented. Typically, we evaluate our past but stay there and do not move beyond it. Such historic reviews and analysis are useful only when they would be a reflection into our lives today by the lessons learnt. At the same time, any standard that locks itself into the present looses the capacity to accept and welcome the future that is right around the corner.
An effective standard doesn’t stress solely on one path for doing things, rather paves the way for further development and progress. A true solution is not the one that gives you a finite result, rather a dynamic methodology that enables you to achieve infinite results. Educating people to produce optimum solutions of their own is far more enriching and valuable than rendering one solution whose optimism could already be at the verge of expiry.
An effective standard makes complex problems simple to digest and solve, not make simple problems difficult to understand and resolve. Standards should make life simple, not more difficult. Generally speaking, standards tend to make the simplest forms of an industry’s challenge sound so convoluted that nobody, with exception of an elite few, would want to give the resolution of it an attempt. Complexity is nothing but aggregation of simplicities bundled in a greater relation to each other than their individual forms. A practical standard must decompose those complex bundles into simple forms and reverse-engineer complex methods into simplified logic, which can be comprehended by those who need to use it.
An effective standard should promote and encourage innovation not limit it. Typically, people who want to get ahead, travel far and reach untapped territories of progress and success, often times, are tied and pulled back due to rusted and obsolete methods that serve very little good today. It is key to understand that the only way forward for us is continuous QI and innovation. Having only a mindset for innovation is not sufficient by itself. Possessing standards that provide a framework to foster and enable innovation is necessary.
An effective standard should not limit you, rather liberate you from the wrong doings of the past and provide proven techniques to optimize your choices. Therefore, a standard should not lock you into a design, or put a glass ceiling on your head and box your capacity to grow, innovate and develop things further than the visions and capacities of the developers of the standard itself. In essence, the standard should provide best practice examples, but more importantly provide optimized methodologies to boost creativity and enhancement of the existing methods.
An effective standard must not be biased towards a specific efficacy such as availability or security. Rather it must be the remedy for optimizing all applicable efficacies and provide fertile ground for availability, capacity, resilience, safety, security, efficiency and innovation. When witnessing how a given organization is focally focused around a given efficacy, such as solely being security-tight, or availability-conscious, the standard that the organization follows is easily revealed. Usually those bias tendencies tend to ignore other efficacies that are as important to the faith of the organization and long-term interests of the industry.
An effective standard must also be unbiased towards any specific technology, design, discipline, specialty or region. Standards can be universally acceptable and thus serve as a common language and a bridge between different disciplines, regions, etc., when they are not bias. To build a standard that only a few can relate to is defeating the purpose. Therefore, standards must be comprehensive enough to cover the entire application ecosystem stack, internationally applicable, and adaptable enough to be localizable to different industries as well as geographic regions.
Who should write data center standards?
Well, if the common standardization organizations knew any better, they would have developed standards that address this industry’s needs years ago. When they don’t move, stakeholders have but few options: either to put them aside and just follow their internal processes and self-proclaimed proprietary methodologies; pick and choose from the numerous existing documents to their liking and copy/paste from here and there; stick to one rusted, bias and narrow-sighted standard; or those who know better that none of the above choices are really an option for this industry and care to do something concrete about it, come together and build a standard that makes sense for everybody.
It doesn’t matter who writes standards. What matters is, does that organization, individual or group of individuals attempting it, offer solutions to our problems. Is there an unwritten law somewhere that says standards must be written by those organizations that have failed to addressed our needs till date? If such entities are too slow or lack the resources, vision etc. to keep up with our industry, should we sit idle and let the industry suffer? What if we knew better and have better means than our predecessors? What if they are too tied up in their ways or possibly influenced by some vendors who hate change? Or, are they simply too bureaucratic and arrogant to be useful to the world’s most dynamic and fast moving industry?
So… we have started this movement that, frankly, should have been commenced a while ago. We will not rest till this industry finds its roots, understands its true purpose, defines clear roles and objectives for professionals living and working within it, provides clear assurances to the service recipients, becomes established and well-grounded on sustainable modern era principles. Again, it doesn’t matter who writes data center standards and with what ambition or even who writes them first. What is of substance here, is that the content of the upcoming standard must be the solution to our problems today and forward-looking enough to last us a while…