Which Language Do You Speak, Facilities Talk or IT Dialect?

In all the conferences related to data centers that I’ve attended so far, there is a session or two that discusses the integration of facilities and IT to manage a data center more effectively. So far, there does not seem to be an effective solution that might apply uniformly to the average data center. There may be a few reasons cited, such as no common management structure and the difference in culture and languages spoken.

On the former, Dean Nelson, VP of eBay, delivered a keynote speech at the recent Uptime Institute symposium in Santa Clara, California.

I will blog on his speech sometime in the future, but his presentation was very convincing because he started with the reason why more energy and energy density are required, with concrete examples and real numbers. In many discussions of ever-increasing energy and energy density requirements, no concrete examples are not provided. Skipping the details of Dean’s talk, his answer for integrating facilities and IT was to put both departments under the same management. At eBay, they do just that. It is Dean who oversees both departments. This is not the first time Dean has done that. Back in the days of Sun, he played a similar role, keeping both departments under his control. This definitely helps. But as far as I know, not many organizations have done that (yet?).

For the second part, a common language plays a big role in culture. Coming from a two-byte language culture zone (Japan), it seems that European languages are very similar to one another. I am sure many people disagree with me. But the Japanese language does not even resemble Korean or Chinese. The grammar and characters are so different from any other language. If you give me several hours, I can tell you my sad stories about learning English. But let’s forget about the difference talk. My point is even if you use English, your terminology matters. It is often said that even if you speak different natural languages, you can communicate well if you work in the same field and use the same jargon. Well, after doing some consulting work that bridges the US and Japan, I think this may or may not be true. But that is a different story I can talk about later.

In career counseling, experts suggest that if you want to change your area of focus, the first thing you should do is to pick up the jargon of the industry you plan to move to. Several years ago, I entered the green data center area and did just that. I read whatever was available, such as Rich Miller’s datacenterknowledge.com, Dave O’Hara’s , Green (Low Carbon) Data Center Blog and many APC white papers. It was fun to learn new things and use new jargon as if I knew something then.

During the Uptime Institute symposium, I sat down with a data center expert and chatted about this over a cup of coffee. He said that his background was in IT but he has picked up expertise in mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP). He now speaks both MEP and IT languages fluently And this helps a lot to resolve any misunderstanding and conflict between facilities and IT when it comes to a data center operation.

Well, I speak standard Japanese, Osaka dialect, English, IT, and some facilities. I am getting pretty good at the facilities talk, but I need more practice. Probably the first thing to do is to make both facilities and IT people bilingual in both languages.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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One Response to Which Language Do You Speak, Facilities Talk or IT Dialect?

  1. Richp June 8, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    Interesting, my company has just finished a new 90K sqft facilty with all state of the art automated systems. HVAC, humidifiers, programmed and automated lights, security alarms, key card systems, etc. All those systems by some coincidence ended up terminated in my systems and network admin office. This is up to and including the manual hand written OJT learned procedure for restarting the valance roof top units when the web based interfaces cannot do a full restart. It also included the key to the outside ladder security gate and sunglasses so you can walk around that 2+ acres of white roof. I agree, it is converging and the IT people are getting even more responsabilities. Luckily we have not gotten the plumbing part yet though I am curious who is supposed to change the batteries in the flushing units and water faucets in our rest rooms and lunch room and I am not going to ask or even bring it up…

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