Do you really think you can ‘Run your data center from an IPhone’?

Article from information week:

The title implies you can run your data center from a mobile device—but rather what they are talking about is a vendor that has built a tool that enables a mobile way to restart services or servers ‘remotely’ that would be simple and convenient-giving you complete access to all your systems running in the data center.  Although just Microsoft at the moment, they apparently envision going much farther into other technologies.

When using the term ‘remotely’ I’m talking about an individual not being at the location that they normally perform their work.  We have had engineers supporting data centers from remote locations for years.  However, they are generally at a desk and have access to various monitors and systems.  So as we say remotely, I’m picturing that Sr Engineer sitting with their IPad at their child’s soccer game.

Actually running a data center has a multitude of aspects that can’t be performed remotely (staffing, vendor coordination, equipment issues, etc.).  However, this is a ‘cool’ aspect of technology that implies that you can do ‘some’ things from where ever you are—and I agree there is definitely some benefit for being able to see and execute certain things remotely.

As an aside, from my experience, I am always pushing to have staff work very hard when they are on the clock and when it’s time for personal time-I like them to focus on their families and personal life.   When there is a critical issue, yes we need to engage staff and possibly have them leave their family barbecue.  But there is a work life balance that needs to be in your planning and if it is not, your people are prone to make mistakes.

For example, when your Sr Engineer is at their child’s soccer game and there is 3:48 seconds left in the game and the team is down by 1 and his child is driving down the field to score-- and they get an urgent alert and they immediately decide to restart a server instead of just a particular service because they aren’t concentrating on the task as they normally would—thus negatively impacting the situation.  This is life and we need to build processes that enable people to be away from work.  Again, if it’s an urgent situation, then people talking through the situation while focusing on the task at hand is important to approach to the right resolution.

I see a greater value to jump on a conference call and talk thru situations when people are remote because they may be not as focused until you get them on the phone.  You’d be surprised how many outages occur because someone is hurrying to get back to the game or get to a family commitment so they just ‘do it’, ‘push the button’, ‘initiate the upgrade’, etc. when they haven’t taken the time to validate.

On the other hand, if the solution to a particular problem is to just restart a service or server then build that into your automation scheme and send an informational alert that it occurred and that the engineer should follow up at their convenience--after the soccer game or when they get back to their desk. 

Your thoughts?


01/09/2012 6:25am

I completely agree with the sentiment and statements here. Even though I am a technology junkie from generation X who is supposed to be an avid fan of all forms of enhanced productivity from universal access and speed, this particular type of technology just isn't really that helpful for an IT department. Bottom line: Troubleshooting a complex issue takes focus and time. Mobile devices are best for simple fact sharing, not robust root cause analysis (on the opposite end of the spectrum). This topic reminds me of the current fascination around integrating social media into IT... even to the extent of replacing email with social media (as ATOS has recently decided). While there are some practical ways that technology can help, for the most part, I'm concerned that the quality of IT support would be degraded with too much of a reliance on mobile (and social media).


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