Unfolding plans 10 – Durham is the ideal place to site your data centre

I’ve been told that Durham is the ideal place to site your data centre.  It’s something to do with the ambient temperature.  You don’t need air conditioning – you just need to open the doors.  Those of you down south paying over the odds for expensive cooling take note.  We’ve been applying this principle in our own data centres which are quite high up in the hills and certainly liable to cooling breezes.  We’ve been using so-called free cooling with some success.

I would have been happy to pay for heating today when I attended the joint North East ICT Managers and Society of ICT Managers meeting at a local hotel.  We could have easily located our data centre in the allotted room.  The event was billed ironically as the SOCITM Winter Conference and it wasn’t until midday that I was able to take off my coat.

We started off with a closed meeting with just the ICT representatives from the local authorities across the region.  Not all were present but there were enough to make it meaningful.  One of the most important parts of these meetings, if not the most important part is the ability to share common experiences and learn from each other in a relatively safe environment.  Each of us gave an update on the three biggest things that are occupying our minds.  I mentioned accommodation, collaboration and the County Durham Housing Group.  On another day I may have picked others.

All of us had accommodation on their plates.  Every authority is under pressure to cut cost and maximising the use of their property portfolio is seen as a key opportunity to achieve this.  Each of us is talking about buildings and the underlying technology to make the transformation happen.  We’re happy with this but what we are uncomfortable with us picking up responsibility for the ongoing cultural change that will necessarily come with the moves.  Technology is an enabler.  It can enable people to change their approach to work.  It can allow then to do things in different ways.  It can lead horses to water but making them drink is a management and not a technology issue.

Having said that, we as ICT leaders have a pivotal role to play both in setting an example to the organisation as well as helping people to learn how to get the most out of the tools at their disposal.  I find it difficult to understand why others struggle to use the technology.  That is a problem with me.  I’m a button presser.  If the device doesn’t do what I expect it to I ask why, I search the web, I ask my colleagues and I play around with it until I find out if it does or it doesn’t .  If I see someone doing something that I hadn’t seen before I ask them to show me again.

Not everyone is like this though.  Some people need to attend some training, some people need to be shown on an individual basis and others need to read the manual.  Training is not my skill set yet if we want to use technology to transform the operational style and culture of our work places then it is something that I am going to have to come to terms with.

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