Data Centers in the Time of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We’ve reached an interesting juncture in our history, where freely mingling comes with awareness of a higher risk of catching a nasty bug that could not only make us sick but endanger our lives and those around us.  As we restrict our movement and renew higher hygienic standards, how are we able to go about our days?  We’ve seen the sudden shift toward sequestering at home and for those that work in the digital world the transition as been mostly possible due to the networks and data centers that assist with supporting anything we’re aiming to share electronically.  When it comes down to it the internet is the utility and data centers are the supporting elements that allow the digital age to exist. 

Stores, hospitals, and other facilities are asked to ‘step up’ to support the communities and regions – and data centers are doing their part.  The robust digital infrastructure that was built for the high capacity and processing of the future is now – the amount of remote working has meant virtual meetings, calls, and classes have taken the place of physical gatherings.  Most data centers can support the applications for the sudden burst in remote working, with the loads now fluctuating at different times instead being predictable throughout a workday. 

What comes to mind for most are the surface things, but there is so much beyond that the data centers are supporting: remote work; hospital records; automated support systems; clinic appointments; Skype & WhatsApp; and delivery logistics, from supermarkets to hospitals.  Beyond communication the data center compute and storage capabilities are being utilized to support the life-science and bioscience fields, which are striving to expedite a reliable vaccine.  Those servers are ensuring that cures can be produced and shared globally while not endangering those to receive treatment; the medical community knows nothing could be worse than providing a solution that fails or makes things worse. 

While the networking infrastructure across the world is being tested on bandwidth, the data centers behind the systems are also going through their own paces as they gain experience and existing systems flex to support a shift from a growing need.  But in a way, this was all anticipated.  As AI, self-driving cars, and other automation is ramping up, instead we are seeing that need for network speed support consumed by video and other higher capacity applications.  The amount of processing and document generation that us humans can produce still hasn’t matched what experts have predicted for the network needs for those software-to-software communications. 

We do prize collaboration, with team members mingling and introducing ideas for projects on a routine basis.  Before that has meant gathering teams together to convey those ideas and possible exceptions and limits.  The brainstorming wasn’t about leaders providing single-minded direction but enabling all of the team members, including consultants and clients, to ask questions and foment concepts for more appealing project needs, from saving time and money to visual and workplace features.  Now we’re moving that all online. 

In the building design industry this means that sketches and drawings are shared with teams across those same networks in near-real time.  Construction firms that are involved early, whether virtual or not, can still ask the same deep questions on design, add their constructability ideas based on experience, and submit intricate cost proposals with alternatives just like before. 

The important thing to keep is the communication – make those arrangements for meetings in advance and hold to them.  Learn beyond the basics of how to share from a remote location.  And go beyond just doing the minimum to prep, present, and send notes later – add value to those virtual conversations with visuals whenever you can.  If you have an idea from something you saw or experienced, grab it and share across that virtual network – this encourages others to do the same and to communicate and share more.  A quick picture of your work-from-home as a teaser can go a long way, as well as your other coworkers, i.e. pets and family that supports you behind the scenes. 

Go ahead and test those networks and data centers – they will support what we are pushing them to do today and likely well into the future. 

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