Author: Mike Watts, Service Operations Manager
Date: 12th May 2020
This is about my ten-year journey so far of being deeper underground at The Bunker. While sitting here working from home on what has got to be one of the warmest and sunniest days of the year so far, unlike the famous Jamiroquai song there is no panic in this town. It is amazing to see how over the last ten years, data centres have developed to be almost completely automated and fully functional with just the key operators on-site.
When I think back to when I first started at The Bunker, people were tasked to carry out manual checks and intervention tasks which were carried out on a daily or weekly rotation. Watching people running around with clipboards full of check lists, performing repetitive tasks, ensuring the stability and effectiveness of the platforms, due to monitoring systems for bespoke hardware infrastructure was not really there or the cost prohibitive outweighed the benefit of a person with a clipboard. Where the 24/7 shift personnel were trained to be multi-discipline to operate facilities, IT and network systems manually.
Today I sit connected to our monitoring platforms, looking at power readings, breaker statuses, network utilisation, generator fuel, water, oil levels and so much more, while communicating with individuals and teams over IP telephony and Video Conferencing, it actually makes you wonder if the world will require people to go back into the office again or if this is proving a more efficient way of working, as it seems for me at present. If you had asked me a month ago I would have been sceptical and without a doubt I would have said it wasn’t possible commenting “yeah but I need to pop over to so and so to discuss xyz”, which I still do and can do with a click of a button in Microsoft Teams. We still have the same face to face discussions but are 30 miles apart. So, this begs the questions do we need offices, can we reduce mass transit systems, reduce environmental impact of travelling and running large office complexes?
With the technology journey The Bunker has taken over the last 10 years, not just in the IT and Network side of the business but the Facilities and Infrastructure with our Power and Cooling systems, it is awesome to see the development of the systems and automation deployed, with the layers of resilience that has been piled on, operated with the mature policy and process means that when an event like this happens the underpinning facilities are almost completely autonomous. As much as I hate to use the phrase self-healing, they are not far from that utopian vision, they are as close to self-sustaining as possible which at present is showing our ability to just allow these automated controls to run the system which have been in place and standardised over many years, which no changes of note to allow us to reduce staff access to the site with the technology still fully maintaining services at normal operating levels, no loss of resilience or performance, we are able to deliver services without extended risks of staff cross contamination. Unfortunately for some teams the Security and DC Operatives are still required to attend site and ensure Physical Security and Colocation Services are delivered, as we haven’t managed to develop Automatons yet, may be this should be on the road map for the next 10 years, but sitting here from home in a place of comfort is a fantastic place to be, making me proud to be part of the team, knowing that the systems are secure, operational and fully monitored through out this strange and difficult time.
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