Stop trying to predict the future

Throughout our glorious history, many people have tried to predict our future either through generic – often cryptic – lyrics or through firm believe based on current knowledge.

Most famous for his deeds in this category is probably Nostradamus, a French physician, author, translator, astrological consultant, but more than anything: A dreamer!
His claim to fame is basically based on 2 facts:

  1. Always using very generic predictions about upcoming events of historical importance
  2. Always being wrong!

His many followers (who surprisingly still exist in present day) typically link his predictions to important events in our history, like the defeat and death of Napoleon, the unfortunate killing of JFK or even the deadly attack on New York City on 9/11, by freely interpreting and twisting his actual texts and thereby claiming his fame.

Also modern history has displayed some bold predictions, typically based in wishful thinking and always limited to the imagination of the predictor.
Our history is full of these and worth mentioning is at least the following famous quotes:

1876: President of Western Union William Orton told Alexander Graham Bell: “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.”
1901: Commissioner of the United States Patent and Trademark Office Charles Holland Duell: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

1943: IBM CEO and Chairman Thomas J. Watson: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”

1977: Founder of Digital Equipment Corp. Ken Olsen: “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”

1981: Microsoft founder and CEO Bill Gates: “640K of computer memory ought to be enough for anybody.”

2007: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.”

Today we all know these predictions to be hilariously wrong; epic failures some would say. Many of the quoted have later claimed to have been misquoted or quoted out of context, however these predictions stand as a monument of how dangerous trying to predict the future really is.

When it comes to our much beloved data centers however, we also sometimes fall into this black hole. Some predictions – not surprisingly typically lead by manufactures of data center HW – have led us to believe that density of rack space would explode, requiring us to plan and design for ridiculous power and cooling needs around 25-30 kW per rack space. While these predictions had some sense to them when first made (linked to the introduction of blade servers), other technological evolutions have later out-performed the initial problem and pulled us in another direction, like the decoupling of performance and power consumption for modern computer chips.

Other predictions (again led by the same HW manufactures) are now suggesting, that putting everything in a container should save the day. In a few years time, I’m sure we’ll all look back at this claim as well, with a bit of an embarrassed smile.

So what should we do, realizing that no matter how hard we try, there is not a snow balls chance in hell, that we will ever be right in our predictions? Well, the odd thing about the data center environment is that we have a long and proud tradition of trying to predict – or forecast as the proper business term is these days – what our needs will be tomorrow, next week, next month, next year and so forth.

My take on this is simple: Stop trying to predict it at all – you’ll be wrong anyway. Agreed there are organizations where this is not a viable option, however they typically also have the budgets and organizations to compensate for it. For the most of us however, it actually is an option! How can historical data tell you anything about what the future will look like, if you don’t even know the type of equipment going into your sacred data halls?

What you rather should be spending your precious time on, is getting yourself ready for whatever new technology revolution is waiting just around the corner. Nobody knows what that will be, but you can do yourself a great favor today, by putting your full attention on the only 2 things that are proven to matter:

  1. Your processes
  2. You documentation

If either of these is in a poor state, all the dreams you have are worthless.

Data Center Infrastructure Management or DCIM is, underneath all the hype and big promises, merely a vehicle for driving this focus for you. With a solid DCIM suite in hand, you’re paving the way for a better future without much need for predictions at all. Instantly knowing what you can and cannot do with your current data center environment is a very powerful weapon. With DCIM you can ensure that you can support any equipment you allow into your environment, by letting the DCIM analyze all dependencies and consequences of the MAC (Move-Add-Change) action.

The future starts today! Drive safely…