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Requiem for a Data Center

Cisco IT has, as you may have heard, been shutting down some of its Data Centers. We’ve closed dozens of older facilities – some large, many small – in the past 10 years, consolidating into purpose-built rooms that better enable our business.

The latest to close was the company’s longest-running Development Data Center, located at Cisco headquarters in San Jose. It’s one of two server environments that I worked in daily when I joined Cisco in the late 1990s. Even after designing, working in, and touring many other facilities since, when someone talks about what a Data Center is that room still appears in my mind’s eye.

I took a final walk around the mostly-empty space recently. I hadn’t been in there in years and it was a bit like visiting my old high school. Things looked slightly smaller than I remembered, and several items triggered unexpected memories.

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Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

As I’ve mentioned in more than one post, I enjoy touring Data Centers.  One detail I pay attention to during these visits is signage.

Are patch panels and structured cabling labeled, so it’s easy to trace connections between devices? Is electrical circuit information provided at each cabinet location, so power feeds can be quickly identified? Do alarms (fire and otherwise) have instructions nearby, telling visitors what their various audio tones and light patterns mean? 

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Bumbling and Stumbling in the Data Center

What’s the klutziest thing you’ve ever done in a Data Center?

Over the years I’ve seen people drop tools, tangle patch cords and step into notched floor tiles.  Once when I was giving a Data Center tour a fellow was so intent to see how outside air was drawn into the HVAC system that he whacked his head on a viewing window.

I’ve encountered outages caused by clumsiness, too.  In one case a co-worker was lifting a floor tile and tilted the panel too steeply, causing it to separate from the suction-cup tile puller he was using and crash into the plenum below, slicing a fiber cable. Read More »

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Making Noise About a Quiet Data Center

I like touring Data Centers. Whether it’s a makeshift space with out-of-control cabling or a state of the art, innovative facility, I’m always curious to see how companies accommodate their computing equipment and tackle the inevitable challenges of space, power and cooling.

Ten years ago I visited a then-new Data Center in the western United States that had several interesting features.  Two elements – and the moments I discovered them – still stick with me.
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Taking the CUE to Reduce Carbon Emissions

More and more businesses these days are taking steps to reduce their carbon emissions.  (Cisco is one of them, as the company met a 25% greenhouse gas reduction goal last year and subsequently upped it to 40%.)

There are several compelling reasons for doing so – some philosophical and others pragmatic.  Here are a few:

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