Cisco Blogs

A Plumber’s Guide – Great Architecture needs Great Infrastructure – Part 1

February 17, 2009 - 6 Comments

Recently an alliance partner of Cisco’s lashed out at an honorable profession, that of the plumber. He was upset because the architect and project manager mis-managed the scope of work and he had to have the plumber install a special faucet in a custom home. Following this there was some diatribe about not wanting your plumber to design your home because you’d get charged high prices and you should instead buy into an architecture that encourages everything to be delivered by one conglomerate.Interesting argument – I’ve heard it before. I’ve made it myself sometimes.I try to not normally call companies out by name in my blog posts – I did it once and had several valued investors counsel me that this did not reflect well on Cisco, nor on myself. So I am not going to lash out, and am not going to engage in a debate. Instead- I’d like to make this a multi-part blog and today talk about Amsterdam.Yes- Amsterdam.To quote the British- “God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland.”We often think of plumbers as people who toil away steering water in and out of our homes, ensuring faucets don’t leak, and toilets don’t have ‘feedback’. We sometimes forget that plumbers actually engage in about anything to do with pulling of piping – whether carrying natural gas, or liquids, or even the conduit I ran to put some Ethernet cables in. A leak- especially of something like natural gas, can have a rather high impact result, so we entrust these plumbers with the integrity of our homes, and in many cases our very lives. However, here in America we do sometimes take this honorable profession for granted. In Amsterdam however, the entire city exists because of good plumbing. In the Netherlands 50% of the land exists below sea level. 60% of the population lives below sea level, and 70% of the GDP is produced below sea level. The Dutch design not for the 100 year flood like most US cities, the Dutch design coastal areas for the 10,000 year flood level – because they have to in order to live. The hydro-aware Dutch have executed on massive hydro-engineering projects in the estuaries of rivers like the Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt called the ‘Delta Works‘ and another project called the Zuiderzee (fun to say, hard to spell) works. The American Society of Civil Engineers has declared the Delta Works to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World! The entire city of Amsterdam – which got its name from the Dam on the River Amstel – or Amstel Dam has a canal system, that is the result of conscious city planning. Three for residential development, one for defense and all terminating in the IJ Bay.This conscious architecture – based on a knowledge and experience with hydrodynamics – allowed structures built in the 1600s to exist below sea-level for hundreds of years and still be valued infrastructure today.Is it all plumbing? No. But is ‘plumbing’ in balance with the rest of the infrastructure, that works as a system, to preserve the Dutch way of life and allow them to reclaim 50% of the land-mass of their country from the sea? Yes!Similarly I am not claiming network pre-eminence, nor plumbing pre-eminence. Unified Computing doesn’t do that either. We are saying that systems need to be built in balance, and when you take an architectural approach, you can reduce costs, extend life-cycles, and simplify operations. Not to mention – you won’t miss the occasional faucet because the simpler the system is, the easier it is to install and manage.dg

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. What great knowledge on Amsterdam! I can’t believe i didn’t know this…so when global warming reaches climax, sea levels rise…. Holland is in much trouble!

  2. It all started with plumbing. The idea of resource transport is no doubt a core requirement for civilization and commerce and a key driver for currency.Well stated Doug.Greg

  3. I’m impressed about your Amsterdam knowledge. And the fact that Unified Computing has a link to Amsterdam plumbing brings a smile to my face on this Sunday morning.Greetings from Amsterdam. TJps. written from 4 feet below sea-level.

  4. Being Italian I can probably write about the aqueduct the Roman built, but …The point is that till now we have approached the Data Center as three distinct entities: Servers, Network and Storage. Not only this separation is becoming more blurry every day, but it is only with a better integration of these three realitues that we can provide some significant saving and improve management. I think this is the goal of Unified Computing.

  5. Thanks Tim- as a preview of tomorrows post, assuming I get off my tail this evening to write it I think I am going to talk about the value of the aqueduct to mankinds evolution from Hunter-Gatherer to Agrarian Society. Should be useful…

  6. Thanks Doug. I appreciate your restraint in this post. It is great to see you and other Cisco leaders taking an approach that focuses on the success of the customer rather than the supremacy of one vendor over another. Our success in Unified Computing is going to depend on our alliances and partnerships more than ever before. If we can all follow your lead, this approach will serve our customers better and the rising tide will float all boats. Stay focused on the customer.