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Ken Brill, the Man Who Defined the Data Center, Dies 40

Posted by samzenpus
from the rest-in-peace dept.
dcblogs writes "The founder of the UpTime Institute, Kenneth G. Brill, 69, died Tuesday, the institute's parent company announced. Brill, an electrical engineer by training, is credited with playing an enormous role in shaping the modern data center industry. 'He singled-handedly crafted an industry out of nothing,' said Mike Manos, the chief technology officer at AOL, who had known Brill since the late 1990s. Until Brill's efforts, enterprises had been defining and measuring data centers in their own way, said Manos. 'There was no commonality.' Today, 'you can't go anywhere in the world without people talking about tier 1, tier 2, tier 3 data centers — it's that fundamental,' he said. In 2011, following Amazon's prolong outage, Brill warned that the perceived reliability of large cloud providers was going to lead to problems. 'There will always be an advocate for how it can be done cheaper, [but] if you haven't had a failure for five years — who is the advocate for reliability?' said Brill. 'My prediction is that in the years ahead, we will see more failures than we have been seeing, because people have forgotten what we had to do to get to where we are.'"
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Ken Brill, the Man Who Defined the Data Center, Dies

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  • by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @06:11PM (#44452301) Journal

    'My prediction is that in the years ahead, we will see more failures than we have been seeing, because people have forgotten what we had to do to get to where we are.'

    And considering the cloud isn't exactly known for reliability right now, yet another reason not to trust your data out there.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      'My prediction is that in the years ahead, we will see more failures than we have been seeing, because people have forgotten what we had to do to get to where we are.'

      And considering the cloud isn't exactly known for reliability right now, yet another reason not to trust your data out there.

      Is any multi-region cloud provider less reliable than any single-site datacenter? There will always be unexpected disasters (or at least unplanned for, you may expect an asteroid to hit the planet every 50,000 years, but that doesn't mean that you've built the datacenter to survive it) and human error (like "oops, I wish I hadn't dropped my wrench into that panel, 480VAC makes a lot of sparks... it sure is dark in here now"), so it's not clear that cloud providers are siginificantly worse in that regard.

      Of

      • If you are thinking of how to host your website, it might not be a problem. At that point, you have more control. If you are thinking of putting your own personal data on some black-box, that will always be worse than a known entity.
    • Re:reliability (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pspahn (1175617) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @11:38PM (#44453703)

      But is it only about reliability?

      Dealing, in the last week, with a 30 user Exchange outage (MB blew a capacitor, HDDs needed a restore) installed on-site, it made me realize why I originally chose to offsite the new domain's email instead of hosting it locally. The MS shop guys had a different plan and moved it all over to the Exchange server.

      So it's now been like three days while they wait for a MB replacement when there would have been nearly no downtime had we been on the service I originally set up.

      Reliability doesn't matter when you still have to wait a few days for parts (yes, this happens). Meanwhile you have some MS shop dictating things when a proper cloud service option is clearly the smarter deal.

      There's certainly something to be said for hosting locally (or at least keeping a copy), but for most businesses that don't want to deal with some random employee being "the IT guy", offloading this to some facility somewhere for $70/mo simply makes sense. You think Cathy the checkout girl (who took an IT class in college) wants to wake up at 2am to deal with a blown capacitor?

      • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

        Outsourcing 30 users is likely the top end of a sweet-spot though. Once you hit 50, those initial economies/efficiencies go away, as you would want In-house redundancy, data discovery, proper archiving, etc., which add up to real money in a cloud solution. There are other break-points as you go up depending on organization needs.

      • The MS shop guys had a different plan.......So it's now been like three days while they wait

        They clearly didn't have much of a plan.

  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @06:11PM (#44452303)

    ... if he is laid to rest below a couple of raised floor panels.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      ... if he is laid to rest below a couple of raised floor panels.

      lowered into his grave by power cables.

      industrial HVAC to maintain constant temperature and humidity in the burial chamber

      And a couple LS-120's set about to log the event on tractor feed paper, right out of a box.

  • on what each tier means.

    This is a case where there are too many different standards, all using the same terms.

    In any case, administrative processes are going to affect uptime numbers far more than simple infrastructure redundancy

    remember that Google (who has some of the best uptime around) doesn't bother with dual power for it's servers, so it could not be more than a lowly tier 2 datacenter per some standards.

    • by CyprusBlue113 (1294000) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @07:15PM (#44452651)

      on what each tier means.

      This is a case where there are too many different standards, all using the same terms.

      In any case, administrative processes are going to affect uptime numbers far more than simple infrastructure redundancy

      remember that Google (who has some of the best uptime around) doesn't bother with dual power for it's servers, so it could not be more than a lowly tier 2 datacenter per some standards.

      The actual standards define availability redundancy and concurrency of systems, not of individual devices. When your systems are composed of multiple independent devices, it affects what is looked at accordingly.

    • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

      UpTime Institute got the tiers more standardized though; even some of the telecom companies have gone from Bellcore tiers to uptime tiers (1 most critical to 4 most critical). Ken and UpTime did a lot for the industry. They also did a lot to the industry. They tried to complicate the simplification in order to monetize it. Plenty of others are guilty of the same thing, but I do wish Uptime would go away as the standard-bearer.

    • by Lennie (16154)

      Their solution is the right software and no legacy applcations, a lot of existing applications are not 'cloud scale' or whatever you want to call it.

      So it won't automatically send the same request to an other machine and have it work.

      That is what is needed if you want to play 'in the cloud' properly. Only then will you get reliability and costsavings.

      All the other legacy applications people put 'in the cloud' will have less reliability in 'the cloud'.

  • It's a good way to go.

  • From another article

    Ken Brill, founder of the Uptime Institute and a forward thinker in data center design and operations, died this week at the age of 68, the Institute said on Thursday. The cause was cancer, a spokesman said.

  • by CptNerd (455084) <adiseker@lexonia.net> on Friday August 02, 2013 @02:59AM (#44454423) Homepage

    'My prediction is that in the years ahead, we will see more failures than we have been seeing, because people have forgotten what we had to do to get to where we are.'

    There are many aspects of our society and world for which this is true, not just data centers.

  • 'My prediction is that in the years ahead, we will see more failures than we have been seeing, because people have forgotten what we had to do to get to where we are.'

    As long as data center engineers are at risk of being woken up in the middle of the night, they won't forget how to make sure things stay running.

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