Hammer of the Gods

By Datalink
9/14/2011

We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow.
The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying: Valhalla, I am coming!
-- Led Zeppelin

I just returned from five days in Reykjavík, Iceland, which is a beautiful place you should visit before you die; and if you can’t do it before, may I suggest making arrangements to have your earthly remains thrown into a volcano up there.

While geyser-dodging, glacier-spotting, luxuriating in algae-rich lagoons[1], developing an extensive taxonomy of the various forms of Icelandic women, enjoying awesome socialist medicine to patch up my boo-boos, eating/gagging up fermented shark and drinking viking-water, I sent an email to a family member (from a lagoon, via Wi-Fi), who promptly asked me why I was emailing them while on vacation. I explained that my original email contained a link to the photos I was taking and a synopsis of my trip.

I'd answered too literally. Family member was questioning why I was emailing on vacation, at all. Because email is not compatible with vacation, I think was the point. I was also asked if I was working, and I’m sure I said “yeah, some,” and was re-criticized for that. I tried to assure FM everything was OK; if I didn’t have a job (specifically this one, which I enjoy, and which tolerates me), I wouldn’t have money to be in Iceland. My life isn't really interesting enough to completely separate from the various types of “work” I do, so it’s best to just keep it all mashed together and that way nobody ever gets too disappointed.

So although I was mainly in Iceland to relax with wife Kelley and friends, there were secret work missions interwoven. Missions so secret that I will reveal them to the world right now in this highly public forum. Please hold on to something.

Inclusive of the duties of a “Datalink staff engineer with a part-time specialty in Datalink Lab Systems”[2] is the measurement of utilization of our various lab sites[3] and contemplation of the appropriate number of sites.

Our field engineers, as a rule, believe that we should have a number of labs,  defined as the highest number yielded by a simple set of equations:

It’s great to have formulas with such precise outcomes.

My belief, which is known to most and has earned me nicknames such as “The Man Who Destroyed Labs at Datalink,” “The Fourth Horseman,” “The Insane Pie Man,” "The Homunculus," and “Das Nosferatu”, is that fewer lab sites/locations/computer rooms are better. No matter how “cloudy” our labs actually are based on the market's cloud computing-definition-of-the-week, the labs are and will always continue to be:

  1. Highly virtual
  2. Securely multi-tenant (at least as much as we need them to be, when you consider our technical people and their participating customers to be our tenants)
  3. Remotely accessible via the Internet tube
With those enabling technologies in play, and principle lab goals of...
  1. Customer demonstration and education
  2. Employee learning
  3. Interop/test/exploding

...the fewest number of possible labs continues to make sense to me. And no, I don’t want labs in my (home) office, in case you were wondering (per the degenerate case in the equation above). We can talk justification for numbers of labs in another post (if someone would be so good as to publicly challenge me in a comment).

Fortunately, management has recently come to understand the value in entertaining some lab consolidation. They found out I had a trip planned for Iceland, and asked me to explore the merits of consolidating all Datalink Lab sites in Keflavik, Iceland.

I explored, and I got answers. But I got more… a lot more. And now, the news:

Datalink Labs is Moving to Iceland: A Cool Place to Run a Lab in the Volcanic Cloud

I’m pleased to announce that an introductory letter of understanding has been drafted by us, and accepted by the Iceland Chamber of Commercee, to consolidate all Datalink Labs locations in a to-be-determined/developed Tier 4 data center facility somewhere within a 100 km radius of Keflavik. We expect the consolidation to be complete by March 31, 2012 (or maybe the day after, depending on permits).

Additional exciting details to come in the coming weeks and months, but a glimpse at the benefits:

Cloud Access - Internet access is cheap, fast and plentiful in Keflavik, and with new awesome submarine fiber optics via the Emerald Express coming into service in 2012, it will only get better. Underwater Internet! Ping, ping!

Also cheap: Access to the plentiful clouds of volcanic ash frequently surrounding the island / messing up global airline operations.

Iceland is not Greenland, but it is a GREEN LAND - 99% of Iceland's energy is renewable. There is geothermal / hydrothermal energy blasting, bubbling and spurting out every hole and crevice, and that energy is dying to get to work in a Datalink Lab data center. You actually have to work to keep that energy out of the data center, that’s how bad it wants to get in there. But Kilojoules of lava equals megawatts of powah!

World's Cheapest Cooling (Because Iceland Gets Really Cold) - Fancy-pants hot-aisle/cold-aisle and in-row cooling with hoses spraying glycol in your face is for fools who arenot running Datalink Labs in Iceland. Your first impulse might be to run it inside a glacier, but even that level of IT aggression is unnecessary because the place can be, you know, cold. Just punch a hole in the data center wall. COLD AS ICE.

Need more cooling as the lab grows? Enlarge the wall hole. SLEDGEHAMMER TIME EQUALS NO HVAC CONTRACTOR LEAD TIME.

Security - The lack of a national army notwithstanding, Iceland is secure because Iceland gets cold, which keeps most cold-hating bad guys away. But let’s talk realpolitik for a second: Iceland was invaded by the British and the U.S. in World War II because we needed a base and they wouldn’t give us one all friendly-like. If things get bad up there again, history has shown us the Way. LOCKDOWN!

No Conceivable Threat from Mother Nature - After you rule out continuous earthquakes caused by the interface of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, the possibility of being run over by speeding glaciers, and the whole-island-is-an-erupting-volcano fact, the odds of tornadoes and North Atlantic hurricanes are, mercifully, low. Pennies per dollar! One site, no DR. It’s time to OPERATE!. A new paradigm.

Access - The Vikings sailed from the land of the ice and snow to brutally "settle" Iceland around 800-something A.D., but today we don’t need a Leif-powered Viking longshipmachineto get IT equipment into an Iceland-resident Datalink Lab.

Five-hour flight from Mid-Atlantic U.S.; on the island, there are planes, boats, trucks (some hydrogen-powered = GREEN), as well as the traditional sheep-powered sleds. Though, there are no trains in Iceland. Also: whales for cargo carrying and riding/eating.

While finalizing the letter of understanding with the Chamber of Commercee, I sat down with some architects to quickly bang out some concept drawings[4]. I hope these renditions whet your appetite for the ice-based lab awesomeness to come.

Lab Mockup One - Iceland Datalink Lab Exterior
Mockup - Iceland Lab Exterior
Lab Mockup Two - Datacenter Interior (lights out)
Lab Mockup Two - Datacenter Interior (lights out)

Summary: Take the High Road to Datalink Labs/Iceland

Unstoppably cool IT running in unstoppably cool data center near the top of the world. One piece of cold and delicious pie to meet our lab demoing, training and equipment test-smashing needs. We're taking things to the next level.

Við skulum vera varkár þarna úti. Peace. We'll be back next time with bolt-ons to Juan's recent truth-speaking on the nature of need, rigor and balancing complexity.

-- Rick

[1] It’s ok; the algae survived my presence.

[2] No, I do not have a job description on file in HR; I do have an awesome, ever-changing title of my own creation, though.

[3] Remember that we currently have four Labs right now— in Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis and Santa Clara. Request your event today! Datalink Labs!

[4] Translation: The guy sitting next to me in the Hilton lobby, who I'm just going to go ahead and assume was an architect, kept looking over at me while I was drawing/giggling.

Note: This article was originally configured to publish on 4/1/2011, but got lost in the clouds.[5]

[5] Meaning this article is for entertainment purposes only. I know - I'm heartbroken, too. Iceland was really pretty and is really a great place for a data center...