I’ve often heard reference to the phrase "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," and it always sounded like a pretty attractive image: I finally got around to looking up the origin, and found that it’s the title of a moderately depressing story by Ernest Hemingway. Education never ends.

What brought the phrase to mind was a succession of stories, over the last year or so, that reinforce my desire never to build, or operate, another data center of my own.

Google has lately been quite candid about the qualitative changes that take place in data center administration as an operation moves to enormous scale. Google accepts hardware failure rates that many might find quite surprising, but that Google has found far more cost-effective to wrap in the abstraction of fault-tolerant software — rather than trying to buy hardware reliability at ever-rising marginal cost.

Tomorrow’s data center won’t be just a bigger, faster, hotter version of what we build today. There are really good reasons why you should not try this at home — or even at many other "homes."

If you want a clean, well-lighted place in which to run your critical business functions, it’s going to have a different architecture; it’s going to be optimized for a different kind of IT asset portfolio; and if you run the numbers the same way that I do, it’s going to be operated for you by someone else who makes a specialty of doing it well.

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