Musings on IT, data management, whitewater rafting, and backpacking

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Focus on the big picture

One of the new fallacies of the Googleized Intertubes is that anyone can become an expert on a topic with enough searching and reading web pages and listening to podcasts and watching videos.

I fall into this trap sometimes, especially when I'm involved in building design. In my experience, the architects, engineers, and contractors whom we depend on often recommend designs, systems, or products with which they are familiar, and are not always aware of alternatives.

So I throw myself into a Google/Internet frenzy, trying to find out more about the options. This leads to a false sense of expertise, and a tendency to say "I want design/system/product X" despite my lack of expertise.

I think a better approach is:
  • State our big-picture desires in the design documents (e.g. we need Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop now, 10 Gigabit in five years)
  • Use Google and the Internet to learn more about the options
  • Describe some of the options in the design documents
  • Require bids on some of the options so we can make cost/benefit choices
  • Challenge the architects, engineers, and contractors to come up with innovative designs and choices
  • Require the architects, engineers, and contractors to defend their choices, including costs and benefits
I'm struggling with design specification decisions for:
  • Network cabling to the desktop
  • Data center HVAC design
  • Data center network design
  • Data center power reliability (generators and batteries and flywheels, oh my!)
In part, I'm writing this blog post to remind myself to focus on the big picture.

We'll see if it works.

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