About the book

The Guide presents a new and different perspective on data center management focusing on ideas which enable companies to more effectively control and direct their systems expenditures.

This book argues that the present mess, in which most systems expenditures produce frustration and unmet expectations rather then the quietly effective solutions promised, arose mainly because the incentives given systems people contradict their service mandate. The incentive is to grow by expanding the systems budget and you don't do that by being effective, you do that by balancing on the knife edge of continuous near failure because that gets you executive attention and user pressure to increase your budget. Someone whose living depends on fighting alligators is, after all, more likely to breed them than to drain the swamp.

The organizational right answer is to morph the data center from cost sink to profit contributor - thereby converting the role of the systems organization from that of a parasite to that of a symbiote and aligning the incentives its managers feel with the overall success of the organization.

Doing it is what this book's about. That process, referred to as data center defenestration, focuses on building strong user relationships while delivering on the core automated clerking mandate in the most effective and cost efficient ways possible. At the technology level this means Unix servers with smart displays and at the management level it means implementing organizational ideas and behaviors appropriate to both the mission and the tools.

On the surface the reliance on Unix as part of the solution is a reflection of available technology options but the relationship between the technology and the underlying management idea goes much deeper than that. Unix, as a toolset, incorporates a set of ideas, a mindset or way of thinking about problems, that is internally consistent with the real corporate goal for systems - getting the job done - and inconsistent with the resource management focus of traditional systems management ideas. In this context, therefore, defenestration means to throw out traditional management methods based on budget and processing windows and focus, instead, on getting the job done in the fastest, most efficient, ways possible.

Most of the text deals with the "how and why" of this process at both the strategic and technical levels. The "why" part is mostly based on cost, service, and responsibility while the "how" part focusses mainly on adjusting organizational policies to fit both the mission and the highly efficient technology available to deliver on it. As a result the book contains dozens of detailed cost comparisons, mini case studies --many with historical or structural asides that illustrate key behavioral, cost or performance issues-- and related analyses illustrating important insights into the appropriate role and organization of the data center.

The book is targeted to systems employees who need to understand and counter the management pressures that prevent them from successfully delivering services to users and to middle and upper management people outside systems who need to understand what the service level options and relative costs really are and why systems people often succeed personally by failing professionally.