Monday 28 May 2012

New Data Centre built near disaster site?

I received a twitter message about a recently opened Data Centre run by Gyron and let by SEGRO. From a quick looks their security looks good. A perusal of their web site reveals a company address of HP2 7SU. If you look on Google Maps there's a satellite view of the area. I'd always do a google check before further considering whether to use a Data Centre site. Oddly enough when you look around the satellite picture you see another memorable name of "Buncefield Terminal" located at post code HP2 7HZ. People living in the UK will probably remember Buncefield as the place of a major oil terminal explosion and fire.  The Police National Computer operations managers definitely remember this site.The distance between the two post codes is about 300 metres according to Google maps. According to commercial property news the area is bouncing back after the explosion.

I'm not saying the new Gyron site is located near a high risk, but it is worth checking this type of thing before choosing a data centre site. I understand the Buncefield site is now much safer. At this point I'm not sure of the exact location of the Gyron Data Centre, the post code may just be an office address.

I wonder what the insurance situation is in terms of risk if you knowingly site your data centre near to a fuel terminal?

Update 29th May 2012
I've visited the site referenced by the Gyron Post code. There are signs of a large data centre with chiller units positioned in the back yard. There was no direct evidence of the site belonging to Gyron. However the Buncefield oil terminal is very much in live operation and it is about 300 metres distant, easily within the bounds of a cordon which the emergency services might impose in the event of another disaster. There are some intervening buildings.  I'm not picking on Gyron as a "bad" example. I'm merely saying Data Centre management need to perform risk assessment on the businesses in the area surrounding the location of their servers.

Update: 1st June 2012.
I must be wrong about the risk if NTT have taken a majority share in Gyron. Apparently supported by the UK Gov't Business Secretary Vince Cable see The Register report here.

Sunday 27 May 2012


Here's an interesting introduction to developments in NoSQL Databases. Any company choosing this route would need to investigate carefully before taking the step, chances are it could lead to an instant legacy system with extreme maintenance issues once the enthusiast has left the development cycle.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Keeping humans keeping your Data Centre

I came across this link which lists many aspects of looking after the people who run your data centre. It is well worth a read.

Friday 11 May 2012

Another business scam

Received through the post this morning was a rather obvious scam "reminder" to renew one of our trademarks. It comes from the "Intellectual Property Agency Ltd" based in the Broadgate Tower in London. It has the typical grey fine print on the back in contractualese which boils down to them wanting to con you into paying an excessive fee for renewing a trademark. Note there are no refunds. Their contract for UK Trademarks is oddly based on Swedish law. Here's their web site. They do not appear on the UK Companies House web site.

Their form look official and has a name similar to the official government body who handle these things. It is clearly designed to fool a dumb clerk or a dumb manager.

Using the proper government agency is a much lower cost to renew the trademark. There is not much use in complaining to any government authorities though; they will just wring their hands and do nothing. This problem won't go away until a law is passed telling the scamsters that they'll go to prison for a minimum of 5 years.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Hooray comes to its senses

I get regular emails from advertising whitepapers from the marketing departments of the likes of Oracle, Dell etc. Most of these I ignore, but occasionally I get some which are of interest and want to read. When I click through the link in the email I'm inevitably faced with a demand to provide either user name/password or to complete a boring questionnaire about my company and my role.

Personally I find this really annoying and usually abandon the research at that point. Techtarget already have this information and they are the ones who sent me the email. What is the need for user Id/password? We are not exactly accessing deep secrets, it is just a damn marketing whitepaper.

At long last this morning when I tried techtarget there was one simple question "Are you still working for the same company?" This time I followed through and read the marketing whitepaper. 

I wonder how many other business men gave up in frustration with Techtarget's previous policy of lazy link management. 

Update 10th May 2012
 Whoops, it looks like I spoke too soon. Just had an email from telling me that due to "inactivity" my account with TechTarget has been suspended. A rap on the knuckles or what?

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Project control - project creep

Senior managers and directors are generally great in the role of defining the broad strategy of their organisation. However, the same people tend to be not so good in the process of detailed specification for project requirements. A consequence is that when the budget funds for a new project is agreed and authorised it is usual that some features or services will be omitted from the authorised project. This omission  might have happened accidentally or intentionally.

As the the project progresses it is inevitable that senior managers, clients, team members will identify some feature or facility that "should have been included" within the project. It may be the proposed variation in the Project is a reasonable and sensible change. In those cases the changes can be incorporated by the variations route. In the cases where the Project Manager thinks the proposed change is stupid or would cost too much, or cause too much project delay he/she should reject the proposal via the variation process. No doubt the time will arrive when the project scope will have to be "frozen" in order to achieve a delivery date, but it always possible to parcel off some features to be delivered after the main implementation date.

The worst kind of project creep occurs when a senior manager/manager declares a related service feature must be included in the project even when it is nothing to do with the original project. The senior manager will even override the views of the project manager regardless of the impact on spend or the impact on project resources/time table. In those cases the project manager must be careful to document the impact in advance and then ensure the consequences are brought to the attention of the requesting manager/client. If there is no change in the senior manager's/client's demand for inclusion then the origin of the request and consequences should be included in the formal project progress documentation. The worst thing the project manager can do is to attempt to absorb the additional cost and resource time. A similar process should be followed where the senior manager/client instructs that a previously agreed element of the project should be removed.

A recent example I've seen of the latter is on a project to install a software based stock control system in the stock rooms for the consumable clinical equipment used in the operating theatres of a major hospital. Their existing manual systems are frequently out of date and the local operations managers have no idea of what is actually in stock. The project manager is rolling out this new system storage room by room. The project involves training staff in the new techniques and loading inventory details on the stock database. However during the project lifetime there was a major move from one hospital site to a new building. A substantial amount of stock, millions of pounds worth, was disposed of on the grounds of "hygiene", but in the rush of the move the stock disposals were not recorded in the manual records. A couple of months later a sample audit revealed the consequent discrepancies in the manual stock records and spreadsheets. 
A senior hospital manager diverted staff resources from the new stock control project team to undertake a full stock inventory exercise in order to be able to report to the Board the "reasons" for the difference. This "simple" command created an unauthorised extra £35,000 bill for consultancy and delayed the stock control system project by a month. Rather than use in-house clerical administrators to perform the inventory, expensive external software consultants were used to count scalpels. The senior manager subsequently tried to deny that she was the cause of overspend and delay to the project, but the project documentation showed otherwise.