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D ATA C E N T E R

Data center
terminology that
will get you hired
Meredith Courtemanche

A photostory
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Define the perfect data center job


interview
BUSINESSES NEED TO know impress an interviewer,
their back-end IT infra- nor will a prevaricating job
structure is ready to move candidate who lacks the
the company forward. fundamentals to grow in a
data center position.
Modern IT organizations
work closely with an enter- We’ve created fun visual
prise’s business leaders to cues in this slideshow of
create, scale up and tear hot data center terminology
down data center assets at to help you understand
a rapid pace. Flexible and and describe modern data
agile IT isn’t just for the center operations. Estab-
Web-scale data center op- lish your knowledge of IT
erators like Facebook and infrastructure scalability
Google. Enterprises -- from and resiliency, culture and
steel companies to coffee business trends as well
purveyors to insurance as other defining devel-
providers -- are improving opments while leaving a
IT operations and realign- strong impression on your
ing data centers for an future employer.
era when digital enables
business. For more preparation
before the big interview,
To land a data center job in check out resources at the
this evolving space, work end of the slideshow on
relevant, change-focused sample DevOps, sys admin
terminology into your inter- and other data center job
views for engineer, opera- interview questions.
tions or manager positions.
Simply rattling off DevOps Michael Kloran
and automation terms won’t
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Define change management


as a way to control data centers
from above
CHANGE MANAGEMENT GIVES IBM give fewer admins con-
a single administrator con- trol over a greater number
trol over the actions and of servers, network nodes
performance of an entire and storage devices.
fleet of servers.
When the interviewer asks
We define change man- how you manage your
agement as a systematic time, or how you would
approach to support the improve time management
sometimes unpredictable in the data center, bring
evolution of IT workloads up change management.
and technologies in the It’s also an integral part of
data center. It is about successful business project
automating workflows, con- launches and expansions.
figuration changes, patches If your data center can’t
and updates. adapt, your business only
has two choices: abandon
The definition of change its growth projects or seek
management is increasingly the back-end infrastructure
merging with terms for support elsewhere, as in a
data center automation and public cloud and shadow IT.
orchestration. Configura-
tion and change manage-
ment tools from vendors as
diverse as SolarWinds and Michael Kloran
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Define continuous integration and


delivery as Dev meets Ops
EVERYONE HAS THE same goal Continuous delivery takes
in a good IT organization: committed changes to the
Put out the best applica- code and shepherds them
tions and services on stable, through peer review and
sustainable infrastructure. user acceptance testing. It
DevOps helps keep that is an extension of continu-
goal on track with continu- ous integration. While many
ous integration and delivery. DevOps tools are designed
to bring code through both
While developers focus CI and CD, in practice
on what’s new and next, developers and operations
operations prefers stability teams use different tools in
and consistency.DevOps is different ways.
a methodology or culture of
IT wherein developers and Another CD term, continu-
operations teams frequently ous deployment, is a goal
communicate about and for DevOps organizations,
collaborate on application though often fraught with re-
and service releases. Many al-world complications. Con-
modern IT shops expect tinuous delivery means that
systems administrators, changes to the application
developers and infrastruc- or service are ready to be
ture managers to implement deployed because they are
continuous integration and tested in a production-like
continuous delivery. environment. Meanwhile,
continuous deployment
Continuous integration means these changes
means that iterative soft- go straight to production
ware changes are immedi- without awaiting human
ately tested and added to intervention.
the larger code base. If a
change creates issues, such
as runaway storage use, that
problem can be isolated and Michael Kloran

rolled back quickly.


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Define data center resiliency as


withstanding destruction RESILIENT DATA CENTERS
withstand damage to the
network cabling, power
Distributed applications
run on multiple servers
simultaneously, and may
outages, unexpected be architected as inde-
server downtime, attacks or pendently deployed micro
surges in user demand and services. Server clusters
other events by avoiding prevent outages with high
single points of failure and availability or fault tolerant
using adaptable IT systems. virtualization, allowing VMs
to jump from one server to
In terms of physical another in the event of a
infrastructure, data center problem.
resiliency increases by
installing multiples. If one Some data centers today
PDU fails, another is at the are designed to fail,
ready to take over its work- meaning that workloads
load. If one carrier goes easily jump off of problem
down, the business can servers and onto new ones,
run all its workloads over a across a server cluster and
second carrier’s connec- even across multiple data
tions. N+1 redundancy centers. This architecture
means that there’s one ex- is moving from the domain
tra piece of equipment for of Web-scale content pro-
however many pieces you viders into enterprise IT.
have operating. N+M could
mean two, three or any When you talk about data
number of multiples for that center resiliency to pro-
equipment. 2N designated spective employers, relate
an infrastructure that’s the mechanics -- diverse
completed duplicated for network lines, fault-tolerant
protection. clusters -- to IT service
and business continuity.
The definition of data cen- No matter how beaten
ter resiliency has evolved up your physical systems
as IT technologies such are, or how many outages
as virtualization and micro are rippling through the IT
services joined traditional systems, the data center
uptime boosters like N+1 continues to deliver mis-
redundant power supplies sion-critical services.
and equipment. Be pre-
pared to discuss distribut-
ed applications and server
clusters in a job interview. Michael Kloran
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Define parallel processing


applications as a way to outrun
bottlenecks
WHEN YOU WANT something the bus in both directions
done quickly, double up the simultaneously, whereas a
resources working on it. parallel bus only sends data
in one direction at one time.
Parallel processing, also You’ll find PCIe connections
defined as parallel comput- for network interface cards,
ing, allows multiple server graphics cards and storage
CPUs or processor cores accelerators on data center
to execute workflows at servers.
the same time -- in parallel
-- by sharing resources Hardware and applica-
and coordinating actions. tions are becoming more
Programs are broken down abstracted, with cloud
into pieces and then re- architectures and soft-
combined, which completes ware-defined data centers.
the work much faster than However, a fundamental
serial processing. understanding of how
different hardware designs
Parallel processing applica- handle different workloads
tions can occur on a single will pay off in the best
processor with multiple use of available capacity
cores, a single server with or a simple hardware fix
multiple processors, or to a bottleneck problem.
across clusters or grids of For example, rather than
computers. When set up rewrite a complex applica-
properly, parallel process- tion that is lagging, the data
ing is massively scalable, center staff can spec local
up to thousands of proces- storage accelerators on
sors. This is typically seen PCIe busses. Conversely,
in supercomputing deploy- when acquiring new hard-
ments, not enterprise IT. ware for a new application,
the data center team can
While serial processing work with developers and
is good for CPUs, serial programmers to under-
communication is better stand how the app will use
for connections.Peripheral its resources and plan the
component interconnect best deployment to serve it.
express (PCIe) is a lower
latency bus than the paral-
lel PCI, and also has higher
data transfer rates. Serial Michael Kloran
means data can travel over
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Define dedupe as a way to organize,


free up storage BUSINESSES RELY ON a
library of customer data to
for financials that stores all
the same information about
stay competitive, whether Customer ABC. Dedupe
your organization sells means that the company
insurance, IT services or can save just one book on
something else. That library Customer ABC, reducing
gets new incoming data, the storage room required
and changes to existing yet not losing any informa-
data, constantly. tion from which it makes
business decisions. The
With multiple applications data center’s IT systems
using this evolving data maintain a reference path
from multiple sources, so that all three systems
deduplication becomes an know where to find the
essential tool against stor- book on this customer.
age sprawl. Data centers
define dedupe as a process There are plenty of practi-
to reduce storage demand cal concerns with dedu-
by saving only one instance plication. It can be time
of a data point, rather than consuming and expensive
multiple copies for different to sort through existing
systems to access sepa- data to match up copies.
rately. Deduplication lets For new data, storage
disparate systems access systems must include the
that single data point. intelligence to synthe-
size information into one
An example will help define cohesive book; rather than
dedupe: Your company writing a new one each
keeps a book of data time the company starts
about Customer ABC in tracking a new parameter.
its customer relationship But without dedupe, stor-
management system’s age demands and complex-
database. Customer ABC ity would thwart business
is also part of a pilot initiatives like purchasing
program for your compa- pattern analytics.
ny’s new product, which
means the same book of Michael Kloran

data exists in the devel-


opment group’s database
for communicating about
bugs, new releases and so
on. You might also have a
separate database used
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Define scalability as the process


of growing without changing
IT WORKLOADS GROW like maximum typical demand
sponges taking on water: of IT workloads; beyond
soaking up resources as that, they rent resources
they become available. from a cloud provider as
needed. The T-shirt maker
Data center resource scal- from our previous example
ability gained importance may organically scale up
as digital technology start- data center servers and
ed to enable every kind storage as its customer
of business. Data center base grows, then also burst
capacity planners define onto Amazon Web Ser-
scalability as the back-end vices’ EC2 cloud instances
IT deployment’s ability to during the busy holiday
grow proportionally with shopping season. Both
demand, without adding methods fit the definition of
complexity or difficulty to scalability.
its management.
To prove a depth of
E-commerce and online knowledge in capacity
transaction processing, as planning, define scalability
well as content distribution in contrast with elastic-
over the Internet, prove ity. Elasticity matches
the value of scalability. If a resources to a dynamic IT
T-shirt maker cannot scale workload -- when it needs
up its internal customer more resources, they scale
relationship management up; when it needs less, they
software and its Web serv- scale down. This dynamic
er farm to meet increased reallocation is more difficult
demand, for example, the to achieve with physical
business will suffer lost servers and systems in a
orders and a damaged data center than with pay-
reputation. per-use cloud resources,
but with virtualization as
Some IT organizations turn well as cloud bursting, it is
to cloud bursting to handle possible.
unexpected or unpredict-
able short-term rapid scal-
ing up. Data center manag-
ers plan capacity to suit the Michael Kloran
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Define CapEx and OpEx as making


RATHER THAN ARGUING With OpEx purchases, it’s
OpEx versus CapEx, it’s an oversimplification to say
time to talk about CapEx that you only pay for what

sense of dollars and OpEx together. Some


businesses rely more on
CapEx IT spending, others
you use when you use it;
any administrator dealing
with VM sprawl would
more on OpEx, but virtually agree. And without an
all have a mix of both. asset management system,
plenty of CapEx spending
In the simplest sense, cap- goes to waste.
ital expenditures (CapEx)
are single payments in Show off your understand-
exchange for goods or ing of OpEx versus CapEx
services, while operational as a matter of close IT
expenditures (OpEx) are alignment with business
ongoing expenses paid to needs. A modern data cen-
maintain a service. ter employee understands
that some IT services are
Business leaders define better handled outside
CapEx as one-time pur- of the server racks, while
chases that then depre- others will be less expen-
ciate in the organization’s sive in the long term with
care. Data center servers a big upfront investment in
are a classic capital expen- hardware and software re-
diture. Businesses typically sources. One such example
buy and deploy a fleet of is big data analytics, where
servers, then depreciate many businesses store
them over a number of and crunch data on owned
years in the data center. IT platforms to avoid the
costs associated with
We define OpEx as a recur- network traffic to cloud-
ring expense. Cloud-host- based big data processing
ed servers are a classic services.
operating expenditure.
The business does not
physically purchase and
maintain the cloud servers, Michael Kloran
but rather pays a monthly
or per-use fee to access
them. There is no depre-
ciation; if a server is not
needed, it goes away, and
the company may choose
to pay for it again in the
future.
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Define data center performance


metrics to seal the deal
The point of learning For example, don’t just
about DevOps, change point out that deduplica-
management, IT-business tion reduces demand for
alignment and other hot storage. Note that dedupli-
data center terminology cation frees up storage re-
is to improve how back- sources for a new big data
end technologies and analysis project that will
infrastructure perform to yield 20% higher customer
meet organizational needs response rates with mini-
and goals. The proof is in mal capital expenditures.
data center performance
metrics. Research the company
where you are interviewing.
When you’re describing Are they under industry
familiarity with these con- regulations? Do they value
cepts at a data center job agility and customer ac-
interview, always present quisition, or do they delve
your information in the con- deeply into services for a
text of process improve- small group of long-time
ment and best practices. customers? Approaching
Define some data center the job interview with back-
performance metrics and ground information lets you
how you’d ensure your tailor which data center
team met them. Then performance metrics you
explain how these perfor- discuss.
mance metrics benefit the
company. Michael Kloran