The Stack Archive

Humans should be removed from data centres, says industry capitalist Vinod Khosla

Mon 14 Jul 2014

Speaking at the GigaOm Structure conference in San Francisco last month, Vinod Kholsa, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and now partner of Khosla Ventures, told audiences that the most important opportunity for the future of IT enterprise would be to completely remove people from the equation.

“It’s ridiculous to have humans manage the level of complexity that we have humans manage inside the data centre,” he said. Further arguing his point in terms of cost efficiency, Khosla suggested that “people are a big cost in IT. Not equipment itself. Let’s take that out.” The opinion is evidently controversial with data centre professionals haphazardly lumped together here as “that” unnecessary factor. However, what Khosla does highlight is the clear need for computing to adapt quickly to the continual development of new hardware and software, and to an escalating demand for storage.

To drive this change Khosla called for a push towards automation in data centres, crediting the likes of Google and Microsoft who are already developing automated alternatives to human labour. Using open sourced tools, such as Omega, to aid the automatic control of their expanding infrastructure, these tech giants are “[inventing] a new way of doing things” said Khosla.

Automation, however, also brings about risk. In response to Khosla’s faith in the automated data centre, many experts urge that caution must be taken. “Automation truly is a source of great satisfaction. We get to build a clever framework to facilitate some goal, and then watch it work. But like [a] Lego car, if we aren’t paying attention, it will run into a wall eventually. It’s best to plan for that right from the outset…” suggests Paul Venezia of InfoWorld.

The former Sun Microsystems CEO’s vision will not usher in an immediate cull of the data centre employee, but it does strike a chord. As Chris Crosby, CEO of Compass Data Centres, suggests in his post ‘The Empty Data Center’, a new economic evolution is underway as we move into an era defined by the Internet of Things. In light of this, Khosla is right; we are witnessing increasing pressures on data centre operators to maintain hyper-scale facilities. However, this should be tackled by a multi-faceted approach which includes automated options, smarter architecture, as well as developed human skill sets – a total removal of humanity would be losing out on an opportunity to advance knowledge and innovation.



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