Re: Opinions about datacenter usage

Subject: Re: Opinions about datacenter usage
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 04 Jan 2005 14:24:51 +0000


Diane Boos wrote:


I'm on an assignment developing process document for a data center, as well as the server documentation. Therein lies the problem. TPTB don't want to use "data center," but datacenter, one word. I'll do what the TPTB want, but I suspect that there is going to be lots of flack from it. TPTB are all techie types.

Every time I type "datacenter" I cringe. I have mentioned Webster's doesn't agree. I'd like some opinions on this before I buck them on the changes. Has anyone seen "datacenter" in usage?

Your concerns pose two golden opportunities for me to bask in two of my favorite offshoots of word working: descriptive linguistics, and psychosociology (the variant that entertains pseudo-academic speculation).

First the speculation:

I spy, with my little eye, an instance of argot in this. As we're all aware, techies have a penchant for argot, and I think it serves an integrating function, providing a controlled vocabulary that helps adherents define and recognize their group identity, through the development and use of signature terms, preferably (but not necessarily) condensing deep technical knowledge into rubric, logo, innuendo, slang. This, apart from the formal technical language of a discipline. ...

Second, the descriptive:

http://www.googlewars.com/search.cfm?q1=%22data+center%22&q2=datacenter

Googlewars found over ten million instances of these two forms of the word(s), running better than 4:1 in favor of "data center."

(Thanks to Sean Hower for introducing me to Googlewars via the techwr-l list)

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If you're having a hard time getting behind 'datacenter' for these writing projects, you might ask for a full tour of the datacenter facility. I don't know about the one at UW, but if it is anything like the new DC I saw at a telco a few years ago (this one was DC combined with a NOC), well, I'll just say it was a source of pride that people wanted to be associated with--a techie Disneyland, with all the data to create whatever reality the DC is tasked with.

When you think about it, a DC is unlike much else on the planet (that I'm aware of) simply in terms of the infrastructure, not to mention all of the soft stuff. A DC full of hardware and cabling is such a complex thing! And realize, it must already be thoroughly documented, both as built *and* as modified.

The big iron environment is dazzling, with the raised floors, the fire suppression systems that don't ruin the machines if they ever do have to put out a fire, the miles of overhead (or underfloor) cables (each hopefully well labeled, none orphaned and left behind during upgrades), and these cables connecting rack after rack of boxes with a city's skyline-worth of little colored lights.

Then there's the emergency power system, wow! The DC I toured had diesel turbine generators (think jet engines) and at least an acre of battery banks to keep the datacenter online though a major disaster. To top it all off, it had an Network Operations Center with a wall of big screen projectors monitoring everything from CNN and the Weather Channel to data processing job status, all in a giant room peopled by rows of analysts and technicians at multi-monitor workstations in an acoustically correct space with perfect lighting...

From where I'm sitting, thinking admiringly about all the expertise a DC represents, there is not really anything incongruous about the analytical/functional approach to compacting the name--without the space it says:

"We thought of everything, and everything you see here has a well defined, datacentric reason for being here."

The space in data center apparently came under that same scope and couldn't stand up to the scrutiny. It isn't the demise of written English that you're facing, it is just an artifact of the 'otherness' of computing. You shouldn't take it so hard!

I hope you get a good look at your DC, and enjoy it.

Good Luck

Ned Bedinger
Ed Wordsmith Technical Communications



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Opinions about datacenter usage: From: Diane Boos

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