The Data Centre Energy Cycle
As an entirely lay person in all of this, I'm not sure if I'm suffering from "Dunning-Kruger" or whether I actually have something useful to say... but, here goes!
As I see it, a Data Centre is merely a place that generates a lot of heat, but must be kept (relatively) cool. All of this requires a lot of electricity.
Something of a conundrum!
I have heard stories of placing Data Centres in very cool places (a metaphorical 'open the doors and let the cold wind blow through'), of chasing low electricity costs by relocating active Virtual Machines to Centres where the electricity cost is lower (probably a 'follow-the-dark strategy), and so on.
But all these measures are all about disposing of the excess heat - it's treated as a waste.
However, surely it's a resource that might be harvested and re-used in the facility or elsewhere.
I've heard of small-scale projects where warm water from a Data Centre was pumped to nearby homes for heating, but that is only useful in winter!
Surely there are ways to capture the hot air coming out of the Centre and use it either to generate electricity or to store the heat in some other way. I challenge the engineers to tap into this energy cycle as a means of dramatically reducing power consumption.
In a similar fashion, we get a double-hit from solar panels on the roof. Not only do they capture solar energy and turn it into electricity, but the mere fact that they are on the roof doing so, means that the energy isn't translated to heat and pushed through the roof and into the building (be it a home, office or factory). This suggests that when installing solar panels, they shouldn't simply be a bunch of big rectangular blocks, but should come in all manner of shapes and sizes to more adequately cover a real roof shape.
If every roof was fully covered in panels, air conditioning costs would drop remarkably and also we'd have more stored electricity for other uses. As I said, a double-hit.
The Dilemma of Marketing
On occasions, I'll make a quick trip to the supermarket to find an item that we may need for dinner (fortunately the store is close-by, so a quick trip for a single item is viable). For the purposes of this yarn, it doesn't matter whether it's frozen peas, canned soup or spaghetti.
Knowing full-well what the packaging looks like, I'll dash to the appropriate location with the intention of grabbing it and rushing out the door (with pause to pay, of course!).
It's nowhere to be seen.
In some degree of desperation, I scan the shelves hoping to find that I've missed it or (worse) seek a suitable alternate.
If (in my total 'maleness!) I don't see the exact image that I saw at home, I will assume the store doesn't currently have it and will have to buy an alternate.
And then I realise... having looked closely at every branded product, I finally note that my product IS on the shelf, it simply looks different. Some (highly-paid) marketing person has decided to 'revamp' the design of the packaging.
Herein is the dilemma of marketing. Leave things alone and there's no need for the product marketing team (including designers, graphics experts etc.).
Thus, these people need to justify their roles and every now-and-again will deliver a "fresh new" ™ look to the product.
The problem with this, is they by doing so, the marketing team, in this rather strong effort to justify their jobs, has granted me implicit permission to look at other brands - at their competitors.
Perhaps there was a major (very expensive) advertising effort across radio, print, TV and social media. Perhaps it didn't reach me, of I simply paid no heed.
Over some period of time, we perhaps decided that the current item was good enough for our needs and bought it regularly, eventually knowing the packaging so well, that we didn't need to have more than a cursory glance to snatch the item off the shelf and into our shopping trolley.
Once that immediate recognition is gone, so too is our product loyalty.
Having been given permission to look at the competitors, we will take up the offer and the brand may never get us back. Until the new-best-friend also changes its look-and-feel, of course!
Product loyalty is a magical thing. Once earned, the best thing for a marketing team to do is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Fiddling with the packaging may-well bring in new customers, but at the cost of losing many currently loyal ones.
I guess it all depends on one's KPI, doesn't it. Will you be rewarded for customer retention or for attracting new ones. What gets measured gets done (just as long as you avoid Goodhart's Law, of course!).
Now, where is that bright pink can of tomato soup? I'm sure it was here last time I shopped....
Musing about passwords...
The *big* problem lies with web sites that insist on 'good' passwords for access to trivial stuff.
I know of one major consulting company that insists on the whole upper / lower / digit / punctuation thing merely to create an account to read their published content.
Those are the kinds of sites that give us all the irits!
I have no problem re-using the same trivial password for sites that need no personal information (or are happy with false data!). As soon as a site records some kind of unique / personal data about me, the 'proper' rules kick in.
I'm fairly sure this attitude is the reason many of the hacks reveal such a plethora of easy-to-guess passwords, passwords that will work on other sites. Despite all the warnings about re-use, I think people are generally more pragmatic than the experts give them credit for. And I think (hope!) that this explains the number of 'easy' passwords that researchers discover in the various troves of stolen credentials.
I know we have seen reports of a breached email address / password list being used to authenticate on a different site, but how often has this been proven to occur where the second location contains personal information? In fact (wondering out loud) have any of the researchers tried the password against the actual email account?
David Heath is a New Zealand-born Australian resident who initially pursued Geology and ended up with a Computer Science degree.