Data control: On365 CTO says tracking equipment is key

Each week we ask chief technology officers and other high-profile tech decision-makers three questions.

Image caption Monitoring the efficiency of your data centre is all important, says Chris Cookman

This week, Chris Cookman, chief technology officer (CTO) of on365, is providing the answers.

On365 is a specialist provider of critical power and cooling services for IT. With over 25 years' experience, they specialise in the design, installation, maintenance and optimisation of critical physical IT infrastructure and utility services.

The company currently employs 45 permanent staff worldwide, with additional staff on a freelance basis for jobs around the globe. Turnover for 2010 was £9.5m ($15.5m).

What's your biggest technology problem right now?

I would say owners and managers of data centres who have spent millions of pounds on the monitoring and management of their IT estate.

They know exactly what's happening, and more importantly they know about the impact on the service due to change.

But very few have the same degree of understanding when it comes to the mechanical and electrical equipment, the power supply, cooling, UPS [uninterruptible power supply] etc.

It's just as key to delivering on the two measures senior executives care about most.

Those two are to be more flexible and efficient, demonstrating savings, that sort of thing. The other one is it's got to work, so I can stay in a job.

Sometimes "my data centre's full" comes the cry. Well perhaps it isn't, but you have to be able to prove that. That then might prevent an expensive contract to find more space, or another lost opportunity might be to provide further equipment to deliver more clients into that space.

I think that's one of the big issues at the moment, and it's all about measurement and monitoring efficiency.

What's the next big tech thing in your industry?

You can't manage what you don't measure, and I think that data centre infrastructure management is going to become a management tier in its own right.

[Technology analysts] Gartner have said that market penetration will grow from about 1% in 2010 to about 60% by 2014.

Companies should be looking at this right now. Your driver could be data centre consolidation, heat and power problems, being more efficient, proving how green you are, or conforming to new government regulation.

Firms have to constantly measure any under-performance of these M&E [Mechanical and Electrical] systems, and prove that they're showing continuous improvement.

What's the biggest technology mistake you've ever made - either at work or in your own life?

I'll give you a lesson I learnt.

I was once asked early in my career by a CIO [chief information officer] what box a particularly new relational database software best ran on.

I mulled the question through, thinking in those days of Unix server manufacturers that he might have in mind. And having hesitated long enough he put me out of my misery and looked me squarely in the eyes and said "overhead projector".

This was a salutary lesson that the best product is nothing without good sales and marketing.

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