One of the great things about the mission-critical industry is the pace of innovation, and the pace of innovation makes the task of building data centers all the more challenging.

Consider that in the past 10-15 years we have seen building booms, consolidation, virtualization, containers and modular construction, blade servers, storage explosions, DCIM, 10G, 40G, and even 100G, and a host of other drivers.

Further up the stack, we have seen an increasingly digital economy, mobile devices, social media, and regulation spurring even greater innovation. Why, when can an industry and its people stop and breathe? There is so much going on and so much to plan.
Certainly not now.

Innovation is tricky to analyze. Books have been written on the subject. Business schools churn out MBAs trained to anticipate and manage it. Analysts do what analysts do, in an attempt to help companies stay ahead of the curve. Yet most of what they do relies on developing a consensus of industry experts, surveying a wide audience, or tracking numbers. Would any of these strategies have prepared us for a world in which Google and Apple would be bigger than Microsoft?
Market drivers are relentless, cannot be denied, and change everything they touch. And early proponents can sometimes seem out of touch.

Superstorm Sandy may be the event that touches off enough demand for increased public safety in the aftermath of natural disasters to drive significant change. Hurricanes and other storms that hit Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana created demands that the nation harden its infrastructure and designate gas stations and even some supermarkets as critical facilities, when gas and food shortages threatened lives. Bhavesh Patel of ASCO and Brian Phelan, formerly of ASCO, often raised the issue to me and in public forums. In time, though, momentum dissipated.

But just this week, I heard Jim Kukla and other Kohler personnel raise the same issue. Gas and food shortages threatened thousands of lives and caused untold suffering in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Patient care was threatened when hospitals lost power, and people couldn’t get to work when mass transit in New York was destroyed or even communicate when telephone and internet services failed. Much, though not all, of this suffering could have been prevented.
So far, Kohler attributes an uptick in generator sales to Sandy, but the storm, I think, is sure to provoke a far-reaching discussion of what upgrades need to be taken to ensure that storm survivors have reasonable access to food, water, health care, heat, communication, and other essential services. Soon after, legislators and regulators will mandate key steps, and set off changes that are sure to impact the data center, hospital, telecom, banking, food, and fuel industries.