Saturday, June 22, 2024 Jun 22, 2024
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Commercial Real Estate

Brant Bernet: Spanish Sardines and Your Data Center

Patience isn’t always a virtue—to which anyone who has been told to “be patient, our servers are down, but give it a few minutes and we’ll be up and running” can attest. We live in a time where we expect everything to happen now. I don’t mean today, or in the next hour, I mean in this very instant.
Brant Bernet
Brant Bernet

Last Thanksgiving, I was asked by my beautiful and sweet niece if I would come to Florida and officiate her wedding. I had done the same thing for her equally beautiful and sweet sister a few years before, so to be asked to do it again was humbling beyond words. (It also made me question the sanity of niece No. 2. I don’t want to diminish my preaching credentials, but you, too, can become a licensed minister in Florida by filling out an online questionnaire and mailing in a $35 check.)

A couple days before the wedding, I found myself alone on a stunning Florida beach, looking out over the crystal-clear water, trying to come up with a believable medical condition that would keep me from having to preside over my niece’s wedding. Just try being responsible for something that will remain etched in memories … forever. Thankfully, before I could come up with a good plan, my thoughts were distracted by an unnatural amount of Gulf activity.

First, I saw the out-of-place ripples in the water; then, I saw the birds—a lot of them. Next, I noticed that with every breaking wave, millions of tiny glass minnows were being deposited on the shoreline. I had been on this beach at sunrise 100 times and had never seen anything like it. Then, I saw them. Thousands of them. The greatest bait fish in the history of bait fish … the Sardinella Aurita—Spanish Sardine!

I could see them, my surf rod was already in the water (but my hooks were baited with synthetic sand fleas—not even close by comparison) and I had my trusty two-man seine net by my side. Yep, two-man. I needed a buddy, or I would be fishing with my little gummy-bear-looking things or smelly shrimp all day.

Then it hit me—my oldest son was sawing logs in his bed just 100 yards away. I figured in the old days, guys would have sons just so they would have someone to help them plow the back 40. I had never asked that of him, so he owed me. My adrenaline was running high as I burst into his room and shook him out of his bed. “Come on! I need help! NOW!” This is a great kid (he is a 22–year-old senior at Texas Tech, but he’s still my kid), and with an extremely confused look on his face, he pulled himself out of bed and made his way down to the beach, where I was impatiently standing and scoping out the fish scene.

The water was cold and my semi-awake, semi-willing partner, who had been sleeping soundly only 2 minutes earlier, was starting to realize that the old man was actually crazy. In we went. My dad and I used to catch fish in a net off the shores of Galveston and South Padre when I was a little boy, so it is always a happy activity for me; for my oldest, not so much. We stopped about 45 feet out and jammed the poles into the sand. As fast as we could, we ran the net through the clear water, back to shore and dropped the net on the beach to reveal our bounty! We had managed to land a single glass minnow and a broken sand dollar.

What?! Are you kidding me? We passed hundreds of fish on our trek back to the shore. Bad luck…let’s try that again. We did the same, the exact thing, only this time, we caught nothing—nada, zilch. I was about to lose my first mate, and it was time for a new plan.
On the third try, we walked out only 10 feet, held the net above the water and just waited. In about 5 minutes, the fish had moved between us and the shore and we slowly put our net into position. With one strong burst, we rushed to shore and BOOM, so many sardines, we could barely pull the net out of the water. Our patience had paid off.

Patience isn’t always a virtue—to which anyone who has been told to “be patient, our servers are down, but give it a few minutes and we’ll be up and running” can attest. We live in a time where we expect everything to happen now. I don’t mean today, or in the next hour, I mean in this very instant. If you are like me, you can close your eyes and visualize an email page on your computer. You know the exact dimensions of the “Send” button and you know precisely where it is located on the page, without looking. (Try it.)

Our clients, our friends, and our families demand that we are “online” and up and running at all times. So when our servers crash, we all feel it. I am reminded of a great post I read about the cause and effects of outages at some of the world’s largest brands. The article proves that no company is able to hide from the problem, and that every company should take the necessary steps to secure data center space that minimizes this risk.

When Amazon went down last year, they took with them Netflix, Instagram (I know, right?), Pinterest, and others. What is the world to do without those sites? And when American Airlines lost its reservation system recently, an estimated 100,000 customers were affected, and countless dollars were lost.

So, where are your servers? Are they in a safe environment? Have you assessed your risk lately? A word of advice: Don’t put it off, because server demons wait for no one.

Well, freshly caught sardines either need to go right back in the water or right on the hook, so we put two of them on our hooks and threw the rest back. An hour or so later I was reeling in a 30-pound redfish, thanks to the sacrifice of my little Spanish amigos.

The entire morning was an experience that I will never forget. The wedding was held in one of the most scenic places I have ever seen and, despite its amateurish emcee, it went off without a hitch. If only our computers could run so smoothly.

Brant Bernet is senior vice president of CBRE, where he leads the firm’s critical environments group in Dallas. Contact him at [email protected].