Working in the Data Center Group – Moving IT Forward

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Today we are talking with Jonathan Stern, SPDK and ISA-L Applications Engineer with Intel’s Data Center Group (DCG). Jon sheds some light into the mission and culture of the DCG at Intel and the amazing difference IT professionals can make when they work here.

Significance and Impact

From my perspective, data centers are where all of the most exciting developments are happening with respect to the maturation of IT. In the modern world, everyone uses services that rely on servers—for example, email—but very few people have their own servers. They use clients hosted in data centers around the world to enable some of the most basic functions we associate with IT devices, they never actually see the servers. We’re in the middle of a generational shift where more and more of our computing is being done in the data center rather than locally, and we just access a small part of that power and information as we need it. At the same time, the cost of running these data centers has become low enough that the services they can provide can be offered for free by subsidizing the cost with ad revenue. Which is why you don’t have to pay for email or many cloud storage services. This dynamic is leading to a world in which data centers are playing a central role in how we view computer capabilities in a practical sense, and from my perspective, Intel is one of the leaders of this revolution by providing the best parts—hardware and software—to improve the capabilities of these data centers in a tremendous number of areas. We’re basically building the infrastructure that will support the next generation of computing devices. Though a lot of innovation is being done in the space above us, we are making that innovation possible by creating the roads and tracks that other companies’ vehicles can run best on.

The Difference of Working at Intel

There’s a few key points to why Intel is in a position to advance this field. One is our breadth. Because we reach into so many areas, it enables us to get a good understanding of our customer’s problems and then do the hard work of bringing genuinely new technology to market that can address those problems. We don’t have to be constrained to finding workaround solutions to problems using existing technology, we can actually question the nature of the problem and design new technology from the ground up to address it. Additionally, when we come up with that new technology, we have what it takes to actually bring that to market. It’s easy to prove something in a lab and create a proof of concept, but making that idea practical and marketable enough to ship is very hard. Intel DCG can actually make this possible because our breadth allows us to understand and work on every aspect of a problem and create a complete solution that integrates the new idea rather than just a component.

Another point is that Intel applies its new developments to its own IT organization. When you are running IT for a company as large and technically invested as Intel, you are going to need IT solutions that are robust enough to handle some pretty extreme needs. By taking the approach of developing for our own organization as well as others, we improve our understanding of our customers’ perspectives and needs, because we are customers ourselves.

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Working in DCG

One of the best things about working in this group is the ability “get in the trenches” and get a working understanding of the situations our customers have to deal with. That experience permeates our working culture and leads to a genuine desire to find real solutions for real problems rather than just chasing after minute improvements in specs.

I also want to talk about the impact diversity has in our group. Having a lot of different ideas at one table is immensely important for driving the conversation, and you get that degree of variance in ideas by including a diversity of backgrounds. For example, I am currently working with a team that works on storage. That’s a big category, and there’s a lot of different ways of thinking about how to go about creating storage solutions. Perspectives on my team come from people with backgrounds in each of those arenas and all over the world. By hashing out a problem among all these different frames of mind, we can achieve a much stronger sort of innovation than if we were to only follow one philosophy. This also has the effect of requiring our explanations of our thought processes to one another to be extremely detailed, so our points are understood, which can reveal underlying assumptions that can be challenged.

Pride in your Career

I feel a great sense of pride when I see the ramifications of future technology being developed in the other business units here and get into the work of making the data center ready to support that technology. Knowing that my work is enabling all of those interesting developments in IoT, Connectivity, and Cloud software to provide the amazing experiences they advertise because they can make use of the infrastructure that I had a hand in putting together, it makes you feel like you are working on the backbone of all the technology we are using now and in the future.

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