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Interxion exec Ian McVey talks data center fundamentals

Interxion exec Ian McVey shares why the data center building blocks add value to an organization -- proving that, no matter how abstracted, servers with blinking lights still matter.

For nearly two decades, Ian McVey has determined strategy and marketing for IT organizations.

In his time working with IT, he saw innovation in Epson America's Internet kiosks firsthand in 1997 while doing strategy consulting for LEK Consulting. McVey witnessed the formation of the Application Service Provider model -- Cloud V 1.0 -- while at a telecom company. Later, at Microsoft, he led the first deal globally for Microsoft Office 365 via reseller.

McVey is now director of the enterprise and systems integrators segments at Interxion, a European carrier-neutral colocation and services provider. Since 2011, he has focused on tying together applications and networks there. He brings an appreciation for data center fundamentals -- as well as how IT building blocks, cloud and applications affect each other -- to SearchDataCenter's advisory board.

What advice would you give someone just starting out in the field?

Ian McVeyIan McVey

Ian McVey: Go be a data scientist [laughs].

IT is always considered on a downward trend to commoditization -- but it is the orchestration and assembly of the IT building blocks that leads to value and differentiation for an organization. If you have domain expertise, and have been the orchestrator or integrator of those assets, you won't be without a job. There are a lot of internal IT jobs that fall by the wayside, but there's opportunity there. It frees up internal IT staff to be up-skilled and support the organization to realize business value from its IT operations.

Do you have any technical certifications? Are they are necessary?

McVey: I don't have a computer science degree -- so I consider myself more of a hobbyist. Technology education doesn't prohibit [my career], but I have seen top IT executives who benefit from having computer science certifications.

I think about the missed opportunities of a computer science degree because there is strong value in computer science education and how you understand IT principles. It needs to build first from principles to ensure deep understanding. Focusing just on application development/coding, for example, may be a missed opportunity in understanding how software and the underlying physical assets interoperate.

What is the most challenging issue you have ever faced in the data center? How was it solved?

McVey: [One is] scaling to meet demand. You have to be able to build out in advance, but not too far in advance that you end up with empty space for too long of a time. I have a segmented international country model that helps with this [issue]; it demands planning to make sure you have what you need, when you need it.

Turn up the lights

"When I first walked around a data center I was captured by the blinking lights of servers. What those flashing lights represent is fascinating to me. The physical asset -- where the Internet lives -- captures my fascination," McVey told SearchDataCenter.

You have to keep the data center running at capacity -- like when the Olympic games [were held] in London -- [the IT infrastructure] was at a 95% power draw and it took a lot of work and competency to keep it at capacity -- not every data center operator could have managed critical infrastructure in this way.

What is the most important lesson you learned about working in the data center?

McVey: It all comes down to a server in a rack in a building.

Everything comes back to the physical assets, and not forgetting that [is important] -- not overly losing consideration for physical assets of the data center.

Where do you see the data center industry heading?

McVey: Simply, commoditization and value in a happy union.

IT and business, physical vs. virtual -- these parallels show the industry is headed in a similar dance. Both parallels have to be accepted as one. You need a [total] orchestration of solutions. There is going to be a community of interest.

What is the worst IT question a friend/family member has asked you?

McVey: There are expectations that you can fix everything. [It's mostly] tech support for your family.

This was last published in October 2014

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