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Networking expert Carrie Higbie shares advice for newcomers

Carrie Higbie, networking expert, brings her long-term data center experience and sense of fun to SearchDataCenter's advisory board.

For over 30 years, Carrie Higbie has been involved in the computing and networking industries.

Currently with The Siemon Company as the global director for data center solutions and services, Higbie supports end users and active electronics manufacturers.

Higbie brings broad technical experience and knowledge about cutting-edge network technologies to the SearchDataCenter Advisory Board, having worked with people at all levels of the data center.

What is your IT background?

Carrie Higbie: I did everything in the data center. I was writing programs and then consulting engineering within that same company, and then I worked with end users on data center designs and audits.

Carrie HigbieCarrie Higbie

My favorite job is what I am doing now: consulting. There is a large technology aspect to it, and the technology is always changing. You get to be creative and develop data center training. It's something different every day.

What advice would you give someone just starting out in data centers?

Higbie: Keep your options open. A lot of kids try to get every certification available, but they also need practical experience. I would say the knowledge you have isn't as important as what you don't know. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

It is important to remember that you have to adapt to different circumstances.

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

I have over 30 certifications, but most of them I doesn't use.
Carrie Higbieglobal director of data center solutions and services, Siemons

Higbie: I have over 30 certifications, but most of them I doesn't use.

The most actively useful certifications that I have are BISCI RCDD [Registered Communications Distribution Designer] and NTS [Network Technology Systems], CDCP [Certified Data Center Professional], and CDCS [Certified Data Center Specialist].

Certification classes are brutal, so I will only get another if they are necessary for a project I'm working on.

What is your favorite data center system?

Higbie: I don't have a favorite machine per se, because they all have their own benefits. But the components that run as an ecosystem are promising. SDN [software-defined networking] is a game-changer, but VMware [virtualization] is the biggest game-changer; it gets a lot of capacity back.

What is the most challenging issue you faced in a data center?

Higbie: A lot of data centers are changing, but the most challenging issue I face is with data centers that grow organically and don't have a plan. Everything is a mess, chillers don't run right and no one knows how to fix the problem. A lot of data centers even go without hot/cold aisle containment.

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

Higbie: The data center is an ecosystem, and one department affects everyone else. You have to treat all areas of the data center, especially the budget, as interdepartmental decisions.

CIOs aren't calling [crap] on what's the best way to go.

How do you troubleshoot that?

You have to have fun in IT; you have to have fun in any job. I like to prank the members of my staff.

Once, I put Mexican jumping beans in my secretary's computer monitor. When it got hot, they started making noises and she couldn't figure out where it was coming from.

Where do you see the industry heading?

Higbie: There is a lot of waste in the data center, but people are making smarter decisions [now].

I think SDN has a play in where the industry is going. There is too much talk about green data centers right now.

A lot of people are pushing top-of-rack [networking], which is bad because then you have to buy more parts. Everyone is moving away from Layer 3 heavy routed servers.

Recommissioning and decommissioning won't happen anymore. There will be a smarter use of each tech dollar spent. Admins won't be buying the latest and greatest technology; they will be keeping hardware longer.

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What is the hardest challenge in a data center?

I think the hardest challenges are keeping up with the constant changes.

Ever12705, in your opinion, what's the hardest change to keep up with in your data center?
Expanding the number of servers in a data center, or to a new facility completely?