NCAA coaches have a lot in common with data center managers

Your data center manager may be the Coach K of your IT team

NCAA coaches have a lot in common with data center managers
Credit: Thinkstock

As April brings the best college basketball teams together for the final leg of March Madness, college basketball is in full swing. With all this attention on the top teams and programs in country, there is more than one parallel between data center managers and NCAA basketball coaches.

Their management techniques and job descriptions often align: optimizing lineups to ensure they have the best team on the floor in the final seconds of a big game, or stressing teamwork and cooperation during tight deadlines, outages or other time-sensitive situations. Coaches and data center managers play a similar role to ensure their team (or infrastructure) is ready to perform when it matters most.

How is exactly is your data center manager a close cousin to the Roy Williams and Mark Few’s of the world, you ask?

Who’s hot, who’s not: Figure out where the hot or cold spots are in your data center.

  • Some of the tournament’s best coaches instantly recognize winning combinations of players or individuals with the hot shooting hand, capable of making a deep run into April. Hot spots are just as important to identify for data center managers, who keep their finger on the pulse of their data center environment—maintaining a 360-degree view of all assets—to ensure their cooling processes run as efficiently as possible. In this case, the hot hand is a signal to attentive data center managers that adjustments need to be made in their lineup.  

Use your timeouts: Conduct regular checkups of your data center to ensure all your team’s players are on the same page.

  • Much like coaches pressing pause in critical moments throughout the game to ensure their team is all on the same page, data center managers should practice the same techniques to ensure their data center is ready to perform at all times. Regularly conducting health checks of a data center will minimize downtime during outages and ensure your IT team is ready to hit the ground running when inevitable issues arise. This includes everything from power monitoring to identifying ghost servers and legacy systems that may need a substitution. These elements and more all play an integral role in keeping the ball rolling in the data center.   

Teamwork makes the dream work: C-suite and IT departments must learn to share the ball.

  • Nobody likes a ball hog—on or off the court. The constructive dynamic between players and coaches is mirrored in the business world through top-level executives and smaller teams like IT. C-suite and data center managers must learn to play together to ensure the data center runs at peak performance. While executives often focus on a broader picture of business needs and goals and IT is only a sliver of that focus, that doesn’t mean the parties can’t coordinate to improve overall efficiency in the data center. Implementing a data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solution benefits both sides of this relationship, giving IT departments a holistic monitoring solution for data center operations while providing the C-suite with new, detailed insight into cost and energy savings that impact the bottom line.

Know your playbook: Have a play for every situation.

  • Data center managers, like coaches, deal with a lot of high-stress situations—it comes with the territory. For coaches, having a go-to play in the final seconds of a game when their team is down a basket is crucial. Similarly, when data center managers experience an outage or issue within their data center, they must have a pre-existing plan in place to get their data center up and operational as soon as possible to mitigate downtime. This includes many of the steps above, too—understanding your team, understanding the situation, and coordinating with your entire organization to be successful. Good data center managers, like coaches, have disaster recovery plans in place for when they need them most.

So, as you watch your favorite team’s coach hash it out in the final four, be on the look out for some of these management techniques that data center managers and these game leaders have in common. The winning team hoisting the trophy next week will likely have all these pieces in place.

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