Data Center Technician: It’s Child’s Play at Facebook

Data Center Technician: It’s Child’s Play at Facebook

Summary: A datacenter summer intern program at Facebook raises an interesting question

TOPICS: Data Centers

Summer internships in specialized fields offered to high school students often consist of little more than following around a professional and being a general purpose gofer.  Being permitted or encouraged to work independently in an internship is more often the realm of college or graduate level programs, where a basic set of skills applicable to the internship can be guaranteed. But according to an article in The Bulletin of Bend, OR newspaper two high school students are doing just that as summer interns before their senior year at Facebook’s Pineville datacenter.

Joshua Crass, the Manager of Facebook’s datacenter, was quoted as saying “We wanted to give some high school students some opportunities for a technology work setting. Hopefully, they'll learn a lot about technology and working."

Working in conjunction with the principal of the local high school, five candidates were selected to go through the application process for the internships, which required the students to go through a process similar to that they would find in the real world, with the need to develop an appropriate resume and go through a formal interview process.

Once hired the two interns were given basic training on the datacenter and, according to the article “ready to replace servers on their own.” They are in the trenches, assisting in the ongoing process of datacenter hardware maintenance, helping the installation and upgrade of compute and networking resources.

If successful, this internship program brings an interesting issue to light. If the skills necessary to handle routine datacenter maintenance  are well within the grasp of bright, motivated high school students, why shouldn’t datacenter operators invest in having only a few highly trained and certified personal available, with the bulk of the datacenter physical operations team being entry level personnel trained in little more than swapping hardware trays?

Topic: Data Centers

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  • Link to the source please

    Could you please provide a link to the source article? Bulletin of Bend is either poorly constructed or is facing some issues and I don't have the patience to look through all those links in the home page.

    Without knowing what was actually revealed in the article, this article assumes too much about student's abilities. Knowledge alone will not be enough to run a data center, you also need a lot of experience handling tough situations. That aside, the interns typically work either under their mentor's supervision or in a non critical environment.
    • Unfortunately

      The source article is behind a paywall, which is why I couldn't link directly.
      David Chernicoff
  • Some do that

    I work for a company that is a major hardware (and software) provider for military forces. In the country I work for, there is an obligatory draft. And indeed, they have simple draftees handle simple, plain tasks, and more educated people with a serious, longer training, to handle the complex issues. Makes a lot of sense indeed. But most companies already work that way.... Most modern IT companies have at least 6 'ranks' in the IT dept. I think the concept of ranks and promotion is highly relevant and very applicable to IT in particular, just like it is to the military.
    Daniel Breslauer
  • Simple answer

    Not all datacenter work is simply replacing or installing hardware in answer to your question...

    "why shouldn’t datacenter operators invest in having only a few highly trained and certified personal available, with the bulk of the datacenter physical operations team being entry level personnel trained in little more than swapping hardware trays?"

    However, with today's cloud strategies and management software ... actual datacenter hands on is limited. The real work is in solutioning the build automation, automating scale up/down events etc. Some physical operators don't even bother replacing servers ... they buy them by complete racks and when >X% fail the entire rack is replaced. Lets say you have 2-4 fiber connections and 2 power connections into a rack and some quick disconnect hardware ... done. out with the old in with the new... the whole unit swapped in 30 minutes.
  • That's what they do

    Data centers and the hosting providers that host at a data center typically already do that.

    It's one of the reasons we get called in; just because you're an Oracle DBA doesn't mean you know how to administer the Oracle ERP.

    Same thing on the hardware side; if you asked one of those students doing the "Racking and stacking" to zone a fiber attachment ... even the pro's call in pro's that do that on a regular basis.

    It just means a lot of frustration for the mid market; they like the stabiity and cost savings most times but when something goes wrong, it can take a WHILE until all the layers get traversed and something that should take 5 minutes to fix is actually fixed.

    == John ==
  • No engineering?

    But they were not exposed to the engineering, architecting or programming - the actual drivers behind facebook?

    They only did hot-swapping? Encouraging them into a career whose jobs are dripping into India or China? But not exposing them to careers where there are actual shortage of skills in the country?
    Cynthia Avishegnath