I recently said that people are what get in the way of data centers fulfilling their potential. This time i’ll change tack: it’s people that are fundamental to the next wave of data center evolution.

People are a pain, because data centers have reached a stage where one of the main things holding them back, preventing them from achieving the best in thermodynamics and energy efficiency, is the need to maintain a human-friendly environment. In Project Natick, Ben Cutler of Microsoft wants to put data centers on the ocean floor. The only way to do that is to make this the most “lights-out” facility ever. The data centers will be deeper than skin divers can reach, and they won’t even have breathable air.

infrastructure masons logo
– Infrastructure Masons

Ideas are the heart of it

But this kind of idea can only come from people. Natick, and snow-chilled facilities, and all kinds other developments only emerge because people have thought up something different.

The interesting stuff to follow in data centers is not just the technology, it’s the people behind it. My job at DatacenterDynamics gets me out meeting them all the time. But in the last week or so a new institution has emerged which wants to put people at the heart of the next phase of data center building.

Dean Nelson, having done some major work rethinking data center building at eBay, has set up Infrastructure Masons, which aims to be a professional body for those building the world’s digital structures.

The interesting stuff is not the technology, it’s the people behind it

Infrastructure Masons, he says in a LinkedIn post, will be “dedicated to the advancement of the industry, development of their fellow masons, and empowering business and personal use of the infrastructure to better the economy, the environment, and society as a whole.”

The nod to Freemasonry is deliberate. The original Masons developed from the end of the 14th century, as a body regulating both the knowledge and the morality of the craft of building in stone.

It’s about building

Nelson explains that his father was a builder, whose work created homes that profoundly changed the lives of the people who lived in them. Data centers do the same - at a distance -  for the people that use them.

Nelson is no guru:  “I’ve had a really fun 27-year career so far and have about $3Bn in data center projects under my belt, but I’m dwarfed by many of the members on my advisory council.” Those people include Joe Kava of Google, Christian Belady of Microsoft, Eddie Schutter of Ebay, Tom Furlong of Facebook, Rob Roy of Switch and Jim Smith from Digital Realty.

Whatever comes out of this body, it’s a reminder of the impact data centers have - and the skill of those who provide them.

As a community of infrastructure leaders, Nelson says: “we have personally helped billions of people all over the world. We are the Masons for the digital age. Infrastructure Masons.”

A version of this story appeared on Green Data Center News