It’s going on in your lab right now, under your very nose. Yes, it’s hoarding.
Compulsive hoarding, also known as hoarding disorder, syllogomania and disposophobia, is a pattern of behavior characterized by excessive acquisition and an inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that cover the living areas of the home and cause significant distress or impairment. Compulsive hoarders may be conscious of their irrational behavior, but the emotional attachment to the hoarded objects far exceeds the motive to discard the items.
If you recognize any of these warning signs, you too may have a hoarding epidemic:
- Equipment hidden under an engineer’s desk for months at a time.
- Servers in your lab that someone insists they are using for their testing, but you could swear are not even turned on.
- You need to move racks of equipment to a new lab and you can’t find anyone who even knows what those racks are for.
- You shut down the power to a row of servers and no one calls to complain.
Why have so many of your engineers and developers contracted this terrible disorder? It’s not their fault; they need lab management. You might recognize the following situation:
Fred, your top test engineer, has spent the last week configuring the network and all of the servers, virtual machines and software to exactly match the production configuration in preparation for a series of tests. He goes home for the weekend and comes back on Monday to find that his switches have been reconfigured, new firmware loaded, and all of his servers have new software on them. After much screaming and hair pulling, it is determined that another test engineer reconfigured those machines and switches for his own tests, not knowing that Fred had just configured them.
Fred starts the configuration process again. But, this time, he gets exclusive access to the equipment and when he is finished with his tests, he just doesn’t tell anyone. He is on his way to becoming a hoarder. Months later, Fred will transfer to another group and that switch he was hoarding now becomes a ghost.
Most labs have elaborate processes in place to find and eliminate hoarding because it causes organizations to spend much more than they need to on capital equipment and the associated power, cooling, floor space and so on. In addition, it greatly reduces their testing and development speed because equipment is used so inefficiently.
So, what can be done about the hoarding epidemic? Simply put, turn your lab into a service. When engineers can get the equipment and resources they need, when they need it, with the ability to automate the setup and teardown of those resources, then hoarding will eventually stop.
Lab-as-a-Service Through Sandboxes
Lab-as-a-service means that your engineers and developers have a self-service interface that allows them to develop, design and publish, and reserve and use entire configurations of equipment. These configurations are called “sandboxes.” Each sandbox is a blueprint for a configuration of infrastructure (physical, virtual and cloud) and applications that the engineer will need on demand. Once a sandbox is reserved, it will automatically set up that configuration, including ensuring that all of the necessary components are available and configured as needed for the testing or other lab activity. In addition, the activity itself can also be automated inside the sandbox.
By moving to self-service and automated access to all of the lab’s equipment through sandboxes, lab managers gain complete visibility and control over all of the resources in the lab. If any resources are not part of an active or planned sandbox reservation, the lab manager knows that the equipment is not in use. By collecting business-intelligence data about sandbox and infrastructure use over time, lab managers can identify equipment that is no longer in use, or even equipment that could be powered down between reservations.
Although this approach might appear to give all control to the managers of the lab, it also gives much more control to the engineers and developers: they can design blueprints that meet their exact requirements, and they no longer have to go out and find equipment that matches those requirements. The sandbox software will find and reserve the equipment needed for any blueprint on the fly. In addition, the setup and configuration of that equipment is fully automated, so the engineer need not do manual configuration. The sandbox, once active, is protected from any outside interference or accidental reconfiguration.
The results can be dramatic. Most labs report that they can increase their efficiency by over 100% through the use of lab-as-a-service. They buy less equipment and they reduce setup and teardown time for infrastructure. They also immediately improve test success rates by 20–50% by eliminating configuration errors. But most importantly, they can eliminate hoarding, which costs even small data centers millions of dollars per year.
So, act now to eliminate hoarding in your lab, before it’s too late.
About the Author
Joan Wrabetz is chief technology officer for QualiSystems. Before her current role, she was vice president and chief technology officer for the Emerging Product Division of EMC.
Joan has over 20 years of executive management experience at public and privately held technology companies. She has been an executive at a number of startup technology companies, has been a venture partner with BlueStream Ventures and has been on the board of directors or advisory board of many early-stage technology companies. She was the founder and CEO of Aumnidata, a developer of big-data analytics technology. She was CEO of Tricord Systems (acquired by Adaptec), one of the first companies to introduce a commercial product based on distributed-file-system technology. Earlier, Joan was vice president and general manager for SAN operations at StorageTek, a $650 million revenue business, responsible for all open-systems products including tape libraries, disk systems and SAN switches. Before joining StorageTek, she was the founder and CEO of Aggregate Computing, a grid-computing software company acquired by Platinum Technologies. Before that, she held management and senior technical positions at Control Data Corporation and SRI International.
Joan holds an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, an MSEE from Stanford University and a BSEE from Yale University. She has taught as an adjunct faculty member at the University of St. Thomas, St. Mary’s University and the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota. She holds patents in load balancing, distributed systems and machine-learning classification and analytics.