X marks the spot

The Data Center



facility apparatus as much as
plant (2) at the end malfunction
reduce overall generation (2)
minor identify efficiency
invoice clipboard determine (2)
gauge itemize felt marker
climb replace sure enough
smock meter (2) take off (2)
ladder assemble disassemble
render capacity surrounding
bill (3) enormous even though
dial (2) after all reason (2)
fee couple (2) stand around
detect excessive break down
staff major (3) lose/lost/lost
output revenue


The Data Center

The Kensington Data Center had been in operation for twenty years. Costing 350 million dollars to construct, it provided data storage for billions of accounts of individual, businesses and organizations around the world.

One evening the center staff detected a reduction in the speed and efficiency of the overall operation. The cause appeared to be a hardware malfunction, somewhere in the servers.

But try as they might, the plant engineers could not identify and solve the problem.

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The Expert

Add so the director contacted a professor of data center construction and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to see if he could determine what was wrong.

The professor agreed to assist them.

When he arrived, he put on a white coat, took his clipboard, and went to work.

For the next two days he walked around, studying the hundreds of dials and gauges in the control room, making notes and calculations.

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At the end of the second day, the professor took a black felt marker out of his pocket, climbed up a ladder, and put a large, black “X” on one of the ports of a server.

“This is where the problem lies,” he explained. “Repair and replace apparatus RC698-46LCQ51163LB, and the problem will be solved.”

He then took off his white smock, took a taxi back to the airport, and flew home.

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

Get to Work

The engineers when to work, opening the server, located the apparatus and discovered that — sure enough — it was defective, and causing the problem.

It was replaced — and the data center resumed running at full capacity.

By this time, the plant had lost hundreds of millions dollars in revenue due to reduced or blocked traffic flow.

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .


About a week later, the data center director received a mail from the professor. He opened it: it was a bill — for one million dollars for services rendered.

“WHAT?!” said the director to his assistant. “This is way too much, even though we have become a multi-billion dollar operational facility, and the problem had been costing us enormous amounts of money in lost data handling capability.”

After all, the director reasoned, the professor had come in, stood around for a couple of days, written a black “X” on one of the gauges, and then returned home.

A million dollars seemed like a high fee for such a simple task!

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

The director then wrote back to the professor:

“We have receive your bill. Could you please break down and itemize your charges. It seemed that all you did was write one “X” on a single gauge.

$1 million seems far too excessive for this amount of work.”

Some days later, the director received a new invoice from the professor.

It said,

1. For placing ‘X’ on gauge, $1.00
2. For knowing exactly where to place the ‘X’, $999,999.00

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1. The story took place at a automotive factory. True or false?

2. What happened one day? Could the technicians and engineers fix (repair) the malfunction?

3. What did the data center director do (to fix the problem)?

4. Did the professor actually repair the problem? What did he do?

5. What did the technicians do? The technicians . . . . . . .

6. The data center director never heard from the professor again. Is this right or wrong? What happened a week later? A week later,

7. Was the data center director surprised? Why was he surprised? He felt that the professor was overcharging him. Is this correct or incorrect?

8. What did the director do? What did the professor do?

9. Was the professor “cheating, ripping off or swindling” the data center? What is the moral or lesson of the story?
A. Do you feel that you sometimes get overcharged or ripped off?

B. Who earns a million-plus dollars a year?

C. Are there people in your field or industry that earn lots of money? Why are they earning so much money?

D. Do you know anyone who is similar to the consultant in the story? Do you have any friends, former classmates or colleagues who are earning top dollars due to their expertise? What is his or her trade? What is her or his specialty?

E. How could you earn top dollars in your field or profession?

F. What might happen in the future?

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