Relearning 100-Year-Old Technology

A few years ago I had the privilege and touring the ruins in Pompeii and while walking the ancient roads I couldn’t help but noticing strange blocks of rock in the middle of the road. They simply didn’t make any sense as they would obviously block or at least make passing anything through the roads just a tad more tedious.

As a member of the Engineering Services team, one of most common situations I encounter in the field is that of IT folks not understanding power and energy terms and concepts. These ITSM professionals are typically data center employees who take care of servers, network infrastructures and operations people. They work with and know how to use power. They know how to plug devices and read nameplates but that’s about where their knowledge ends. I often lose them when trying to explain power factors, 3-phase balancing and simple concepts like the relationship between voltage and amperage in relation to power.

Of course, many of us in the DCIM software field, undoubtedly, went through the same thing. As data center software people we had ample experience in networking, security, systems management and so on but not electrical terms and knowledge. It has been a learning curve of at least 3-6 months just to get well acquainted with the terminology and devices.

However, the question remains of why the electrical field is so unfamiliar and sometimes difficult for IT people to learn. In discussing it with multiple customers and colleagues, I came to the conclusion that the electrical field is unfamiliar to IT people because it’s a very old technology. The first alternator, the first power plant and the origins of a distributed grid are all over 100 years old. The electrical engineering field is quite vibrant and relevant but the technology is from another century. Perhaps this is why professionals accustomed to think of very complex systems with sophisticated methodology find it difficult to think of simple equations like voltage * current * power factor = real power.

As for the mysterious rocks blocking ancient Pompeian streets, it turns out that streets flooded and pedestrians needed a way to cross the street so the rocks served as stepping stones. The spaces between the rocks were for the wheels of chariots to pass through; quite practical indeed. It took the mind of a non-driver, my son, to figure it out. I simply couldn’t see how a car could pass with such huge rocks in the way. We later verified it and the boy was right.

By Andrew Sanchez

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