The Untold Stories of the Builders of the Digital Age
A Forthcoming Book by Infrastructure Masons
Every day, billions of people share updates on Facebook, do searches on Google, post pictures on Instagram, send money on PayPal, buy things on Alibaba. They don’t see the millions of miles of fiber cables and tens of millions of square feet of data center space and hundreds of millions of servers, switches and other hardware that enable them to do these things – and so much more, now taken for granted.
From the mundane to the critical, every aspect of our lives now depends upon digital infrastructure. There’s the Internet and all it enables, of course. But also: Farmers rely on it to grow our food. Police officers and firefighters rely on it to keep us safe. Banks rely on it to keep track of our money. Doctors rely on it to diagnose and treat what ails us.
Yet most people have no idea what it has taken to build that digital infrastructure, to power it, secure it, or maintain it. They have no idea about the innovations developed, the tough decisions made, the crises averted, and the lessons learned by the people who make digital infrastructure work – by the builders of our digital age. This book is about stepping behind the curtain to talk with those innovators, and to hear and then share their stories. This book will tell the untold stories behind digital infrastructure.
Increasing reliance on digital infrastructure
Reliance on digital infrastructure brings to mind silly anecdotes, like when people in Los Angeles called 911 to report that Facebook was down. (In a twist of irony, the sheriff took to Twitter to explain that he had no idea why Facebook was down and no power to bring it back.) There are also serious anecdotes. Like how the grandson in Mountain View used Google to locate his grandfather in Japan after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the country’s eastern coast.
And of course, digital infrastructure supports much more than social networks. Not only would you be unable to access your bank account through your phone, without it, you wouldn’t be able to get money from the teller either. If the digital infrastructure underlying the stock exchanges went down, trillions of dollars in global trades would halt. You could dial 911, but the dispatcher probably wouldn’t be able to send help, were it not for digital infrastructure. And if you’re one of the millions of people with a pacemaker or defibrillator, your doctor wouldn’t be alerted to signs of an impending heart attack.
Infrastructure doesn’t just work
As critical as digital infrastructure is, most people have no idea how it works, or how fragile it can be. People expect it to just work. Of course, infrastructure – of any kind – doesn’t just work. And it’s often far more fragile than people realize.
When 50 million people in Canada and the Northeastern U.S. lost power in a blackout that killed 11 people and caused $6 billion in damages, people realized that the electric grid doesn’t just work. When the residents of Flint, Michigan learned that their tap water had been poisoning them for two years, people realized that water treatment systems don’t just work.
Behind the curtain
It’s time for people to realize how digital infrastructure works – before catastrophe strikes. To realize that it works only because of the people who figured out how to overcome the technical and logistical challenges to lay millions of miles of fiber optic cables across land and sea. The people who figured out how to support hundredfold increases in demand every year, with hardware typically built to last 20 years. The people who answer the call in the middle of the night when a data center has failed and needs to be brought back online.
It’s time for people to realize that digital infrastructure works because of you. It’s time for people to learn about the sleepless nights, the eureka! moments, the unexpected detours, the near misses, the triumphs and tribulations that define your experience as a builder of the digital age. It’s time for people to hear your story.
Why we’re writing this book
It is precisely because of people’s demand for the fastest route to their destination, instant access to data, compute on demand, etc. that leaders at the hyperscale companies, the cloud titans, and the huge data center providers have built their giant – and growing – portfolios of digital infrastructure. Demand has driven growth at every layer of the digital foundation: The data centers. The compute. The storage. The network. And the software that makes it work.
And the growth has been massive.
That is why we are writing this book: to tell the stories of individuals who drove that growth to pass on the knowledge of the journey to their successors. In shedding light on an essential yet largely unseen industry and the people who have built and run it, we’re educating the next generation of digital infrastructure leaders, teachers, policymakers, and the public how to ensure a positive future for the industry and those it affects (which is everyone and everything, of course).
We will be interviewing approximately 50 (or more) digital infrastructure leaders – people who have built some of the biggest portfolios in the world. Their stories – your story – will form the foundation of the book. Our aim is to represent the industry holistically with leaders in data center, network, hardware, software, and security, though our heaviest focus will be on the data center and hardware since they represent the majority of the spend and the most underrepresented aspects of digital infrastructure.
If you’re a digital infrastructure leader with a story to tell and would like to be considered for inclusion in the book, email firstname.lastname@example.org