Seamus K - Irish tech industry expat living in Sweden.

Day: 29 January 2016

Star Wars – The Force awakens – what did I think?

Skellig Michael, when I visited it in 2006.

Skellig Michael, when I visited it in 2006.

I finally got to see the new Star Wars film this evening. The internet is flooded with spoliers so there weren’t too many secrets for me to learn (BTW, very mild spoliers here).

The opinions I had heard from friends were mixed, so I went in with a degree of trepidation. But I have to say that as things got going I started to enjoy myself. Yeah, the story is a total re-hash of the 1977 one. But you can forgive that if the scenes and spectacle are done well. And as the film went on, well I got more and more disappointed by it.

For every thing I saw that gave me a little smile, or an internal “nice” there were two that made me cringe, or go “that is just daft”. For the last half hour, during the climatic battle, I was just bored. I found myself checking my watch and being more worried about getting to the supermarket on the way home.

The highlight of the film had to be when the Skelligs appeared. I actually felt a lump appear in my throat. The Swede beside me in the cinema even went “Wow”. It’s funny that the most amazing spectacle in a CGI laden blockbuster was the two minute scene shot on an island with 1500 year old ruins that (AFAIK) were not tweaked.

Frankly the rest of it you can keep. The two new main characters were okay, but the rest were bad. A forgettable good guy (Poe), a villiain who quite literally was a petulant whiny teenager, another one who was like a reject from a b-list computer game (Snoke’s arm movements, and the gigantic size of the hologram just made him seem cartoonish, not intimidating). And there were the usual Star Wars WTF plot holes, things that make absolutely no sense, and the amazing coincidences that brings characters, props, and so on all together all the time.

And in a lot of the ways that was something that really felt wrong about the film. For all their faults Lucas’ Star Wars films felt BIG. There was a sense of scale to the sets, the planets and the universe that the characters lived in (if you overlook the fact that it’s set in a galaxy where only people with the family name Skywalker get to matter). After the opening scenes this film felt small. The Starkiller thing was an embarrasing example of this.

The overall impression I took away was that if the other Star Wars films never existed, and there hadn’t been the hype and expectation (not to mention the massive amount of marketing and product tie-ins), then this film would have been regarded as something like Guardians of the Galaxy – fun but forgettable.

I know there are 2 more to come in this series. They have a bit of a hill to climb if in the long run people don’t end up regarding these as another set of average sequels.

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Data Centres – the factories of the 21st century

One of Ericsson's global data centres outside Stockholm.

One of Ericsson’s global Data Centres outside Stockholm (it was snowing).

Yesterday I was at the opening of Ericsson’s new global data centre outside Stockholm. We were given a virtual tour of some of the building via an Oculus, and a real one through two of computer spaces. It was pretty impressive. Each of the computer spaces has a 4.5MW power capacity. And they can accommodate power densities of 10s of KW per rack (many legacy DCs struggle to go beyond 6-8 kW). The overall site is 20,000sqm and is one of three new global ICT centres Ericsson is bringing online at the moment.

Servers in ericsson data centre the 21st century factory

Foto: Ericsson/Lasse Hejdenberg

Back when I started my career, my first job out of college was in a factory working as a process engineer and production manager for the production lines there. A decade or two later my work is all focused around Data Centres and what goes on (and into) them. In a lot of the ways I am back where I started.

The industrial revolution gave us factories that built widgets that everyone bought. Even just twenty years ago your money would buy you real goods. Physical things you could touch and bring home. But now the greatest growth is in digital goods. Gamers pay for ad-ons like levels, maps, avatars, virtual weapons, clothing and vehicles. Children look for new apps for the family tablet. Music, podcasts, films, and books are streamed to billions of devices, and users never even hold a local copy. These are things exist only as 1s and 0s. And for the most part their existence is within a data centre somewhere.

In the enterprise the office server room is dead and gone. IT infrastructure and workloads are all moving to clouds – private ones in for large enterprises, and the vast hyperscale public clouds for companies large and small. Data is the key asset class today.

And the place where it is stored, manipulated, and value is generated from that data is the Data Centre. Which is why Data Centres are the factories of the 21st century.

I am not making moisturizer cream any more, but I like to think I am not too far from where I was 20 years ago.

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