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Data Centers as Depicted by Hollywood

hollywood data centers
06.19.19
Edna Francis

We see them all the time, well-orchestrated and seemingly made to look real—the effect of data center cameos. Straight from sci-fi movies are supercomputers alongside an interconnected rack of servers, mimicking a real-life data center.

If you’re a sci-fi movie addict, this might be music to your ears: Hollywood can’t stop churning out roles depicting data centers, and they’re doing it with all alacrity. Does that scare you?  That goes to show that in the coming days or months, many more will rain down like a pack of cards.

how movies portray data centers

In an information-laden society, data centers will always be an integral part of our lives, more so that the concept is still on the silver screen. Trying to tell a story that depicts the essence of data centers in a real world couldn’t be said better by the array of Blockbuster Hollywood movies on the line up—from Matrix to Swordfish, and even Transcendence too.

With the fancy career of the data center being a victim of lousy scripting just like any actor, expect the manifestation of the cameos in different dimensions. From the gaffs that we find so hard to ignore high tech gadgets that change our disbelief, even data and servers have come to be an integral part of these roles.

Feature personalities such Keanu Reeves or Johnny Depp and you have a blockbuster starring you in the face.  Give a thumb up for these movies, even though they’ve not had it all rosy, they have picked up some intriguing support characters over the years.

Most featured films follow a familiar narrative—a smart and intelligent geek makes his way to the server room and plants a gadget close to the server, which sets off an action that shatters the course of events. If you’ve followed this movie up until this moment, it is only natural to be tension-soaked.

At this juncture, let’s take a peek into the world of data center concepts as featured in Hollywood movies.

Transcendence

The movie Transcendence brings to fore the technological advancement in the area of nanotechnologies, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and data centers. If you have been wondering what the future hold for the latter, Transcendence may give you more than a handful of ideas. The movies exemplify green technologies, cooling, power, etc., in the realm of the data center.

data center scene in transcendence

In reality, these infrastructures are as massive as they come, and the Brightwood Data Center—located five-story beneath the surface— in the movie lends credence to what we should possibly expect some time in the future. This looks similar to the constructions in recent times—typically NSA data center, SubTropolis Technology Park’s LightEdge data center, etc.

Hackers

Movies like Hackers leverage blinking light boxes to bring the idea closer home—it also creates an impression of what to expect from data centers in years to come.

Ocean’s Eleven

Ocean’s Eleven highlights another cameo where Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison) surreptitiously finds his way down to the casino data center with the direction clearly written on his hands, enabling him to gain access to a video stream—secured by the casino’s cameras—through an Ethernet cable. We know that may be far from reality, it does not steal the shine off to an almost perfect depiction of a real-life data center. And that’s the idea.

Live Free or Die Hard

Live Free or Die Hard, also known as Die Hard 4.0, is yet another classical piece on the super high way of data centers, starring Bruce Wills. Released on June 27th, it received some bashing for being the only film in the series rated PG-13; some fans even complained that the film took a different feel as opposed to others in the series.

The entire plot speaks of “the Russians” wreaking havoc when they hacked into the vital infrastructure. With access to an array of critical systems, using a single dashboard; the move was well-thought out and impressive.

Director Kevin Smith played “Warlock” and has to himself a home data center. Also featured is the emergency data dump rolled into a single backup data center.

Entrapment

Entrapment caught our attention with yet the same narrative; released in 1999. The main casts of this movie—Sean Connery and Catherine—find their way into the server room, and breaks open the cabinet.

entrapment data center scene

With help from patch cables, they were able to redirect traffic bypassing the encryption to steal from the stock exchange. Virginia Baker, who played Zeta-Jones character, brings out a cable from her laptop and almost immediately, an alarm set off. Some critics think there is a significant blunder—you trigger an alert when you hack into something.

Skyfall

Data centers that are in tune with reality, portrayed by James Bond, reviewed another possibility. The movie brings to focus a well-arranged system. According to Chris Crosby, CEO, Compass Datacenters, he put it quite simply: “data center movie of the year.

The Matrix

In a world where data center seeks after renewable energy as an alternative source, humans in the matrix were the perfect battery. In a way, the energy given out surpassed that required to keep humans going and incubated. Even though some of the machines look real, we couldn’t help but believe dystopian future that characterizes parts of the data center.

The center was responsible for keeping the virtual simulation world active and also to pacified humans. This continued until a rebellion attack by Neo played by Keanu Reeves.

Tron: Legacy

Tron: Legacy brought in another feel of the subject matter. The cabinets come with spaces, but not in a row, and those are rather unusually. Maybe future servers will feature no heat or heat profiles equally spaced between cabinets

Even though the infrastructure depicts an utterly futuristic system, the servers are evenly spaced apart, typical of checkerboard pieces. The programming guys should know better, especially about cold and hot aisles for this film, and that makes it impossible for any connection to take place. Since everything in the data center is futuristic, you’d have least expected Garrett Hedlund, real name Sam Flynn, to bring out an iPhone instead of a futuristic Nokia phone.

Avatar

Now, Avatar comes with more data than any other movie you may think of. It even surpassed the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy all combined. Miramar—a suburb of Wellington—is houses the data center where the blue creatures emerge from.

Weta Digital Ltd—a visual effect company—professionally created the stunning images in this James Cameron movie. This company was also responsible for the computer-rendered scenes as they appear in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. With the help of 3-D imaging software, the director’s vision became a screen reality—Weta Digital was at it again—with 17.28GB representing each minute of Avatar.

Now, let’s bring a twist to it.

Imagine the original Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark —but this time with a twist. A clerk pushes away a crate filled with the Covenant. The 21 Century version comes with no rows of shelving and boxes; it has nothing in it except a desk, as well as a shipping bay and computer.

Now, for the IT version, the data center manager will be positioned at the computer console in a dry basement. The software and hardware that take an excellently arranged setting are now in the cloud. That may be our lot when Everything-as-a-service, (XaaS) becomes a reality.

And the Make-believe World of Hollywood

Hollywood is known for embellishing the truth to deliver top-class entertainment. The special effects have swept us off our feet—so we stay glued to our TV sets. The plot twists and the fantastic casts all wowed us every step of the way. In all of this, characters interact with worlds yet unknown, and even the one we are familiar with. As depicted by some roles, the co-star is inanimate, as a data center, and we can’t throw away the Hollywood magic that comes into the mix alongside those scenes.

In most cases, they go unrecognized, or the characters interact with them in seemingly unbelievable ways. A patch cord can do amazing things, so says Hollywood, and we watch all it plays out in our very eyes. The main character connects to a small electronic device via his laptop, and before you know it, he hacks through firewalls, pushing aside encryption to achieve his goal.

Conclusion

Data centers will never cease to be infused into storylines. Since they’re part of our lives, we can’t rule out their importance and how they affect our day-to-day activities; we can only receive them with open arms. Even if you’re not a sci-fi movie fan, you’ll in some way connect to the story—some laughable though—and make sense from what the writer is trying to convey. Let’s keep our finger crossed, stay glued to our TV sets—on the edge of your seat if need be—for what is unveiling next from the “incubator room” of Hollywood.  We can’t have them enough, at least for movie addicts who will do anything to have collections of such movies in their “closet.”

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