Movie or TV programme that featured a Data Center

Published 2 September 2016

I intend to write less business-like post before the weekend about a month ago. So here is this week’s contribution which is about how data center are being presented in movies or TV series.

Halt and Catch Fire is a popular AMC programme that fictionalized how tech start-ups were like in the 1980s. The show got me piqued when it featured a data center in one of the episode 3 in season 2 and a data center I worked back in 1995 looked almost the same with shelves for manuals and folders in the same data center space, cabinet size tape machines humming along. It is quite a realistic depiction of data center back then in the period of 1980s as per the timeline of the episode.

However, I also watched the pilot episode of Scorpion (about a team of geniuses) that has a very bad depiction of data center. A data center building entrance door is a roller-shuttle style door and protected by a lock that can be disabled when the neighbourhood power cabinet was shutdown. Hmm, shouldn’t any electronics on premises be protected by UPS or battery-powered? When the team enters the data center room, lo-and-behold two rows of racks are there with gaps between every rack and its neighbour. Now who would place racks in this manner? Perhaps they are short of budget and couldn’t find sufficient IT racks. Sigh. And the team enter a caged area where the door has no electronic lock of any kind? Now the worst part of the show about IT is that they are trying to locate a file and somehow they identified a particular hard disk to contain that file in a NAS appliance that houses 14 hard disks. Now we should know better that usually hard disks are configured in a RAID array and data from a file will be split across the hard disks in fixed-size fragments with duplicated checksum so that it can be rebuilt should any of the hard disk fails.

Slightly off angle from data center field are TV series like HBO’s Silicon Valley, CSI:Cyber (about cybercrime) and Mr Robot (hacking). In one of the episode of Mr Robot in season 1, Mr Robot sits in the Steal Mountain (phew, a play of the name Iron Mountain which do have data center business) which is pretty authentic and most likely filmed in an actual data center.

If anybody remember a movie called SwordFish, it features a programmer’s workstation with 7 computer screens, now tell me who program with 7 computer screens? The Terminator movie Terminator: Genisys has a pretty futuristic depiction of a data center that has time travelling machine right in the middle. Hmm, well artistic license. And the most entertaining (and still remembered by many people) is the scene whereby Tom Cruise hangs in the air when trying to steal data from CIA computer room.

By the way, lots of live TV programmes, movies are delivered over the network through cloud network (Netflix sits on Amazon Web Services), content delivery network (CDN) and data centers and companies like Akamai, ChinaNetCenter and others have grown on the back of image/file/video caching. And product placement by technology company like Huawei, Cisco, Apple are common these days. But I digressed.

I like Sneakers (hacking including social hacking) and there is interesting scenes of stealing the voice print, retinal image and fingerprint of a computer scientist to enter a secured room. The Terminator:The Sarah Connor Chronicles series has some scene of computer company and servers, I seem to recall it was not too glaringly wrong or something like that. Live Free or DieHard (2007) has a pretty cool mobile containerized data center cum operations center which I was impressed.

Now which movie or TV programme I will like to watch during this weekend, perhaps one that features a data center or a computer? 2001:A Space Odyssey (1968) or Transcendence (it featured a underground data center, 2014). I may watch both of them anyway.

Reference:

  1. http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2014/10/31/from-hals-brain-room-to-johnny-depps-california-data-center-the-evolution-of-data-centers-in-movies/
  2. http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2016/06/21/data-centers-offer-hbos-silicon-valley-much-laugh/
  3. http://www.cio.com/article/2378430/data-center/5-data-center-gaffes-in-popular-hollywood-movies.html
  4. http://www.datacenterjournal.com/data-centers-play-film-broadcast-industry/
  5. http://www.computerworld.com/article/2489741/networking/how-netflix-streams-movies-to-your-tv.html
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Movie or TV programme that featured a Data Center

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