Ars Technica writes that the "Coolest jobs in tech" are running a South Pole data center. While Ars means this literally, after looking at what the data center is accomplishing, it's figuratively one of the coolest jobs in data center tech I've ever heard of.
Ars writes, "[Steve] Barnet, interim Computing Facilities Manager for the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC) at the University of Wisconsin, is looking to fill what may be the coolest Unix administrator job opening in the world—literally. Plenty of IT jobs exist in extreme and exotic locales, but the WIPAC IT team runs what is indisputably the world’s most remote data center: a high-performance computing cluster sitting atop a two-mile thick glacier at the South Pole."
The data center is linked up with IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory. The website states, "IceCube is a unique telescope at the South Pole. Most optical telescopes look at photons, but IceCube looks for evidence of a more mysterious particle called a neutrino. Because of this, it is referred to as a neutrino telescope or neutrino detector. Using an optical telescope to look at the Universe is like taking a photo, but looking at the Universe with a neutrino telescope is similar to taking an X-ray."
For those running the data center, not only are they concerned with doing a good job, but also with surviving in the harshest climate on the planet.
Ars reports, "With a maximum population of 150 at the base during the Austral summer, South Pole IT professionals-in-residence are limited to a select few. And they don’t get to stay long—most of the WIPAC IT team only stays for a few months in the summer, during which they have to complete all planned IT infrastructure projects."
Now that is stressful.
It's known that controlling heat is one of the biggest issues in running a data center. All those servers produce a whole lot of waste heat and the vast majority of energy is consumed in trying to keep the data center cool. Much research has gone in to lower-energy ways to accomplish this, and placing data centers in cold climate areas is a good strategy. Even ancient limestone caves are fair game! But this is probably the coldest data center location one could possibly find!
Being a part of IceCube is no joke. As the observatory's site states: "Working with strangers in a barren, harsh environment while separated from family, spouse, and friends for an extended period of time is a grueling experience for anyone. A person's ability to live under such circumstances is crucial—perhaps as crucial as the person's professional background—to help create and maintain a thriving, comfortable workstation community. Preparing to work in Antarctica, especially at the South Pole, is strenuous on both the mind and body. It is a huge undertaking, but for those up to the challenge, it boasts gigantic rewards."
The jobs these IT folks accomplish on the frozen continent is amazing, and the Ars article is well worth a read.