This week I’m at the Gartner Data Center, Infrastructure & Operations Management conference in Las Vegas, and I'd like to share some of my early impressions.

First, this conference is massive—there have been well over 5,000 attendees. There are 10 tracks of sessions with knowledgeable speakers covering everything from web-scale IT to IT leadership and solutions. One session I attended on building a successful cloud service taught me that zombies—of the VM type—are very real. A zombie VM is a VM that someone created, used, and forgot to remove from the system. The worst kinds of these zombie VMs are those that roam the vast terrain of public cloud providers. They quietly shuffle along, eating up an IT budget through recurring monthly service charges. Gartner estimates that for some organizations using public cloud providers, the monthly cost of zombie VMs runs into six figures. These zombies may not cause terror or mayhem, but they sure can make a company bleed red.

During lunch on Tuesday, I had the chance to speak with a couple of gentlemen who manage datacenters, and somehow, the conversation turned to the topic of tornadoes. One of the guys told a story about his experience seeing seven tornadoes, each a football field wide, in a single day. Both cool and scary simultaneously, right? But the story got me thinking about my last blog post about SQL Server uptime. Since we were talking about tornados, I asked both of these managers what, in their experience, was the top cause of unplanned downtime. One of them told me UPS failure, while the other said human error. According to the Ponemon Institute and Emerson Network Power study done in 2013, the top two causes of unplanned downtime were UPS failure and human error.

Certainly my lunch table survey is not statistically significant; the sample size is too small. But given the total random nature of the encounter, it was pretty thought-provoking.

I also attended a great keynote session given by Peter Diamandis, M.D. called, “Exponential Technologies Causing Disruptive Innovation”. Dr. Diamandis is the CEO of the XPRIZE foundation, which drives competitions for innovation. The session covered a lot of territory, but one take away for me was the reason why network news is focused mostly on the negative. According to Dr. Diamandis, it’s because of the amygdala in the human brain. The amygdala is responsible for processing visual and audio information, and because of evolution, it is ten times more sensitive to negative information. The reason? In the early human days, missing a positive input (e.g., new fruit tree) wasn’t “too bad,” but missing a negative input (e.g., a slight movement in the bush) could get you killed. The networks understand this, which drives the over-the-top negative coverage. Negative news keeps us tuned in and drives ratings and advertising dollars. So follow your gut, and stop watching the news. You’ll be happier, apparently.

I’m looking forward to soaking up and sharing more insight over the next few days. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the conference location. When I’m in Las Vegas, which isn’t often, I like to stay at the Mandalay Bay. It’s away from the crowds, but I may have to re-think that choice; the Venetian is very nice, and while I don’t like to gamble when I’m in Vegas, I do like to watch other people gamble. It’s kind of like watching “The Hunger Games.” You know everyone (or almost everyone) is going to lose, but it’s fun to see how it all plays out. As co-founder and CEO of a self-funded enterprise software startup that has made it to the early growth stage, I’m not afraid of a little risk. I just like to have more control over the house odds.