Tuesday, April 29, 2008

FastServers Acquisition Article

MidwestBusiness has a follow-up article to the FastServers acquisition by Layered Tech. The article mentions a potential $15 million purchase price and that owners Ian and Travis are free to move on to other ventures after a 60 day consulting agreement expires. Hey Ian and Travis, I really think you need to buy a Lamborghini -- and more specifically, come let me drive it! :)

Check out the Midwest Business article here.

NOTE: Because of my Iowa-bias, I must note that the article incorrectly states "Cedar Rapids" data center --- it is really Cedar Falls data center.

This Week in Storage

Here are some recent items I found on the net about the storage market:

Because the storage market needed just 'one' more acronym.... Seanodes brings us SIS (Shared Internal Storage). It is an interesting concept - it converts unused internal disks and arrays inside of systems into a shared storage array. The idea is that data de-duplication is great, but it is a post-processing activity; where SIS is leveraging 100% of unused or underused disk capacity. "Shared Internal Storage takes advantage of what IDC calls an "inside-out SAN" by virtualizing internal storage assets and servers across a shared storage pool of clustered nodes." Seanodes was founded in France in 2002, but has since opened a Cambridge, Mass. office and was noted (last November) to be looking for partners for their solutions and software. Check out a VAR Business article here, and the Seanodes site here.

IBM revealed "Cloud Storage Services" this week, as a follow-up to its acquisition of Arsenal Digital Solutions in December 2007. It brings a storage service offering to the small and medium size business, something that Arsenal brought 3,400 of to IBM in the merger. Check out the eWeek article here.

StorageMojo has an article on the notebook flash SSD market.

Tony Pearson, over at the Inside System Storage blog at IBM, comments on the recent Forrester Research finding titled "Consolidate Storage Vendors To Reduce Complexity"

Monday, April 28, 2008

Network Congestion

I wish someone would hurry up and invent the Star Trek teleporter. :) I would like to be at work, in Vegas (Interop), and in Dallas (Broadband Properties Summit) all at once. Check out the Best of Interop Finalists here.

I was reading James Carlini today, at MidwestBusiness.com, and he had an interesting article that pointed me to the BroadBand Properties Summit '08. James is delivering a keynote at the event and previewed his speech with the article "AT&T: Will World Butt Up Against Internet’s Physical Capacity By 2010?". It is a good article and worth the read. It also reminded me of a good podcast I finished recently that I wanted to link to. Listen to Security Now, episode 139 - Network Congestion.

More on Interop as the week progresses -- the 'best of' finalists are some interesting companies worth researching.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

IT Olympics

This weekend I participated in a really cool event. I volunteered to be a mentor for the IT-Olympics in Ames, Iowa. The IT Olympics is a competition among 25 high schools across Iowa, that compete in 3 venues: Game Design, Robotics and Cyber Defense. It is a really cool way to get young kids excited about IT and enforce the need to promote IT, IT as a career choice, and let kids demonstrate their talent. I attempted to help the Cyber Defense team for the high school I was helping and they did a GREAT job. There is a documented scenario and limited architecture that the kids put together and then on competition day, the "red" team, a group of event hackers, are let loose to try and penetrate the computers run by the high school. All of the kids setup systems yesterday and then had to fend off the hackers from 8-4 today (closed/controlled environment).

Details of the event can be found on the IT-Adventures website here. If anyone would like further details please let me know.

It was a really fun event that I just wanted to give a quick mention to in hopes of promoting the idea and giving credit to all of those involved in the event. Congratulations to the team I helped, and all for all off their hard work, long hours, and dedication.

New VISI Data Center in Duluth

Minnesota managed hosting and connectivity company VISI has announced a tier 3 $18 - $19 Million data center to be built in Duluth, Minnesota. The 50,000 square foot facility will be built to Tier III standards and will also be SAS70 type 2 compliant. Showing the power of local partnerships, demand of the data center was researched by partnering with the Minnesota Power and Area Partnership for Economic Expansion.

Check out the press release here

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Amazon AWS and 1Q Results

Amazon continues to be in the news a lot and this past week was no exception. I have always liked the company and think that Jeff Bezos has managed the company and technologies well. I took the latest issue of Wired magazine on my business trips recently and read this article about Amazon and cloud computing. The article discusses the many startups that are successfully using Amazon Web Services to maintain their focus on the business and use Amazon as a HaaS (Hardware as a Service) provider. Eric Schonfeld, over at Seeking Alpha learned recently that of the 60,000 AWS customers, most are not the typical start-up profile, but corporations instead. They try AWS for a project, get hooked and never look back. While this was somewhat surprising to me also, I can see it happening. The same applies (I think) to OpenSource projects - someone at a company tries open source software, gets hooked, and then doesn't look back. Even though most of the AWS users are corporations, I by no means take that to mean that enterprise applications are moving to the cloud (jeeeesh, the term 'cloud' has sure reached a peak in the hype-cycle). I think it means just what Eric was saying -- that they are experimenting with it, and use it for one-off applications that are not enterprise-wide, critical applications.

On Thursday Amazon reported double-digit growth in earnings, but also noted worrying about the economy, and lowering sales expectations as a result. Business Week also has a nice interview with Jeff Bezos -- here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Links

I'm traveling some more -- in Ames,IA tonight - more on that tomorrow. Here are some miscellaneous links of interest I found today:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Happy Belated Earth Day

I have been in Madison, Wisconsin the last few days and incredibly busy, so I haven't had much time to blog, let alone get my regular web surfing fix. I have come across a ton of Earth Day press releases and stories about Green Data Centers. Even though I'm sure you may have read some if not all of these, I thought I would just link to the items I ran across this week:

Monday, April 21, 2008

Wind Powered Data Centers

Last week we learned about Microsoft data center containers being "100% wind-powered" through offsets purchased from the Boulder-based Renewable Choice Energy. I had to laugh when I first read this --- at the airport on the trip home from Data Center World I was joking around with my boss that you could take a container, fill it with servers and then stick a wind mill on top to power it! All joking aside I think you will see wind power become a pretty popular green energy source for data center operations.

A developer, planning to build a data center south of Boston will install two large wind turbines to help generate electricity. The company, Granite Rock Global Data Center, will build a 120,000 square foot facility that is expected to have a utility bill in excess of $1 million a month. I don't quite follow the math for a facility that size costing over $1 million in utility bills, but then again the per kWh cost in Massachusetts is higher than a lot of places. The two wind turbines could reduce that monthly bill by 20%.

Check out the ComputerWorld article here.

The growing project list for wind powered energy is pretty exciting. Check out this page to view the American Wind Energy Association's data on U.S. wind energy projects.

Review of Industry Leader Equinix

Seeking Alpha has a very nice write-up on Equinix. They cover key findings about the company, the data center market, and a review of the Equinix stock price recently. It (once again) proves just how hot the data center market is, and provides some good insight into the company.

Check out the article here

Cisco Data Center Vision

Cisco has been in the news quite a bit this year. As I was attempting to get caught up on tech news recently I kept reading stories about Cisco. Here is what I found:

  • They recently had their partner summit in Honolulu - now that's where I need to get a business trip planned for! I was able to watch the webcast though and it sounds like some pretty exciting times at Cisco.
  • They announced that they are purchasing the remaining 20% of Nuova - a start-up founded by former Cisco executives in 2006. The deal is expected to close in Q4 of their fiscal year. Cisco noted that this acquisition compliments their "'Build, Buy, Partner' innovation strategy in support of Data Center 3.0 vision.
  • It is no wonder why Cisco has an interest in Nuova - their partner ecosystem is pretty impressive: Intel, Qlogic, Emulex, Dell, 3Par, EMC, Netapp, VMWare, APC and others.
  • In discussing a unified fabric, the phrase "wire once - provision multiple times" was mentioned a few times. This was also referenced when talking about APC and Panduit as parters, indicating that facilities and cabling play an increasingly important role in discussions that Cisco partners have in design.
  • FCoE was also a common theme -- time to read up on this! An attendee at the summit noted that a FCoE HBA costs more than a switch - and Cisco responded that you will see LAN on motherboard - with 10gb Ethernet as an option this summer; thus driving prices down and eliminating the need for cards and adapters. This also plays into the unified fabric preaching, in that six or seven cables coming out of a server could be replaced by one, simplifying costs and cabling in the rack.
  • Michael Morris has a nice summary of the product news on the Cisco Nexus 5000 series of switches and related technology.
  • The total partner opportunity over the next 5 years is $14 Billion.
  • Network World has an article on Cisco IOS vs. Juniper's JUNOS. Cisco addressed the issue of having so many new operating systems by saying that they are trying to maintain some agility while focusing on the right features at the right place and the right time.
  • Soni Jiandani pointed out that as data center consolidation happens rampantly now days, customers may also be poised to consolidate networking and connectivity with a unified fabric.
  • When asked about the next 12 months at Cisco, Doug Gourlay responded that they were in the top of the fourth inning, with the data center market driving -- gotta love a baseball analogy! :)

  • John Chambers was in China last week, working out a number of arrangements to bolster Cisco's position there. Check out the article here.
  • Hot off the press -- AT&T will partner with Cisco to manage their telepresence video conferencing system. Check out the CNN article here. I love the fact that this article references the TV show 24 as a showcase for the Cisco Telepresence system.
  • Finally - I now see what keeps John Chambers going in what must be an amazing schedule: Diet Coke.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Book Reviews

One thing that I simply MUST make more time for in 2008 is reading. My schedule is pretty hectic and what little free time I have seems to go to my web surfing addiction. :) My wife was reading a book recently and could not stop laughing. She shared many quotes from the book and it is now top of my list to quickly get through. It is Dave Barry's History of the Millenium (so far). As an example of Dave's brilliance (something an anti-Yankee fan can appreciate) - here is a quote from the book:

"... the Boston Red Sox, ending an eighty-six year drought, defeat the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series, defying exit polls that had overwhelmingly picked the Green Bay Packers. The Red Sox get into the Series thanks to the fact that the New York Yankees - who were leading the American League championships three games to none, and have all-stars at every position, not to mention a payroll larger than the gross national product of Sweden - chose that particular time to execute the most spectacular choke in all of sports history, an unbelievable Gag-o-Rama, a noxious nosedive, a pathetic gut-check failure of such epic dimensions that every thinking human outside of the New York metropolitan area experienced a near orgasmic level of happiness. But there is no need to rub it in."

The entire book is full of quips like this and is an awesome book

The book I am currently reading -- and waaaaaay behind on, is Nicholas Carr's The Big Switch. I know, I am a few months behind the hoopla on this book. I was one of the fortunate ones that read his blog post in time to get one of the free copies! Once every one else had their reviews out within a few weeks later, I knew I would have to take the approach that I'll make my review.....ummm....unique, yeah that's it. It will be unique because it is months later and will give his book some press months after it has been released. :) Well -- I 'have' started it and it is certainly living up to the accolades it has received so far. I'll finish it up when possible and post a review here.

BTW - Nicholas has an e-book over at Internet.com titled "IT in 2018: From Turing's Machine to the Computing Cloud". Check it out!

As a means to help me reach my goal of reading the pile of books I have building up, I've added the Amazon widget to the blog and will put my recommendations/favorites as I am able.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Data Center Industry

I haven't been able to post much on the blog lately -- but this is merely a sign that the data center industry is going strong. It's been a busy couple of weeks for me, data center projects left and right, but I have a number of posts planned and plan to get to as many as I can this weekend.

Another sign that the industry is really moving is how well Data Center Knowledge blog is doing. DC Knowledge has passed 4,000 readers via FeedBurner! Congratulations Rich!

And my friends over at FastServers were acquired by Layered Technologies!

More tomorrow -- the soccer game my son was supposed to be in was canceled. They could probably play water polo though. It feels like Seattle here recently with all of the rain we have been getting.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Data Center Site Selection article

I am kind of partial to this particular author (ha ha), but check out the recent article at Systems Management News titled The Data Center: Where Should You Locate Your Facility?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Layered Technologies Acquires FastServers

Dedicated server provider FastServers has been acquired by Layered Technologies for an undisclosed amount. On March 11, 2008 LayerdTech secured $11 million in private funding.
"The acquisition will combine the expertise of FastServers.net in managed dedicated hosting with Layered Technologies’ leading Grid and unmanaged offerings. The combination of Layered Technologies and FastServers will offer a new range of superior services significantly benefiting customers."
The integration of the two companies will begin immediately and combined, they will service over 6,000 clients. FastServers has data centers in California, Chicago and Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Check out the press release here.

I have known FastServers for some time now -- CONGRATS Ian, Travis, Terrance and AP!!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Verari Systems StorageServer

The one company I didn't get to spend much time with at Data Center World was Verari Systems. Since they had released their version of the data center container a while back I was naturally interested. The FOREST Container stands for Flexible, Open, Reliable, Energy Efficient, Scalable and Transportable. Maybe this is what Microsoft is using in their Northlake facility?

The FOREST container can house servers in standard form factor or the Verari Blade Systems form. Today, from Storage Networking World in Orlando, they announced their first high capacity blade-based NAS and iSCSI Storage appliance. "The SB5165XL StorageServer™ combines unified NAS and iSCSI SAN storage networking functionality and a comprehensive feature-set with appliance-like manageability."

A single "platform" can deliver up to 576 terabytes of storage in two floor tiles, while use of the StorageServer in a FOREST container can provide up to 12 petabytes of capacity. So.....if Microsoft has 220 containers on the first floor of their Northlake facility, and if half of those are dedicated to storage - they could potentially have 1.32 exabytes of storage!

Check out the press release here

Cassatt - Gartner's Cool Vendor 2008

A "cool" company on my list for some time is Cassatt. When I first came across the company and its product offering I was royally confused. Based on my experience and use / observed use of servers, their product was just plain silly. In the right environment though, I have now come to see how it is truly a unique approach to energy savings and cool software on top of that.

Gartner's Cool Vendor Report lists those companies that are Insightful, innovative and intriguing. They recently named Cassatt and Tata Consultancy Services to their "Cool Vendors in Sourcing and IT Services 2008" report.

"The Cassatt solution is based around the Cassatt Active Response product line, software to improve the operation of large data centers in manageable stages. Customers can start by increasing data center energy efficiency, using Cassatt’s software to safely and intelligently power off servers when they aren’t needed. This approach, based on the Cassatt Active Power Management™ technology, can reduce power usage in your data center by 30 to 50 percent while complementing your existing energy efficiency activity."

Check out the press release here

Business Technology Trends To Watch

There are a million and one 'lists' of various things on the Internet. Typically most of them do not have a ton of meaning to them, but I ran across one todayI really liked. The McKinsey Quarterly released their "Eight Business Technology Trends to Watch" list, and it has some good thoughts.

The list is also basically a summary of business books, as each trend has a "further reading" category that talks in more detail about the trend. Of particular interest and applicability to the data center (in my opinion) are #5 and #7. The trends are:

1. Distributing cocreation
2. Using consumers as innovators
3. Tapping into a world of talent
4. Extracting more value from interactions
5. Expanding the frontiers of automation
6. Unbundling production from delivery
7. Putting more science into management
8. Making businesses from information

Check out the list here

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Vegas Data Center World Wrap-up

Well.... Data Center World is wrapped up (for me anyway). My flight leaves early enough tomorrow that I am unable to attend sessions in the morning. I consider the conference to be wildly successful. I met and talked with a number of good people, there were some really good exhibitors and speakers, and the buzz throughout the attendees definitely matched that of the data center industry. It's an exciting time.

Here is a (brief) run-down of some of my thoughts on the event:

  • I met Jason from Infobunker, Kevin from Mission Critical Magazine, Rich Miller from Data Center Knowledge, Mark Fontecchio from TechTarget, and Rick Sawyer from EYP (now HP).
  • I had some really good conversations from cool vendors about their products: Federal Communications Group, Aristos International, ConTech, Rackable, NER Data, RLE, Nodecom and t.a.c.
  • Rick Sawyer had a particularly good presentation on the high cost of data centers. He gave three examples of data that was pulled from EYP jobs. According to Rick data center space costs between $700/ sq.ft and $2,500/ sq. ft. I liked his "Rick's Rule": Generally, the cost per square foot is directly related to the availability and power required by the load, and inversely related to the size of the data center.
  • Another excellent session was given by John Tuccilo (APC) about the Green Grid's work in the development of standards for energy efficiency. The Green Grid is really growing lately and is doing some good work. I took a ton of notes on this one.
  • Finally... some pics:

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Air/Water Side Economizers

This morning I attended a session on Economizers. This technology is really interesting and I was anxious to learn more about it. Besides - the session was presented by someone with access to a lot of data (Dave Picket from Equinix). Here are a couple of interesting items I learned in this session.

A Psychometric chart is an excellent tool for analyzing data on air properties (enthalpy)

Research the temperature BINs for the particular region you are in. This facilitates the calculation of potential operating hours on economizer systems.

Water-side economizers: easy in climates with cool fall and spring seasons, and cold winter weather, such as Chicago, NY, and Washington D.C. It is with medium difficulty in climates with moderate weather year-round, such as San Francisco. It simply does not work where it is hot and humid most of the year.

There are many caveats associated with operation in freezing weather. Excessive ice build-up can damage tower components and operational errors can result in loss of cooling

Dave promoted two excellent sources of information - the EPA final report to Congress and the LNBL paper on air-side economizers and air quality.

Miichael Manos Keynote at Data Center World

The Michael Manos keynote this morning at Data Center World was inspiring. Michael doesn't read off of note cards and you can tell that he not only knows this material inside and out, but that he is passionate about it. I gained a number of things from this talk -- including him mentioning that their new Chicago facility will have upwards of 200 shipping containers pieced together like the RV campsites like I have talked about in previous posts.

Here are my notes from his talk:

  • Microsoft challenges: 15x growth on servers, 9x growth on egress, 15x growth on power, 3x growth on number of data centers.
  • 30% of the audience had active programs to monitor and measure power in their data center
  • Next to nobody in the audience knew what their carbon emissions were for their data center
  • Sustainability regulation 'is' coming ; not if, but when
  • How many are working on green programs? 30% (audience)
  • Industry challenges/minefields:
  1. sustainability reporting & efficiency reporting
  2. data center inventory globally becoming a challenge
  3. increasing power densities at the rack level
  4. power costs
  5. green-washing
  6. expertise shortage
  7. organizational structures
  8. increasing capital cost barriers
  9. innovation hoarding
  10. heterogeneity versus homogeneity mindsets.
  • The 'old' power draw was 4kW / rack ; now is 8-12 kW / rack ; some implementations 36kW / rack
  • $11-$18mil for a tier2 / tier2+ data center
  • Cost of a data center:
    • 82% construction costs : mechanical/electrical
    • land: 2%, core&shell cost 9%, architectural: 7%
  • 40,000 to 80,000 systems inside a typical 500,000 sq ft data center
  • Staffing at a Microsoft data center: 35 people across 24x7x365 shifts.
  • Boarding process: trucks pull up with pre-populated racks, drive into colo room, connect and go
  • Driving automation is key ; have to have good operational practices.
  • 35 factors for site selection. Including: Internet population, Internet peering/network, mobile users, power pricing, power capacity, environmental, construction costs, tax climate, IT labor availability, corporate citizenship -- this gives them their composite heat map. Quincy wasn't necessarily an ideal site until they went to the county level on a second pass and determined its benefits.
  • Metrics: PUE vs DCIE : Microsoft uses both ; dcie shows the overhead ; goal, for either is ONE
  • Microsoft sets aggressive pue targets internally.; they try to half the distance to a PUE goal by one every two years.
  • Scribe (their software tool) ; shows/measures PUE, DCIE, total racks, total servers, kW power consumed, critical load power, etc.
  • They have 1 million points to monitor/measure across data centers
  • They have been measuring PUE for 4+ years ; an old data center of theirs started at 2.4 PUE and is at 1.9'ish in aug. 2007 ; very little if any capital improvements in this data center -- all driven by operational efficiencies.
  • Chicago - their FIRST container data center!
    • Entire first floor is full of containers ; each container houses 1,000 to 2,000 systems per container ; 150 - 220 containers on the first floor
    • Containers are parked at 45 degree angle ; due to trucks parking them
    • They build 'spines' of systems that connect power/cooling/bandwidth to their containers

Miachel Manos Interview

When I learned that the keynote I will be seeing (tomorrow) was Michael Manos, Director of data center services at Microsoft, I wanted to get a little background on him. He obviously has some large responsibilities with the aggressive growth plans Microsoft has for data centers in coming years. I ran across a podcast on Run as Radio where they interviewed Michael recently and he had some very good insights. I'm anxious to hear him tomorrow at Data Center World.

Here are some notes I took (on the airplane trip to Vegas!) on the interview:
  • Microsoft site selection: they mapped out the world using 35 factors. Some of these include the power makeup, power capacity, IT personnel availablility, and the availability of fiber in the area.
  • Why Quincy, WA?
  • -- Quincy had invested money in infrastructure (fiber) and was a cross-continental fiber connectivity point.
  • -- Nice community college with the right set of courses/curicculum; most Quincy Microsoft employees are local to that area (originally)
  • -- 400 electricians onsite during construction
  • -- Ongoing facility support : they provide 50 data center jobs in area
  • -- Property tax bills reduced $200 per person as a result of them being in Quincy.
  • Michael's job when coming to Microsoft: Apply Moore's law to their data centers and to focus on PUE and truely analyze /optimize off of that
  • There is an ever increasing density per rack-- 8-12 kW range seen
  • it can be a function of the space you have to work in.
  • space between rack rows is getting further out (where cost of space is not high)
  • Is there a trend toward cooler running gear? Definately
  • In Ireland they use air side economization technologies.
  • At the end of the day - it's all about efficiency.
  • Small gains applied over the years results in large power bill savings.
  • What is happening to 'old' Microsoft Data Centers?
  • -- They have same problems other companies face with their old facilities
  • -- They widen rows, redistribute cooling elements ; tweak efficiency design.
  • -- Old data center managers - they are tasked with defining 'how' they are providing efficiency in their facility. These managers are measured on these efficiencies.
  • Transactions per watt ; pretty deep metric for Microsoft to use.Everything is normalized against power (for measuring/reporting): everything is focused on 'power'
  • A primary metric is cost/kW/month
  • "Revolution through evolution" (Regarding data center facility strategies)
  • Steve Balmer announced data center best practices recently at CeBit