Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Human Capital and the Data Center

The topic of Human Capital has intrigued me lately, so I thought I would do a little research/commentary post on it. By no means do I want to declare that the data center has a human capital "crisis", but I think a little more attention and action on the topic are perhaps in order. A good starting point would be a definition -- and I found that on LinkedIn I believe. Human Capital is the process of driving business value and improving performance by maximizing capability and engagement of staff. It is different from human resources and work force planning and as many would tell you, the people are the most important asset of a company. Human Capital has actually been in the news quite a bit lately:

  1. Microsoft chose Iowa for the "quality work force"
  2. Systems Management News reported on a joint study between the Human Capital Institute and IBM that extolls "It Takes a Human Touch for Business to Succeed".
  3. Michael J Morris wrote a post about "Good Jobs Are Out There..."
  4. On June 16-17 the Human Capital Institute, Sun Microsystems and the New Learning Playbook hosted the innaugural meeting of a new executive round table focused on learning innovations and managing Milennial talent.
  5. The IBM CEO study I mentioned yesterday listed "people skills" as something that 48% of the CEO's surveyed mentioned as a change driver.
  6. A real shocker: "Both Presidential candidates cited a weak jobs report as an argument for their economic proposals."

The IBM study also had an interesting quote from a financial markets CEO: "we're making acquisitions for the people, not the assets". A virtual data center conference that I attended today also noted that there is a lot of "gray hair" management and senior staff that will be retiring in the very near future. This then implied that the younger IT workers would be left with a knowledge gap and a big challenge ahead of them. I think all of the data center automation that is under way will certainly help fill some of that gap, but the over-arching concern is that perhaps data center staff wouldn't know what to do (manually) if all of that automation broke!

The Human Capital/IBM study was interesting for a number of reasons. Just as we have heard that the CIO role is rapidly changing, the study noted that 84% of respondents know that putting people in the right roles is key to business success. Talent Management was also mentioned a few times and is sure to be the buzz word d'jour for a while. So the challenge at hand is to understand and apply human capital theories/methodologies/whatever, analyze the talent economy within the organization and re-strategize work force planning. Note the correlations within the definition of work force planning and human capital. Work force planning is the process of forecasting and preparing for changes in an organization’s workforce. This is done by mapping the current workforce structure and capabilities, deciding what the future needs of the business are in terms of long term strategic goals, undertaking gap analysis and implementing a plan to alter the workforce structure in order to meet the longer term corporate objectives.

Mission: Engage in work force planning in the data center industry to better profit from human capital and devote more time managing the engagement of staff.

For those new readers to my blog I want to note that I have a slight bias towards the Midwest (and Iowa particularly). Michael Manos declaring that a "quality workforce" was a reason that Microsoft chose Iowa came as no surprise to me. I became involved in a new program recently that I wanted to tout here briefly and give as an example for something that could be a very beneficial program most anywhere in the U.S. It is called HyperStream and it is built as a "tech hub for Iowa students". The idea is to engage young kids in technology and really help guide them into the right technology jobs. There are clubs, camps, programs, internships, mentoring and competitions -- all to help keep the kids engaged and excited about technology. The IT Olympics that I served as a mentor for last spring was a part of this program. I have heard some of the early success stories of this program and it is really inspiring to see how well it is doing. Check out the program and further details at http://www.hyperstream.org/

Well....I suppose that is enough for one night. I just had some random thoughts and opinions that I thought I would get out there. My Dad spent a lot of his career in work force development and "human capital" issues -- maybe it rubbed off on me just enough to author this post. :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Inc. 500 and IBM's CEO Study

Just two quick links to things I ran across tonight. The first is that the 2008 Inc 500 list is out! I like this particular list because I can relate to the companies and their growth potential more than those listed on the Fortune 500. There are some interesting stories and new companies listed this year. They have a nice map of the Inc. 5000, but I'm not sure why they didn't provide it as a Google Maps mashup.

Congratulations to Midwest data center services company TEAM Technologies - entering the list this year at 212.

IBM released a study they did called "The 2008 Global CEO Study: Implications for the CIO". It was a Global study of CEO's and this particular section discusses the implications for CIOs, the statistics from the surveys and discussion about what the enterprise of the future will look like. I found it through a CIO magazine ad - so my link is ibm.com/doing/cio3

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Four Horseman of the Virtualization Security Apocalypse

I definitely need to get to the Black Hat conference next year. It was just a few weeks back in Vegas and it looked to have a ton of good sessions. One of my absolute favorite bloggers, Christofer Hoff, was nice enough to post the slides from his session on "The Four Horseman of the Virtualization Security Apocalypse". Although, as he points out, the slides are meant to go with his speaking, I went through all 176 slides and it was AWESOME!! I highly recommend anyone interested in virtualization, security....or otherwise take a minute to read through his presentation.

Check out his blog and the presentation PDF here.

Microsoft Data Center Coming To West Des Moines

I just finished watching the official announcement from Microsoft - saying that the new (~$500 million) data center will be in West Des Moines. The location cited, is just down the road from a new $300 million campus that Wells Fargo built. It is a large plot of land with plenty of room for expansion or other potential uses for renewable energy sources. I also noted that the location is near the railroad -- to, oh I don't know.....bring in containers! The red tape was rolled out as Senators, the Governor and Mayor were all at the announcement. Michael Manos from Microsoft was there as well.

View Larger Map
As DatacenterKnowledge points out, Iowa has had a lot of data center activity recently, and I certainly think there is more to come. A source of mine indicates that there is another big player bringing a data center to Iowa, more North and East from where Microsoft is at - but I couldn't squeeze any more details out of him (but I'm still trying).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Data Center Stocks

While the Dow, S&P and NASDAQ were all down today, I believe the tech stocks are going to continue to be a bright spot in an otherwise bleak market. I found a new web site tonight that I really enjoyed playing around in and researching data center stocks and the industry as a whole. So as to help justify the hour plus that I spent on the site I thought I would share some of the information I discovered.

The site ( MFFAIS) lets you en ter a stock symbol and it then tells you information about financial institutional/fund ownership of the stock. The numbers that interested me were the number of funds that owned the particular stock and the percentages bought or sold over the given time period. For a small group of data center stocks that interested me here are the results.

Format: Stock --- Shares owned by funds --- % buying --- % selling

Equinix --- 399 --- 48.45% --- 45.37%
Level3 --- 347 --- 40.95% --- 37.41%
Digital Realty Trust --- 310 --- 55.28% --- 39.02%
Savvis --- 214 --- 46.91% --- 43.82%
DuPont Fabros --- 160 --- 51.47% --- 41.91%
Internap --- 108 --- 41.17% --- 45.13%
Terremark --- 90 --- 58.97% --- 26.92%
Switch&Data --- 8 --- 0 --- 0

I assume that anything within +- 5% probably isn't of too much concern given how much regular trading activity happens. I still believe though that this is further evidence that the data center stocks are doing good and are seen favorably by fund managers. For the sake of comparison take a look at Cisco and Intel. Besides Microsoft they were the only two other tech stocks on the MFFAIS "top 10 Most U.S. most held stocks" list. Cisco stock is held by 2,077 funds and Intel by 2,009 funds!

Some other interesting web surfing that came up while searching for financial information on the tech industry included:

  • Market Watch has an article about theJacob Internet fund manager seeing promise in tech companies.
Forbes has an excellent interview with Diane Bryant, CIO of Intel. I had planned on summarizing more of my favorite points from this interview - but my favorite was her thoughts on a cultural change happening within Intel (and certainly other companies) about everything changing to an IT service versus a "server".

"If you deploy virtualization, you get a cultural change. It's not your server anymore. It's a service provided by IT to your department with a certain service level agreement. Then you can aggregate multiple apps onto that server and your utilization goes up. But you have to get over that cultural element, which is, "Where's my server?"

Finally -- does anyone know of an online tool (preferably free) that will let you build your own stock index? I would love to build my own index of favorite stocks and track it on a regular basis. Please leave a comment if you know of something. Thanks!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Data Centers in Iowa

The Des Moines Register ran an article yesterday about the growing trend of data centers coming to Iowa. There isn't (unfortunately) any new news in this article..... it is just a re-cap of why Iowa is so popular. Iowa being popular and a logical place for data centers is nothing new to me -- but it is nice to see the attention it is getting lately. The article discusses new facilities in the state from Google, Microsoft and TEAM Companies.

The usual factors are listed for why Iowa is ideal: Low costs, green energy, skilled labor, and rich tax incentives. There is a hint in the article that Microsoft will locate in West Des Moines, but I personally still think it is up for grabs exactly where in Des Moines they will land.

Check out the article here.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Security and Compliance In the Cloud

My latest column at Systems Management News is out. I dive (one more time) into cloud computing (it's in fashion you know). This time I talk a little more about security and compliance in the cloud and what is holding back the enterprise from further embracing it.

Check out the article here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Alliant Energy - Business Continuity Lessons

Wisconsin Technology Network has a Business Continuity Plan article about Alliant Energy and their story of the June flooding in Cedar Rapids. The story basically runs through how they executed their BCP plan and the lessons learned during the event. The interesting part (to me) was the discussion about having contractual assurance of a hot-site for Disaster Recovery and how it is different in a city like Cedar Rapids vs. a large city.

Check out the article here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday Links

In an attempt to clean up the growing number of Firefox tabs I have open, I thought I would share some of sites of interest I have run across lately:
  • TechCrunch reports that LivePlace.com is set to launch a photo-realistic virtual world rendered in the cloud. It may be using the Otoy engine -- a very impressive 3D rendering company. I played around with Google's new virtual world Lively a little bit the other night.....pretty cool, but I think they should just buy Otoy and LivePlace and really give SecondLife a run for their money.
  • It has been confirmed that AOL will sell X-drive. I worked for an online storage company in the dot-com days and X-Drive was always the one to chase. I think the evolution to storage cloud offerings may be almost complete.
  • EMC to buy StorageTek? ChannelWeb explores the reasoning behind this rumor. It makes sense to me - StorageTek is better suited for a company like EMC than Sun.
  • For some reason, I keep forgetting about a company on my "cool-companies" list. DataSynapse continues to make some nice products and has a lot going on. Recently they were awarded the best clustering or Grid solution at Next Generation Data Center conference (I really need to get to this one next year). They announced a partnership with Adaptivity and the results of a survey that showed High Performance Computing ranking higher than cloud computing as a driving IT initiative.
  • I think everyone should click through to this Douglas Gourlay post. :) Douglas - the only thing missing is an acronym (GSOVCaaS) : everything in IT must be an acronym. BTW - MY all-time favorite post and definition discussion of what Cloud Computing is, is given by Irving Wladawsky-Berger. I think he sums up the topic very nicely.
  • Michael Morris has an interesting post on Cisco LISP (Locator/ID Seperation Protocol) at NetworkWorld.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Yahoo Omaha Data Center Rumor Confirmed

A few weeks back the Tech Hermit blog wrote about rumors of Yahoo building a data center in Omaha. Today, the Omaha World-Herald newspaper confirms that state and local officials are at a "very serious stage" of negotiations to get Yahoo in to Omaha. The decision could potentially be made in the next five to six weeks.

Maybe Omaha will be one of the six locations for the HP-Yahoo-Intel cloud.

Check out the article here.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Don't Forget the Network

My latest column at Systems Management News is out! I am hoping to get into some more networking topics in future columns. WAN optimization and acceleration tools interest me and dark fiber, carriers and DWDM type stuff are things I would like to explore further. In this column I discuss networking in general and how Microsoft and Google connect their data centers.

Check out the column here.

Also -- Please check out the rest of the magazine - they have a lot of good articles and columnists.

Mystery Data Center Coming to Indianola, Iowa?

The Des Moines Register reports that a "as-yet-undisclosed" company is looking at Indianola (roughly 15 miles south of Des Moines) as a potential site for a data center. The site request came from MidAmerican Energy - who has more than 1,200 megawatts of wind generating facilities in operation.

The Indianola development director stated that it was not Microsoft - the local utilities do not provide enough electricity to support such a data center. Indianola's fiber infrastructure is a major draw though for a data center.

It will be interesting to see who is selecting this Des Moines suburb for a data center - as soon as I hear more I will post it.

Check out the Des Moines Register article here.