Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Reviews and 2011 Forecasts

This time of year I typically become inundated with "Top X Stories for 20xx" and reviews and predictions for the next year. Some times I have simply joined the crowd and made my own predictions, but this year I thought I would just 'link' to some of my favorites and review the news, innovations and prognostications for things to come.

Looking back at 2010:

Stocks and Mergers and Acquisitions

I think data center stocks have performed fairly well over the year and the M&A activity in the technology industry has certainly been brisk. In 2008 I started tracking my own data center stock index, using a weighted capitalization calculation. In October 2008 the initial value I tracked was $19.12, and on December 27, 2010 it was $35.55. I 'think' we will continue to see some M&A activity in the first half of 2011 as some additional target companies may get swallowed up. GigaOm has a nice summary story on acquisitions and how $10 billion was spent on data storage and warehousing companies between HP, EMC, IBM, and Dell. A Bloomberg article listed the following as 'takeover bait': F5, Brocade, Riverbed, Arista, VMware, bmc software, Citrix, Tibco, Teradata, and others that have already been acquired since they wrote the article. :)


With supercomputers in 2010 it was all about GPU's and energy demands to pave the road for exascale supercomputers. A top highlight of my year was traveling to the NCSA National Petascale Compute Facility to check out the data center that will house Blue Waters. The specs for Blue Waters were recently published and at an estimated 10 Petaflops I am sure we'll see it in the top 5 of the top500.org list.

The Cloud

Cloud computing was obviously a run-away hit for 2010. Perhaps we are even coming to a point where it isn't pure hype with a sole purpose of aggravating Larry Ellison and other non-marketing people. The public/private cloud divide will help push overall cloud technologies along, as individuals and enterprises find their perfect fit. I still think security, legal issues and governance have a ways to go in the cloud - check out these videos: Gartner's Cloud Law and Order and Tom Roloff, Senior VP at EMC Consulting on private vs. public clouds.

I found another decent definition of cloud computing, that I believe is attributable to McKinsey: clouds are hardware-based services, offering compute, network and storage capacity where: 1) hardware management is highly abstracted from the buyer; 2) buyers incur infrastructure costs as variable open; and 3) infrastructure capacity is highly elastic (up or down).

Looking forward to 2011
The "A" companies

I think the "A" companies have it for 2011. Apple and Amazon. Apple's 505,000 square foot North Carolina data center had a big spotlight in 2010 and I think 2011 we will finally see the streaming iTunes service come to life that everyone has been talking about. Continued success of the iPhone and iPad will drive data center requirements as well -- just today it was reported that Apple put an order in for 20-21 million iPhones in the first quarter of 2011. The really interesting company behind the scenes for producing the iPhone, among many other devices, is Foxconn. Bloomberg had a nice article a few months back on this company.

I can never seem to find too much information on Amazon data centers, but they certainly have the intellectual capital behind them between Werner Vogels and James Hamilton. Amazon acquired Quidsi this year, the company behind the wildly successful site diapers.com. With that acquisition they gained a 1,250,000 square foot warehouse in Gouldsboro, PA. Now there is a place to put data center containers and build-out a warehouse-scale data center. :) In 2010 AWS introduced Cluster Compute Services for EC2, where for $1.60 an hour anyone could 'rent a supercomputer' -- VERY cool stuff. Amazon Web Services had a number of innovations in 2010 and I think we'll see them continue to dominate in 2011.

Finally - as LEED is a big part of data center design, did anyone else make their holiday ginger bread houses LEED-compliant?

Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 Google Zeitgeist

I don't know if I am technically a statistics geek, but I certainly enjoy the annual Zeitgeist that Google puts out this time each year. It captures the year in search - all of the billions of search queries, crunched nicely and categorized for our viewing pleasure. No wonder they need warehouse-scale computing!

  • For the U.S. in the "A Greener World" category, the Bloom Energy was the #1 search term.
  • Patent #645576 from Nicola Tesla in March 1900 was the most searched for patent. This was for the "System of Transmission of Electrical Energy.

Some other data center terms and how they trended over 2010:

Some data center providers:

and finally a look at energy

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Data Center Links and Information Overload

When I started this blog many years ago one of the primary reasons for it was to simply post the links to sites or stories that I had been reading about in the data center industry. I am an information junkie -- I won't join the support group, because that would mean I want to stop being an information junkie.

A very interesting New York Times article published this past weekend describes what I probably would have been like, had all of this wonderful technology been around when I was in high school. It discusses the fact that kids are wired for distraction and that ...... well, enough on that, on to the next link.


A primary source of information I scan on the net in order to keep
up with technology and the data center industry are blogs. I started using Bloglines a number of years ago but switched to Google Reader a few years back. As I sat endlessly clicking through blogs and articles today I wondered if there were statistics about how many feeds I subscribed to.... this is Google after all. Sure enough, there was -- somehow I think I can keep track and somewhat regularly read 139 different feeds. I think I sense a new years' resolution forming.


I have read a number of interesting things in the past week or so, and in order to get back to the roots of why I started this blog.... sharing... here are a few of the highlights (this also allows me to close some of the 3-4 dozen browser tabs I have open!):

  • James Hamilton documents a 46MW data center in Switzerland, achieving a 1.1 PUE. As James notes, the overall stats are impressive, but mechanical systems especially. Using 43F source water from 197 feet below the surface water is brought in through dual redundant intake pipes to the pumping station with 6 high-capacity pumps in a 2 * (N+1) configuration. The pumps move 668,000 gallons per hour at full cooling load.
  • Volume 2, Issues 08 of the Site Selection Energy Report is out. The ACEEE scorecard ranks states on their energy efficiency policies and programs. The recently popular data center hub of North Carolina scored 24th.
  • Jon Battelle's Searchblog documents the recent Web 2.0 Summit 2010. Of particular interest (to me) were the videos with John Doerr and Fred Wilson and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.
  • Dell cloud evangelist Barton George interviewed Rackspace CTO John Engates on the promise of OpenStack at the Web 2.0 summit.
  • Google's Vijay Gill has a couple of very interesting publications on network innovations needed to support warehouse scale computing. This Light Reading article from October talks about how Google basically re-invented their own optics used in the data center to meet their needs.
  • I opened this tab a while back -- as an interesting article: NASA looks to protect U.S. Power Grid with 'Solar Shield' project.
  • I thought David Gross had an excellent post earlier this month on Seeking Alpha. It discusses the top 5 mistakes investors make with data center stocks.
MOST importantly, I am happy to point anyone interested in the European Colocation market to a white paper I recently finished - European Colocation Best Practices Guide.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lee Tech OnTap

I attended the October Lee Tech on Tap event in Chicago last week, and aside from seconding Dave O'Hara's comments this past summer about it being a refreshing approach/alternative to the data center conference I have to add that it is nice to see Chicago and the Midwest represented so well. There was a large turn-out for this event and some (in my opinion) big names in the industry.

The ecosystem of data center companies is part of what makes this event unique. I've tried, unsuccessfully to categorize some publicly traded 'data center' companies and there are just too many facets of what everyone does to compare apples to apples. The Lee Tech on Tap formula seems perfect -- industry folks speaking a common language, an open floor to socialize and network, and that ever popular/perfect catalyst.... beer.

With hectic schedules and for some, a long drive time into Chicago, maybe we should implement a Willow Garage Texai remote presence system at future meetings. :) I would have to have my robot be my true Internet height of 6'7" though.


Return to blogging --- I have been somewhat absent this year in my blogging for datacenter links. Reasons include:

  1. Time. Work and family take up a large percentage of my time.
  2. Data Center Knowledge - for over a year now I have been writing for DCK and absolutely love it. DCK is THE place to go for data center news and I enjoy writing for it. To see my posts, try either this link or this one.
  3. Consulting -- since there are 24 hours in a day, I figured why not. More on this one in the (hopefully) very near future.
I am going to try and take more time for blogging here - for many reasons, but one big one is that it is a learning style for me. If I write about a particular topic or technology it helps me learn, and I may even find new applications for that blogged knowledge. I also firmly believe in sharing, and as long as readers realize I am just a long-winded geek and not a subject expert on much of anything......

Anyway - I don't have an editorial calendar by any means, but I do still have a strong interest in the smart grid and green technologies for the data center. I also want to still (attempt) to track the financial side of this industry and look at the overall trends going on.

I am in the process of dusting off my 2007 white paper on data center site selection -- it is due for a version 2.0 refresh and I should have that out early next year.

One last thing -- Twitter is also a reason my blogging has declined. With the desire to 'just' share a quick link, I have found twitter to be a much easier way to do just that. One site I just started to play around with takes my datacenter twitter list and makes a daily newspaper out of it. Check it out here.

Friday, September 03, 2010

3D Tour of Emerson Data Center

A little over a year ago I visited the brand new Emerson data center in St. Louis. I was pretty impressed - you can see my write-up of it here.

Emerson has released a very nice 3D tour of the facility :

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Intel Announces 50Gbps Silicon Photonics Link

This one makes the "John's Cool Stuff" list for the week - Intel announced that for the first time they have an integrated silicon photonics transmitter using hybrid silicon lasers that is capable of sending data at 50 gigabits per second across an optical fiber to an integrated silicon photonics receiver chip which converts the optical data back into electrical.

As Intel summarizes in their blog -- this milestone brings together two of the most important inventions of the past century: silicon manufacturing and the laser. The 50Gbps is achieved through four optical channels modulated at a rate of 12.5Gbps. The scalability of these devices is what is exciting -- instead of 4 channels, do 8 or 16 and their delivery rate scales up to 100G, 200G, 500G and ultimately 1 Terabit per second (1,000,000,000,000 bits per second)! All of this in a device made out of a single integrated photonic chip smaller than your finger nail.

Why is this important? Let’s start with high end computing. Within servers, as demand for higher data rates increases, today’s copper interconnects require close proximity of processors, memory and IO. This limits, for instance, the amount of memory in the system to the number of modules (DIMMs) that can be mounted close to the CPU and or that can fit in the box. It also impacts the abililty to cool the system with many devices assembled so close together. Silicon Photonics will provide the ability to bring high speed optical communications into the platform, effectively relieving these distance constraints and providing the flexibility that could revolutionize system design.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Data Center in Jamaica

I've always said it would be fun to open a remote data center in the Caribbean. Even if just for disaster recovery or BCP purposes, think how fun it would be to 'have' to go for an annual DR exercise and make sure the remote site is operational.

I ran across a Jamaica Gleaner news article about Flow Jamaica, a member of Columbus Communications and Jamaica triple play provider. The article was about Columbus investing $20 million in a regional project to offer offshore data-storage services. In addition to storage services in a 30,000 square foot facility in Curaco, Flow has the ability to serve a virtualized environment as well, making a total package for DR.

Columbus Communications has interesting network coverage- covering Southern Florida, Mexico, South America and all of the islands in between. Combine that network with the Google offshore data barges and we might have something!

Oh well - at least for another month or so my weather forecast isn't too far off of theirs.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Global Demand for Broadband

iPhone4 & iPad +
Microsoft Home of the Future +
Roku & Slingbox


Talk2Cisco - Global demand for Broadband - Part 1

and.... more mega data centers as well

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Microsoft Data Centers

I was all set to write a wonderful blog post enticing Microsoft to decide on Des Moines for their next data center .... extolling about how wonderful Iowa is, how Des Moines was recently listed as one of the best cities to live in and numerous other reasons. The very next day they confirmed that they had indeed (re)selected West Des Moines for the site. I like to tell myself that they just didn't want to see me grovel.

So now -- I'll write to THANK Microsoft for the uber-wise decision to locate in West Des Moines....and then THANK them again for placing the uber-cool fourth generation data center design in West Des Moines!

I was fortunate enough to talk with the Principal Power Systems Architect, eXtreme Computing Group at Microsoft - Shaun Harris this past week (check out my Blue Waters post btw) and he elaborated on the latest revision of the 4th generation design. This means the concept I saw was only a few revisions behind the actual 4th generation design. Shaun also told me numerous company secrets that I just can't blog on. :)

Continuing on the Microsoft path -- I ran across this Burlington, NC story on a large company possibly building a "data storage center" in North Carolina. The story mentions an investment in the billions and speculation has automatically gone to Microsoft. Data Center Knowledge reported back in May that Microsoft was deciding between southern Virginia and Western North Carolina. Apple and Google already have North Carolina sites, so the only other 'large' company with that kind of clout and the need to build data centers (in my mind) would be Amazon.

The only reason I think it would not be Microsoft is because of their fourth generation design -- it seems like that design would not require an investment that large. However, the investment they made in Dublin was fairly large -- maybe North Carolina will also be a hybrid indoor/outdoor data center.

Ok - so one last plea to Microsoft: forget North Carolina, Virginia or wherever ... just double or triple the size of the West Des Moines facility and call it good!

Friday, May 28, 2010

TEAM Companies Data Center Video

Data center services provider TEAM Companies has released a new video that does a fly-through of a typical data center. The modular design used in a TEAM facility is broken out in this video into infrastructure layers that depict power, cooling, telecom, data rooms and network operations center.

TEAM Companies operates multi-tenant data centers in Cedar Falls and Des Moines, Iowa, as well as Madison, Wisconsin.

The video runs 8 minutes, 34 seconds.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Site Selection and Energy 2010

I always hate going too far into smart grid, alternative energy or greentech territory on this, a data center blog, but..... with data centers consuming as much as they do, I have to imagine it is on the mind of many of those interested in data centers.

A short while back siteselection.com released The Site Selection Energy Report and after glancing through it, I filled a dozen or so Firefox tabs worth of related stories and interesting tidbits. The first section covers the best places for renewable energy power plants and shows why going with the greenfield option isn't necessarily the greenest thing to do.

The article discusses part of the EPA's program for RE-Powering America's Land where the DoE and NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) did a feasibility study of 12 sites in the U.S. where renewable energy production (wind, solar or small hydro) might take place on Superfund, brownfields, and former landfill or mining sites. I am also a Google Earth fanatic, so the renewable energy interactive mapping tool on the EPA's site was really cool. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) took some ARRA money to take a second look at cutting some of the red tape and expense for developers using BLM land. In 2008 $5.5 billion was paid to Federal and State governments for Federal onshore energy leasing and production.

In the Sustainable Design section of the siteselection.com report Dell is highlighted -- for completing their 516 panel solar installation in October 2009, dubbed "Solar Grove". The 130 kW array at Round Rock Texas headquarters will help them in avoiding approximately 145,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Envision Solar created tree canopy's in Dell's parking lots and to date has installed more than 9 MW of solar arrays for commercial, residential and public entities worldwide.

In the Energy Matters section, they discuss a program backed by European Union funding through the Welsh Assembly Government:

"The Low Carbon Research Institute energy program led by the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, is building with Corus Colors a Sustainable Building Envelope Center in order to showcase and test sustainable building products."

Just prior to the June 9-11 Intersolar Conference in Munich, there will be a session on doing solar business in the UK That session will discuss what to do now that the feed-in-tarrif was enacted to encourage the adoption of renewable energy sources.

Finally, the siteselection.com report covers Saul Griffith, an inventory who helped found Makani (wind,breeze), a company that Google invested $15 million in. Makani plans to skip the towers and oversized turbines and just use kites and smaller turbines to generate power.

Taking a larger step back to view the bigger picture, Yale's Environment360 site has an interesting article by NewYorker author Elizabeth Kolbert, who disucsses the Anthropocene Debate
"As epochs go, the Holocene is barely out of diapers; its immediate predecessor, the Pleistocene, lasted more than two million years, while many earlier epochs, like the Eocene, went on for more than 20 million years. Still, the Holocene may be done for. People have become such a driving force on the planet that many geologists argue a new epoch — informally dubbed the Anthropocene — has begun."

Apparently a group of geologists listed more than a half dozen human-driven processes that are likely to leave a lasting mark on the planet. I didn't read the entire report, but luckily data centers were not listed as an anthroprocenal cause (hey, that was a fun word to make up).

Forrester's Doug Washburn has a part one of his series on The Evolution of Green IT. In short Doug walks through the business case justification for Green IT. Doug also tweeted an interesting article at FinancialTimes.com on Technology takes a lead in cutting carbon.

The Ethiopian Review reports on global finance giant Deutsche Bank (DB) and their best practices for environmental sustainability. Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors operates the real-time Carbon Counter in Madison Square Garden, a 69 foot billboard that displays a running total of long-lived greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere. DB hopes to change the way data centers are thought of and extend their lifetime as dynamic eco-systems where innovations increase efficiency and they challenge themselves to conserve IT resources where practical.

"We calculate IT eco-efficiency using three percentages. Data center infrastructure efficiency tells you what percentage of the energy consumed in a data center actually gets to the hardware. Hardware power relative efficiency tells you how much computing capability you are getting from each watt relative to best-in-class hardware; we had to develop our own metric here based on external benchmarks and our selection of a reference server to make a notional 100 percent reference point. And, of course, hardware utilization efficiency gets you more useful work from the available compute cycles. The nice thing is that you can multiply these three percentages to arrive at an overall energy efficiency metric for each facility."

CO2K in motion? you bet.

Finally, a SeekingAlpha article really caught my attention on Why Google Could Crush the Coal ETF. The article discusses how data centers are targeted because they are the lifeline of the Internet and how many cloud providers are in fact located in areas where electricity is generated primarily at coal-fired power plants. In January this year Google formed a new subsidiary - Google Energy SeekingAlpha contrasts two funds, the Market Vectors-Coal ETF (NYSE: KOL) and First Trust ISE Global Wind Energy ETF (NYSE: FAN).

Interesting times we live in -- the anthropocene era, CO2K, and methane generated energy for the data center!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Heartland Green Up Wrap-up

Last Wednesday I attended the Heartland Green Up in Des Moines. Besides being a big proponent of technology, Iowa, and technology in Iowa -- this symposium was an awesome event, and I hope the success it had this year is dwarfed by future years.

The opening keynote was Randy Mott, Executive VP and CIO of HP. Having the experience that Randy does, and the responsibility of that title for a $100+ billion company is quite impressive and I thoroughly enjoyed his talk. We viewed videos of their Wynyard and Houston data centers and witnessed the implemented technologies set to help achieve their goal of saving 1 billion kWh by 2011. Data Center Knowledge has a nice write-up of the facility -- and here is the video we viewed. The 360k square foot Wynyard facility opened in February 2010, uses 10% wind energy, has an 'excellent' BREEAM rating, and uses 50% less CO2 than comparable HP data centers.

The second talk I attended was Jim Borendame from Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo has a huge presence in Des Moines and I enjoyed Jim's IT-centric approach to going green. In 2005 Wells Fargo made a 10 point environmental commitment to itself and stake holders. With 61,000 physical and virtual servers, 61PB of storage and 8MW data centers, Jim has a lot to manage. IT metrics like those from IDEAS International helped green projects save enough money that they did not have to build a new data center -- even though they had board approval for a tier 4, $350 million facility. Other things such as 9:1 compression ratio using deduplication technologies, and moving to the latest VMware VSphere to enable more virtual servers also helped improve IT efficiencies and save money. Even with their impressive IT asset portfolio, it isn't enough to necessitate looking at data center containers. I couldn't resist asking, but even a company the size of Wells Fargo doesn't fit the business case for doing a container data center farm -- guess we'll leave that to Google and Microsoft for now.

Una Song from EnergyStar went over a number of programs and projects under way. Energystar.gov/datacenters covers information about Enterprise Servers and Data Center Energy Efficiency Initiatives. Data Center Knowledge interviewed Andrew Fanara, who recently left EnergyStar. DCK also has a post on the EnergyStar rating for servers coming soon. The Department of Energy also has a Industrial Technologies Program site for saving energy in data centers.

The conference saved the rock star for last -- Bill Weihl, Energy Czar at Google. Even though it was the end of a long day - everyone enjoyed Bill's speech, knowledge and enthusiasm. Bill had 10 lessons from Google as it relates to energy / green programs -- but a heavy focus was on #1 - We need cheap, clean energy. It is well known that Google has invested in solar and wind, as well as this crazy offshore data barges concept, which just baffles me. Stacey Higgenbotham interviewed Bill after the GreenNet conference and talks about the huge responsibility Google has to buy green power, and build efficient data centers.

Overall it was a very good conference to attend -- big names, big/timely topics, and good networking. I'll be back next year!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Green News Week

Being in between the GreenNet conference last week and the upcoming Heartland Green Up (which I am going to) -- I have a lot of green news in my browser cache. There were several interesting things at the GreenNet conference that caught my attention -- most notably the Google Budget Containment system. I've looked at air curtains before and have been intrigued...I think they give an attractive solution to most any data center and Google highlights the flexibility it allows them. The Greenpeace IT rankings were also announced at the conference, with Cisco taking the #1 spot. Jonathan Koomey also spoke on a panel at GreenNet about the Dematerialization opportunity.

I also caught a Seattle Xconomy story last week about Cisco and a Verdiem, an energy management software company teaming up. Through the Cisco "EnergyWise Orchestrator" brand they will market Verdiem software for PCs and networked devices. I still think that 'one' of the Cisco acquisitions in 2010 will be related to their building management / EnergyWise division.

Another green story last week was from the U.S. Green Building Council -- saying that they were selected to help empower a new generation of green building student leaders. At the Clinton Global Initiative University annual meeting the USGBC and others were called to help students jumpstart their careers in green building and sustainability through the USGBC Student program. At the conference all attendees were asked to make a commitment to action, a comprehensive, formal plan to address a specific problem around the world, in their community or on their campus.

An interesting item I ran across in my neck of the woods was the Eco4 Partners project for Moss Green Urban Village. The project is developing 170 acres of land in Iowa City, Iowa as a 'green' office and research park, allowing developers to apply for tax increment financing. The most cost effective energy saving and green technologies will be used -- shooting for near Net Zero in energy usage. Buildings will use 60% less BTU's per square foot than a conventional office building.

This coming Wednesday at The Heartland Green Up conference in Des Moines I'll learn about green lessons learned at HP and Oracle, as well as efficient data centers at Wells Fargo and MidAmerican's wind energy program. I'm also going to try and attend the track with Kevin Monson and Tom Struve, talking about the ACT data center in Iowa City that achieved LEED platinum status. It should be an awesome event!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Site Selection - What Not To Do

A while back the Black Swan Real Estate Zine had a post I enjoyed. Typically you will see data center site selection articles about where TO build a facility, but Black Swan approached it from the other point of view -- 10 Places You Don't Want to Build.

My two favorite on their list are #5 - In a building that used to be something else and #6 - in a large metropolitan area. I see a number of stories about converted malls or warehouses that are now data centers, and while I'm sure in 'some' cases the retrofit study / cost analysis made sense, I view data centers as a very purpose-built facility that should not, if at all possible be "fit" into a building that was built for something else. Not building in a large metropolitan area is another one I believe in -- and not just for the reasons mentioned in the article or stories I've personally heard. If anyone is reading this from Dallas -- are your lights dimming? :)

A few days after that blog post I read another excellent point brought up by Dave Ohara on the Green (low carbon) Data Center blog. Dave brings up the error of a single number view vs. the range of performance. With a number of criteria to pour over when selecting a site, Dave points out that most criteria have relationships to other things and that a holistic approach is rarely executed, marrying site, building, IT hardware and software.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Heartland Green Up Conference

Just a few weeks left until The Heartland GreenUp! If you haven't heard about this event -- please check it out. It is shaping up to be an outstanding symposium and expo. The goal of the conference is to "promote awareness of and best practices in reducing overall energy consumption and carbon footprints in information technology. This premiere event provides a forum to discover and share new, innovative green products and services".

I am personally looking forward to a few of the keynote speakers - including Randy Mott from HP. Randy is executive vice president and chief information officer at HP. Also delivering keynotes are Andrew Fanara works from ENERGY STAR and Bill Weihl, Green Energy Czar at Google.

Please don't think of this as some little, local event -- this is global conference for all those interested in learning about GreenIT and networking with others in the industry. In ONE event, it will bring together:
"a group of global enterprise and government thought-leaders for one, intense day of networking: to share latest research, brass-tacks case studies and fast-paced total-immersion backgrounders on enterprise-wide sustainable IT best-practice; next-gen datacenter architectures, power management strategies and facilities engineering; cloud computing and virtualization; and on the nuts and bolts (and business case) for plugging into wind and solar, biomass and other emerging energy technologies"
If not able to attend in person, the Technology Association of Iowa will host a Virtual GreenUp to let you attend keynotes, track sessions and network with speakers, sponsors and peers.

I am going! Will you?

Register Now!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Mobile Data Centers Introduced in Vietnam

A story on Vietnam Business News caught my eye this weekend -- no, not a publication I 'usually' read, but thanks to a Google alert....

The story covers mobile data centers being offered in the Vietnamese market by Dot VN, Vietnam Internet Center and Elliptical Mobile Solutions (EMS). Once again, the marketing hype calls it "meeting Tier 4+ standard" -- not sure which Tier system they are talking about. :)

The mobile data center is being proposed to meet the demands of "a wide range of clients" and reduce "the size by 50% and save up to 50% of the initial investment." Dot VN will be the sole distributor of EMS solutions in Vietnam and non-exclusive distributor in Asia.

I've been interested in container data centers for a while -- so EMS interested me. Upon further research I found they are an Arizona based business that provides "high-tech enclosures for the mobilization, operation, environmental protection, and security of electronic equipment." They must have an IT background, because every one of their products is an acronym for something. I would not call what they make a 'data center' either, as it is just a single rack, or small enclosure with a pretty narrow focus/market.

They do list some interesting government/military applications for their product, and maybe this is where they shine. I remember when the Sun Blackbox container first came out -- they showed several applications where the Blackbox is deployed into remote areas where the technology needed served a very unique purpose.

Maybe you take an ISO shipping container, fill half of it with Bloom boxes and half of it with EMS R.A.S.E.R.'s and you have something!

P.S.: Does anyone know what's going to happen to the Sun Blackbox, post-Oracle acquisition??

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nuclear Energy Resurgence

In a recent speech on clean energy in Lanham, Maryland President Obama announced that his administration has approved an $8.3 billion loan guarantee to build the first nuclear power plant in the U.S. in three decades. His 2010 budget calls for $54 billion to be set aside for nuclear loan guarantees, so other announcements are sure to come. President Obama noted that "Japan and France have long invested heavily in this industry. Meanwhile, there are 56 nuclear reactors under construction around the world: 21 in China alone, 6 in South Korea, 5 in India."

The $8.3 million was awarded to Southern Co. to build twin nuclear reactors in Georgia. These reactors will be Westinhouse Electric Company's Ap1000 reactor design - the first to receive final design approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Westinghouse has a nice graphical depiction of how the AP1000 works here. A Forbes article on the announcement notes that "the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said last year that the AP1000 nuclear units needed to be redesigned because the commission feared the structure wouldn't stand up to strong winds."

Forbes also reports on GE's nuclear waste plans - where spent nuclear fuel would be used as raw material for a new type of nuclear reactor. GE's joint venture with Hitachi, called GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy could be a recipient for some of the remaining $54 billion in loan guarantees.

Last week at TED2010 Bill Gates talked about the nuclear reactor project at TerraPower, an incubated company from Intellectual Ventures which was founded by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold. TerraPower uses a "traveling wave reactor design' - earth2tech explains that it uses a "small amount of enriched uranium at the beginning of the process, but then the nuclear reactor runs on the waste product and can make and consume its own fuel." A video explanation of the traveling-wave reactor and how it works can be found on the Intellectual Ventures Lab web site. earth2tech also has a post on 6 nuclear power startups to watch.

I haven't mentioned the data center angle yet - but with each site turning out Gigawatts instead of Megawatss - it's implied.

If the whole nuclear thing doesn't work out, then I say we start to power the data center (and the grid) by bike -- electricity generating gyms. :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Financial Health of the Colocation Industry

I would like to preface this post with the statement that I am very much a novice when it comes to stock analysis and any form of insightful opinion into the valuation of a publicly held company. However, I think it is interesting, I'm learning, and it allows me to really dig into the inner workings of a company.

I decided to do a little analysis of the colocation industry and the specific stocks I was interested in
  • Equinix
  • Digital Realty Trust
  • Savvis
  • Terremark
  • Dupont Fabros
  • Rackspace
  • Internap
I also like to track merger and acquisition trends and predict how the landscape will change in coming months. With acquisition activity picking up in 2010 I started by looking at the cash and cash equivalents for these companies. Combined they have $810.57 million. That is a little shy of the $842 million that Google's peak quarterly Capex was in 1Q 2008. Out of curiosity I also analyzed the cash equivalents of the big guys - looking at Intel, IBM, Cisco, HP, Dell, and EMC. Their combined cash of $50.01 billion is slightly more than the 2008 Gross Domestic Product for the country of Lithuania.

Key figures
The average price to earnings ratio for my colocation group is 24.1, with a few troublesome negative p/e's for Savvis (-60) and Terremark (-16). Another interesting one to look at was the debt-to-equity ratio. For the most part, the group stayed under 2.0, but Terremark's 6.18 and 3.61 for Savvis is an indicator of how they have been financing their growth. In the case of Terremark however, building such intense data centers like they do requires some serious capital outlay up front.

An interesting stock comparison number to look at is the revenue per employee. Digital Realty and Dupont Fabros aren't really in the same category as the rest in this group, and their revenue per employee figures reflected as much ($2.9 million and $2.6 million respectively). Otherwise Equinix and Internap were the highest with $745,000 and $597,500 respectively.

I ran across a few 'insights' from the industry on Equinix and Internap. The Motley Fool website included Equinix in their '5 Deathbed stocks?' article, talking about companies where revenues dry up, margins contract and profit evaporates. Apparently Equinix has an Altman Z-Score of 1.7. This score is used to predict the probability that a firm will go into bankruptcy within two years, utilizing multiple income and balance sheet values to measure the financial health of a company. I'm sure numbers don't lie, but I think I believe this one about as much as I believe in Jim Cramer's knowledge of the industry (in other words, I don't!). An article at Smartrend notes the uptrend for Internap by showing that they are currently above their 50 day moving average of $4.22 and above their 200 day average of $3.36.

Finally, I looked at Morningstar to review financial statistics on these companies. The morningstar 'grades' were interesting, as they analyzed growth, profitability and financial health of the company. Equinix received a B for both growth and financial health, but a F for profitability. Rackspace received the best grades with a C for growth and a B for both profitability and financial health.

If anyone is interested -- here is the Google spreadsheet where I tracked the data.

Overall I think the industry is doing well and set for a positive 2010. The toughest part may be just defining 'what' the industry really is. Many if not all of the financial sites I visited had not attempted to categorize the industry that these companies are in, or put them in odd categories with peers that really weren't industry equivalents at all. I think some of the smaller data center companies may be acquired and some interesting things will certainly happen in the related telecommunications sector.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Data Center Jobs

A number of 'data center' job openings have come up on my radar recently and so I went digging. Maybe the new year means new budgets and new initiatives to hire and fill data center jobs that the 2009 fiscal year just didn't allow. Maybe it's an indicator of a hot job market for the data center industry in 2010. Maybe I need to surf the web a little less and stop reading into things so much.

A nice trending tool for job searches can be found at indeed.com - a job search engine. Check out this graph on job trends for postings containing "data center" in them.
One of the items that started my search for data center jobs was a number of openings for the Google facility in Belgium. There were at least 10 'data center' related postings on LinkedIn by Google just today. Three of them were for the Saint-Ghislain, Belgium location. I've been very intrigued by Googles Belgium location ever since the Chiller-less data center information was out and I really think the 'follow-the-moon' concept is interesting.

On Google's web site they list current engineering openings for the Council Bluffs, Iowa, North Carolina, Oregon and South Carolina locations. Here is the Indeed.com job trends search for Google:

One final graph of interest given the acquisition of Switch & Data by Equinix: