Monday, August 27, 2012

Choose Iowa For The Project Edge Data Center

Back in 2010 I was considering a post to entice Microsoft to build a data center in Iowa.  At that time Iowa was in the running, but the decision had not yet been made. This was the Microsoft and Google build-out era of the mega data centers, similar to the Facebook and Apple story of recent years. As I started to write the 2010 post, Microsoft announced that they had decided on West Des Moines for their latest site.

So.... I am writing today to entice Facebook or Apple (who else has $1.2B to spend) to select Iowa for the site of its next data center. Earlier this year the buzz was out that 'Project Edge' could result in a $1.2 Billion data center campus. The decision was down to either Iowa or Nebraska, and the political battle (i.e.: tax incentives) was on. Although all sources said the mystery company was looking to break ground in May 2012, nothing happened.

I won't spend too much time stating why Iowa is an awesome place to build Project Edge - the facts do that for me   :)

  1. Iowa is #2 in wind energy - installing 647MW of new capacity in 2011, for a total of over 4,300MW available.
  2. Iowa has wonderfully robust technology and innovation support systems.
  3. CNBC's Top States for Business 2011: Cost of doing business - Iowa #1, Nebraska #17
  4. Google and Microsoft constructed data centers in Iowa. Google even expanded another $300 million this year.

An article last week at says that Project Edge is on hold.  The article says that the mystery company is "trying to figure out logistics...". Facebook (FB) has had some stock issues since its IPO, but should still be able to pull the trigger.  The world's most valuable company (AAPL) just won a $1B verdict against Samsung - so they should have no problems executing.

The logistics of site selection is a pretty interesting process. Since this project has been publicized for so long now, I doubt the site is the problem, but figuring out exactly what the company wants to do. If it is Apple, they announced a new data center near Reno in June and perhaps that one was just prioritized over the Iowa site announcement.

In 2007 I wrote about data center site selection - at a macro level. For companies like Facebook, Apple, Google and Microsoft the regional data center strategy is to be in close network proximity to its user base and the macro-level decision boils down to some of the evaluation criteria that I have in mind for adding to my site selection white paper.

Two big ones are water and power (strength in renewables, capacity, reserve...). Obviously data centers built to the scale that these companies develop will require a plentiful, reliable water source for years to come. The 2012 drought that has hit many parts of the midwest may have an impact in looking at a site for long term. As I state in my white paper, there really is no area in the country that is completely impervious to some form of natural disaster - there could be drought this year, but a flood the next.  As a visual learner I appreciate maps, and have found a number of useful maps with data at the USGS Water Science School site. Climate change impacts are also a consideration - and the EPA has some nice resources for researching that.

Power is another one of the large areas to research when selecting a site, and there are a number of sources to look at. Iowa and Nebraska are on the same power grid, but some recently published information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration was interesting -- about the regional reserve margin estimates. It is just a short term reliability assessment, but interesting: Iowa is covered in the Midwest region, and has a 27% reserve margin estimate, with a 17% target, and Nebraska is in the Central region, with a 20% estimate and 14% target. Texas, having its own grid ....  well.... is in trouble again for keeping up with demand.

Microgrids are another interesting power topic .... but for another post. Forbes had a really good article recently on Distributed Energy.

Either state would be a good choice for the Project Edge data center, but should the mystery company look at Iowa - I would especially recommend cities that start with a W.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Facebook IPO and What $10B Buys

The headlines have picked up once again for a possible Wednesday filing for Facebook's IPO. Expected in May, the IPO could raise around $10 Billion and place a stock market value on Facebook as high as $100 Billion.

With Facebook already being watched closely for their supposed 800+ million assets (users) and potential value per user, their IPO will be heavily scrutinized. It's hard to believe such a high value placed on a company like Facebook, and to me it just seemed like an opportunity to randomly calculate things that one could do with $10 Billion.

Since this is a data center blog and new facilities typically cost a dollar or two, how much would $10 Billion buy in data centers?  Well, going off of their own $450 million price tag for past Facebook data centers, they could build 22 more data centers around the world to support their (surely) agressive growth plans.  Alternatively they could just acquire Equinix ($5.74B market cap) and Level 3 ($4.04B market cap) and just use those existing facilities and networks to power their growth. $10 Billion would almost equal the total amount of Data Center mergers and acquisitions in 2011 ($12.3B).

Otherwise, here are some fun (and totally irrational) things $10B could buy:

  1. Give $12.50 to all 800 million users
  2. Send 50,000 people on a Virgin Galactic trip into space.
  3. Buy Autonomy from HP
  4. Acquisition possibilities:
    1. RIM ($8.8B)
    2. Zynga ($7.03B)
    3. LinkedIn ($7.39B)
    4. (most of) Dish Network ($12.33B)
    5. Sprint ($6.5B)
    6. Purchase 83,884 shares of Berkshire Hathaway
    7. Twitter (~$8B)
  5. Purchase 845 megawatts of power from the Shepherds Flat Wind Farm in northern Oregon.
  6. Supply the one year payroll for the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL
  7. How many hours of 'Eight extra large cluster compute instances' on Amazon's EC2 could they buy?   Let's just say its enough to last the life of the company (and then some)
  8. If you figure $1/Gigabyte of SSD storage - they could buy over 9.3 Exabytes of storage

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

2011 Data Center Statistics

Now that all of the 2011 reviews and 2012 prediction stories are out I am finally getting around to my year-end review. I just didn't quite make it to post by the end of 2011.  Regardless, I have a number of items I wanted to cover as a means of reflecting on the year, data center stories, statistics and other musings.

I don't spend a great deal of time in my Google Analytics for this blog, but when I am sifting through it I am constantly surprised at the number of visits coming for a post I did in early 2009 about 2008 Data Center Statistics.  As much as I would like to think it was possibly an insightful post, it was most likely due to not having turned on comment moderation (yet).   :)


Data Center statistics are interesting however, and as data center technologies have evolved and case studies written throughout the past years it is helpful for looking at a more of a macro view of the industry.  Many statistics are of course made possible with the help from a company that is studied for many data center topics; Google. Google's Zeitgeist is always an interesting barometer of what the world searched and how we spent our online lives. Check out the 2011 Zeitgeist video.  Google Trends is also sometimes fun to look at for more specific topics, such as those that frequented 2011 headlines:


Looking at patents for the data center can always be interesting as well. Google has filed patents over the years under the name Exaflop LLC and they filed around 8 in 2011.   They continue to refine their data center infrastructure and methods to engineer and optimize the environment, through such things as patent 8004831, Orthogonally system arrangements for data center facility.  The physical data center and components within are almost arranged/engineered like the big data programs that are running on them. Lead on patent 8004831, Andrew Carlson  recently had an interesting article in the New York Times  on "Aiming to Learn as We Do, a Machine Teaches itself". 

Just doing a Google Patent search on "data center" or cloud computing can be enlightening.  Another interesting Google patent was 0276686, for a Cloud Computing Assessment Tool.   With the tool, input your data center information and it will spit out how it could look at a number of different data center providers and what efficiency, green-ness, and cost scores/ratings are. Not to be left out, Microsoft's 20110278928 is certainly intriguing, as a Wind-powered data center. 

My 2011

In 2011 I was fortunate enough to take several data center tours that were each memorable in their own way.  In May I toured an almost complete CoreSite facility and the Vantage Data Centers campus in Santa Clara. This was while attending the Uptime Institute Symposium. I also geeked out and toured the corporate campuses for Apple and Google while out there (stalker-mode, not official tours).  While attending Cisco Live 2011 I toured the Vegas SuperNAP facility.   It was very impressive and certainly lived up to all that I had read about it.  

Since it is (kind of) in my back yard, I made several trips to the West Des Moines Microsoft data center in 2011.  They have been pretty quiet about the details on this site, but as an iteration of that "4th Generation" data center vision I am very intrigued about how it is engineered (and how it is operating so far).  It looks close to how they depict the 4th generation infrastructure in this blog post

I also completed a couple of white papers in 2011 at Data Center Knowledge:

Data Center Markets

Finally - the markets for data centers and U.S.-wide site selection are still an interest of mine. In 2007 I wrote a site selection white paper and in 2012 I would like to get a second / updated revision out.  There are a number of angles to consider in the process other than natural disasters and obviously a lot has happened in the industry since 2007.  Last month GigaOm published a post on the Top 5 places to build a data center, but for some reason left out Iowa in that list.  

In 2011 the U.S. broke its record for billion-dollar weather disasters.   I ran across an article over the holidays that adds an interesting angle to earthquakes as a natural disaster. In McDonald Ohio a 4.0 earthquake struck recently. "It was the latest in a series of minor quakes in the area in 2011, though the residents say Saturday's appeared to be stronger than others.  Many have struck near an injection well used to dispose of brine water that's a byproduct of oil and gas drilling."  


2012 predictions?  I'm not a big fan of guessing what the new year will bring ; let's just say - big efficiency, big data (getting bigger), deeper cloud integration and modular data centers continue to proliferate.     ... and that Mayan calendar thing: five 9's chance that it was wrong.