Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Review

I feel somewhat obligated to do an end of the year post. It's in fashion, it's that reflective time of year, and well....why not. I've been saving up a bunch of items, so here we go.....

First - there have been any number of '2008 review' articles and blog posts, but here are some of my favorite year-end stories:

The big story of the year (for me anyway) was the Iowa floods in June. I witnessed a lot during those few weeks/months and was very fortunate to not be directly affected. I saw both good and bad business continuity plans being executed and came out with a number of very valuable lessons learned.

I am a big picture person. I like to see the 10,000 foot view and then analyze the heck out of it to the associated impacts, outcomes and possibilities. A short while back I ran across a report from the National Intelligence Council titled Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World. Although I didn't read the entire 120 pages, here are some things that stood out to me:
  • Page 33: ".... nine factors can contribute to a modern National Innovation System: fluidity of capital, flexibility of the labor pool, government receptivity to business, information communication technologies, private sector development infrastructure, legal systems to protect intellectual property rights, available scientific and human captial, marketing skills, and cultural propensity to encourage creativity."
  • Page 40 has a an interesting map showing world population by age range, in 2005 and 2025.
  • Page 63 has a chart breaking down likely energy sources (coal, gas, hydro, oil, nuclear, biomass, others) from 1980 to 2025.

In October I started tracking data center stocks a little closer. I created a Google spreadsheet and used the capitalization-weighted method to make an index of the stocks I chose to track. The stocks are all data center industry companies and I post regular updates for what the price is as often as I can. It started in October at $23.13 and closed today at $19.63

I have a few million feeds in my Bloglines account. I removed a couple dozen the other day and need to work on prioritizing what I read in there. My favorite new blogs that I am reading are:

This blog had a pretty good year overall....the biggest problem is just finding the time to sit down and write. Coverage of the Michael Manos speech at the Spring Data Center World conference was by far the most read post of the year. Much of this was due to a link from the popular blog by James Hamilton. I was happy to see that my Data Center Site Selection white paper from 2007 had the second highest number of visits. The top states that visited my blog (in order) were California, Iowa, New York, Texas, Washington, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, Florida, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.

As many of you know, I live in Iowa and am a big advocate of the upper Midwest. Iowa had a lot of activity in 2008 with the Google data center in Council Bluffs, the Microsoft West Des Moines announcement and TEAM Companies making several announcements (opening Madison data center and breaking ground in Des Moines).

On to 2009!!

Data Center Containers were a huge story in 2008 and I think that will continue in 2009. I saw the Sun Blackbox again this year, and the Rackable Icecube at Data Center World. I have a number of posts in mind to review and analyze containers, but more on that later...

A few blog posts back I mentioned that video was going to be the killer app. While this is not any big revelation I realize, I think it has been a gradual thing that has many side affects and will continue to grow rapidly in 2009. I've read things about Cisco really attacking the home entertainment market, YouTube , Hulu , Joost , Vimeo and others had great years, and the infrastructure market to support video distribution is growing. The CDN market (I believe) is set to have a great 2009 and we may see some M&A action here. Video podcasts (or what ever you want to call them) are growing in number as well. Some of my regulars include:
Kevin Rose from cut the cord and ditched cable in favor of the Internet, TiVO and Netflix. TiVO recently announced that they will offer the ability to watch YouTube videos on TiVO. I got an iPhone about a month ago and have to is the best cell phone I have ever had. I mention this because I discovered I could use on it and find the application and streaming video ability pretty amazing. The end result though....bandwidth is going to HAVE to get better in 2009!! More on this at the New York Times article about Internet usage growth.

Happy New Year!!!

Inspiration is for amateurs ; the rest of us just show up and get to work.
-Chuck Close

Saturday, December 27, 2008

HP POD Presentation

Just a quick link to a presentation I ran across on the HP POD (Performance-Optimized Data Center). For some reason I always forget that they entered the container market and that it is a decent solution. As it seems to be a blogger reqirement, I am working on an end of the year blog post and you can bet containers are a big part of it.

The PDF is from Eva Beck from EMEA Hewlett Packard. Check it out here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday Links

My data center stock index was fairly steady last week, but closed down today, at $19.20. The Dow Jones Internet Composite Index tracked similarly and closed today at $58.83.

Here are some other items of interest I have run across recently:

  • Wachovia initiates coverage on Data Center Space. "We believe the network neutral data center space represents a relatively safe derivative way to play on the continued growth of IP and internet traffic."
  • As some of you know.... I have a pretty strong side interest in data center site selection. So much so I published a white paper on the topic last year. I am a visual learner, so I love having all of the maps of the U.S. for natural disasters and other things. I have started to work on a second version of the paper and recently found another map that is interesting. The International Journal of Health Geographics recently published some new research: Spatial patterns of natural hazards mortality in the United States. The paper "examines the spatial patterns of natural hazard mortality at the county-level for the U.S. from 1970-2004 using a combination of geographical and epidemiological methods". Click through to the PDF to see the various maps.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Data Center Videos

Backing up my statement from the Cisco C-Scape post that Video is indeed THE killer app, here are a few data center favorites:

  • Layered Tech TV - Episode #1. AP - you'll have to tell me about the bet you lost. :)
  • FORTRUST on a local news segment in Colorado. I love it when news anchors have absolutely ZERO idea what a data center is.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dell's Containerized Data Center

Just a quick link to an article at The Register about Dell's recent entry to the container market. I think Dell has really thought this through and not just delivered a basic container, but a solution to the needs expressed by their clients.

The Register has some nice facts about the product, and an additional picture I had not seen before of a cutaway view of the container.
Check out the article here

Cisco C-Scape 2008

As I mentioned last Sunday, the Cisco C-Scape was held (virtually) last week. Due to a few too many things going on at work I couldn't attend in real-time, but I did go back and view a couple of the archived videos. Here are just a few of my thoughts/notes on C-Scape and a press-filled week for Cisco:

  • My favorite C-Scape session was what CEO John Chambers said was his favorite as well -- Closing Q&A. I think John handled the questions quite well, and I can only imagine the pressure of being CEO of such an enormous company and getting bombarded day in and out with share holders, press and analysts. He mentioned that a week or so back he met with approximately 80% of Cisco share holders and said that their expectations for Cisco in the coming year was to be 'dramatically more aggressive (but don't mess it up)', even though the financial markets and overall outlook is set to be somewhat gloomy. He mentioned that their most aggressive investments will be in China and India, while still looking into Mexico and Brazil. John was asked what 'type' of company Cisco will be in 2012. He gave an answer that any good CEO would, but basically said that they have the "architectural play" and that their strength is in "the network is the platform".
  • Bloomberg had an article last Tuesday about how Cisco may be a winner in the Obama plans for Infrastructure plays. Economist James Galbraith, a Democratic adviser, recommends spending more than $900 billion. "Just as the highway program moved the U.S. into a new era in the 1950's, technology companies such as Cisco expect the federal government will now lead the way to an information-based economy." Check out the Bloomberg article here
  • Video IS the killer application. I can attest that watching videos on the computer has increased dramatically for me in the past year. The number of video's linked inside this post alone are a testament to the statement. Cisco is also increasing the use of videos as a basic communications form via informal (in their cubical) short videos, and the TechWiseTV podcast.
  • One of my favorite bloggers and now Cisco employee with a really long title, James Urquhart has an article on Cnet about a Maturity Model for Cloud Computing . His title is "Marketing Manager/Technology Evangelist for Data Center Virtualization at Cisco Systems, Inc." :) I'm starting to agree with Larry Ellison and Christofer Hoff -- just what exactly is "the cloud" again? I think we should just go back to calling it "the Internet". James does have a very good article however and true to my ITIL roots he references a maturity model that actually does do a good job of explaining how a company might mature towards this mythical "cloud" of computing power.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Lego Cloud

Christian Belady and David Gauthier from Microsoft have started a blog on Microsoft data centers. They start off with a bang by building on the Michael Manos blog post about Generation 4 data centers. Christian and David sit down with Adam Bomb from the Edge Technet site and answer a fair amount of questions that came as a result of people reading the Gen4 ideas.

They talk about the fact that it is truely a modular solution for the entire data center, and not just the server containers. David mentioned legos as building blocks, so I couldn't resist the title to my blog post. :)

The only question un-answered that I can think of is about natural disasters. I would have to think that the containers are some how anchored down in order to protect against tornadoes.

The only other comment I'll make on this follow-up information is that David mentioned how much shorter the build time is for Gen4. Instead of 12-18 months for construction, they expect the Gen4 sites to be ready in 3-6 months! Christian then mentioned that they are 'piloting' the modular concepts, and pulling together specs, etc. Then...... earlier today I read a brief article from the Des Moines Register stating that the plans for Des Moines data center were still on track. The article says that construction is due to begin this Spring or Summer. I think that is enough time to really nail down the supply chain process and get those containers rolling into Des Moines! At the August press conference Michael Manos said “We are implementing a very new design that’s just coming out of our research and development department, so we need to get that finalized”. The other clue is that the Register article describes it as a "150,000 sq. ft. facility". I imagine this goes back to changing the entire model for a data center.... if they would have told the press they were building a 42-acre "yard" for containers they probably would have had some puzzled looks.

But.....if San Antonio is 470,000 sq.ft. and Chicago is 441,000 sq.ft - why is the Des Moines site only 150,000?

I'll be in Des Moines in a couple of weeks and see what other clues I can find on-site.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Level3 Cuts 8% of Workforce

As many have said now.... the economy will get worse before it gets better. Level3 announced that they are cutting 450 jobs in North America, about 8% of their work force. Maybe they should apply for a bailout. :)

Tech stocks in general were up today, as my data center stock index showed -- it was up $1.67 from just last Friday, closing at $19.87. The Dow Jones Internet Composite Index was up $2.76 from Friday, closing at $60.35.

As another indicator of tough times -- The Tribune Company, publisher of The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, filed for bankruptcy. I have to wonder if other major newspaper companies won't be far behind. The sale of the Chicago Tribune could mean the sale of the Cubs would be opened up to new prospective buyers.

In other tech news.... at least now we have a double-wide analogy to apply to containers. :)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Week Ahead

It should be another interesting week for stocks and the market in general as the financial roller coaster continues. My data center stock index was up and closed the week at $18.18. The Dow Jones Internet Composite Index was up $5.22 for the week and closed at $57.59

I think traders should sell any telecom company stock associated with research firm Precursor. They released a report calling Google a bandwidth hog. It was just plain silly and I was glad to see that Google responded appropriately.

There are a few events happening this week, virtually, that I am planning on attending. The first is Cisco's C-Scape 2008. This looks to be pretty interesting and has a lot of the Cisco Senior and Executive VP's speaking. John Chambers will also participate! I saw the funny Nortel commercial today that talks about the Cisco "energy tax". I had not seen this commercial before, except in the parody done (moderately funny) below. Note there are 4 episodes all together on YouTube.

The other event I am looking at if I have time is "bMighty bOptimized: A deep dive on IT Infrastructure for SMBs." More information on it here.

It's also rumored that Microsoft will make some big announcement this week -- perhaps a Zune Phone. This Tuesday is also the last Patch Tuesday of the year and is supposed to be a pretty big one.

With any luck I will also get to the book review of Nicholas Carr's Big Switch. During the Thanksgiving break I was finally able to finish it. I really liked it and will do a quick review for anyone that has not read it.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Microsoft Generation 4 Modular Data Centers

Many people have commented and blogged on the recent post from Michael Manos about the Microsoft Generation 4 Modular Data Center strategy. I have watched the video about 5 times now and really like it. I especially like the fact that Microsoft is sharing this and giving so much information to the public about their strategies and countless hours of research.

If you haven't checked it out (are you living under a rock!), then it is VERY much worth the read. The post references a very nice video they produced to demonstrate some of the research and Gen 4 model for their data centers. It is complete with a piano soundtrack titled "Daybreak" (can't have a dramatic video like this without an appropriately named theme song. :) )

I do have just a few observations and questions that I thought I would log about the strategy, video and otherwise.....

  • One of the most intriguing parts of the video, to me, was not mentioned in very much detail in the blog post. I liked the depiction of their distribution system for data centers: Mega data center, Anchor and Edge. I assume that the Mega data center feeds the anchors, and the Anchors then feed the Edge, which was comprised of the 4 basic containers. The Anchors could simply be a communication hub, since a lot of international fiber lines were drawn off of them.
  • I am VERY excited that the Des Moines data center could potentially be the first Gen 4 data center. San Antonio was Gen 2, Chicago was Gen3 , so......
  • I imagine this is just the details, but.... asset management could be simplified and streamlined for them as well. It looked to me like (in the video) that as the trucks were leaving the warehouse, they were scanned. It would be logical then also that they are scanned upon entering the edge or mega data center and the contents are automatically updated to note that the particular compute unit is now at that location.
  • The biggest concern or question may just be a thing that I have to get past as the model for data centers evolves and advances. It may also just be applicable to this particular Microsoft strategy and not for others. Security! Natural Disasters! We see data centers built miles underground, have DoD-trained anti-terrorism staff, and have 3 foot thick re-inforced concrete. Yet, the video showed their mega data center with containers Outside!! I suppose security is established at the perimeter, and since the equipment is all inside the container there is no worry about privacy. As far as natural disaster prevention.....I'm stumped. Maybe they anchor the containers once in place. Maybe there are other measures in place that just weren't discussed.
  • I also noticed that they discussed reducing the dependency on water cooling and overall use of water in the data center. I think this is a trend you will see more of in the coming years. Maybe they could put 3 or 4 windmills on top of each branch spine in the mega data centers.
  • A question I had, and have had ever since containers have really taken off, is about the rest of world (not Google or Microsoft). How can radical design and engineering changes like the Gen 4 strategy apply to other business or the colo industry? The idea I have in my head for applying this to the colo industry, is something like what BastionHost is doing with their DataVille system. It's called HotParking, and is a BYOC (Bring Your Own Container) model. They provide the security and facility hook-ups, you park your container.

A year or two ago I was pretty skeptical about the whole container model and what, if anything, it could offer. Today, I'm fully on board....with questions....but on board.

THANK YOU Michael for publishing the information and to all the Microsoft Research staff for the excellent work.