Sunday, July 26, 2009

NASA's Nebula a Possible Federal Cloud Prototype reports that a NASA cloud computing model, called Nebula is being looked at by NASA and the Obama administration for federal agencies to outsource IT services to a shared platform. "A significant journey ahead" may be an understatement -- an estimated 10 year migration would have several hurdles to manage.

NASA's Chris Kemp is working with the federal government's could computing working group. NASA CIO's Chris Kemp and Linda Cureton have blogs that I have been following for a while now. Chris managed the Google relationship and talks of the larger strategy with NASA and Google, Microsoft and Cisco. The NASA/Ames Research Center has the current #4 supercomputer (Pleiades), a SGI Altix ICE 8200 wiht a measly 51TB of memory.

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra held a live chat several weeks back and has pretty ambitious plans for federal IT and data. You can see that even Vivek Kundra learned from Google -- the IT Dashboard site (very nice by the way) has a "beta" stamp on it.

Like many commercial data center consolidation projects, the federal government has about 70 data centers with "various levels of efficiency and availability that NASA is trying to contract to two outsourced data centers".

"Obama's fiscal 2010 budget proposal envisions optimizing cloud computing by "scaling pilots to full capabilities and providing financial support to accelerate migration," the budget stated. The fiscal plan acknowledges the effort will involve upfront costs, but the expense should be more than offset by savings from consolidating data centers."
Let's see -- one cloud with Google and one with Microsoft -- and then use all Cisco gear to network them together. :)

Check out the article here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Emerson St. Louis Data Center

Today I attended the open house for the new Emerson Global data center in St. Louis. The data center and presenting staff were both very impressive. The data center, like many corporate initiatives we’ve heard about in recent years, was a consolidation project. Emerson consolidated over 100 data centers they had around the world in remote offices, acquired companies and such and made the St. Louis facility a showcase, done right from the start, high density facility to serve the enterprise. The consolidation project will continue overseas with Europe and Asia facilities.

Some quick specs from this impressive facility include:

35,000 square foot --- 12,000 sq. ft. raised floor and ultimately capacity for 5,000 servers

Anticipating a LEED Gold certification

7,800 square foot Solar array on the roof providing 100kW of power to the IT Load

Applied all 10 attributes of their own Energy Logic road map.

Designed to cope with a variety of natural and man-made disasters (earthquakes, tornadoes, flooding, fires and telecom fiber cuts). The facility was built to withstand up to a F3 tornado or an earthquake up to 8.0 on the Richter scale.

Integrates numerous Emerson Network Power products – including Alber, Aperture, ASCO, Knurr and Liebert.

2 Caterpillar generators, with the capability to add 2 more.

72 hours of fuel on-site plus room to place an additional fuel tank.

Mostly new IT equipment populating the cabinets: Cisco, Dell, EMC and Sun.

Three layers of redundancy:

a. Dual utility feeds (separate physical paths into the building)

b. A and B side mechanical rooms / redundant UPS

c. N+1 Caterpillar generators

In Uptime Institute tier standards it comes about as close as you can to a tier IV data center. Dual-everything inside the building is used to the extent of having A & B telcom rooms where visiting technicians do not have to enter the data center or mechanical rooms to work on carrier equipment. There was great detail paid to the layout of the facility to ensure a separation of IT and facilities staff.

The LEED certification and renewable energy aspect to the facility was impressive. St. Louis based Fox Architects led a multi-disciplinary design and engineering team through years of

planning and 18 months of construction. Fox Architects also led the Monsanto data center project from a few years back. The solar array on the roof gives the ability to (manually) provide 100kW of DC power, directly to the IT load below. They use a Solectria Renewables Grid Tiered Photovoltaic inverter and boast that it is the largest solar array in the state of Missouri. The facility was originally planned to achieve silver LEED certification, but several items gave them additional points, such as approximately 80% of the waste generated during the construction has been diverted from landfills.

Site selection (to me) was a no-brainer, but primary reasons listed by Emerson were low power rates (typically 3-5 cents per kWh), low natural disaster risk, and low telecommunication rates. The sister site Emerson has in Marshalltown Iowa serves as a disaster recovery site and (now) vice versa.

As expected all of the latest and greatest Emerson products were used inside the facility.

Emerson even makes a component inside the Caterpillar generators used. There was amazing use and integration with their Site Scan and Aperture Vista products. A lobby television displays an interactive one-line diagram of their power infrastructure that can also be viewed on their internal corporate network. Site Scan is the dashboard for viewing a wide variety of data on the facility, load, IT equipment and other critical components. Emerson also incorporated the strategies and technologies advocated in their Energy Logic roadmap for improving efficiency. For instance they used a 240 volt power distribution architecture instead of the typical 208V. Aperture Vista is used for facility operations and future planning.

The “Liebert Adaptive Architecture” was seen in action throughout the facility:

1. Liebert DS precision cooling system

2. Liebert NXL on-line UPS

3. Liebert XD Cooling module (used when they had blades or higher density in a cabinet)

4. The web based monitoring of Site Scan

5. Liebert FDC power distribution cabinet

6. Liebert MPX adaptive rack PDU. This was just pretty darn cool. The word ‘adaptive’ is key here. It’s modular, re-configurable, supports NEMA and IEC, has SNMP and a host of other metrics and monitoring capabilities. The product is not yet released, but I was able to find this German Knurr brief on it – here.

The IT equipment going in to phase 1 of this facility will include around 400 servers plus storage and network gear. They intend to use blade systems (Sun I assume) and have approximately a 15:1 virtualization ratio. All network distribution to the cabinets is fiber. Following the dual-everything approach, each cabinet is fed A and B side fiber runs and there is NO copper in the under-floor trays. The 3 foot raised floor serves all electrical connectivity, cable trays for communication and FM200 protection.

The FM200 distribution under-floor was interesting to me. With so much going on under the floor the thought was to put out the fire in this 3 foot raised area, but not above floor for the IT equipment. Above floor fire protection comes in the form of pre-action dry pipe. This is also then used in power equipment rooms that are on slab.

Designed to be a lights-out facility, the on-site staff may just achieve that if they sit still too long and the motion-detection lights shut off. J CNN was playing on the TV in the lobby, which means cable, which means the St. Louis Cardinals SURELY are on whenever the boss isn’t around.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Paetec Data Center

Communications provider Paetec announced Thursday that they are opening an advanced data center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
"The 6,500 square feet of space available for customers includes the newest advancements in equipment with connectivity up to 10 Gbps, more energy efficient devices, higher cooling capacity to meet the increasingly powerful applications and a new Bi-Fuel power system providing redundant power generation fueled by conventional diesel, or a cleaner combination of diesel and natural gas. The center is also served by a diverse power grid, separate from New York City and Philadelphia, offering further resiliency in the event of a wide-scale brown-out or power outage in the area."
The press release mentiones Paetec's data center solutions -- at ; but I am unable to get a web page to resolve at that address. According to the site dropped off in late 2007. More information on hosting/colocation off of the Paetec web site can be found here.

UPDATE: Not sure if it was my connection or their site down last night --- is now resolving for me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Renewable Energy Roundup

I've run across several items recently of interest in terms of smartgrids, new energy sources and reports on renewable energy.

Blue is the new Green
THE man, Mr. Bob Metcalfe (small invention known as Ethernet) -- is a partner in Polaris Venture Partners, a group of "experienced venture capital investors and technology executives." Polaris backs many IT and life science businesses and has an Enertech portfolio that is pretty impressive. Bob Metcalfe has a very interesting SlideShare presentation titled Internet History Applied to Solving Energy. This was from the March presentation at GigaOm's Green:Net -- I must have missed that, but this presentation is pretty cool.

Frost & Sollivan also have a nice SlideShare presentation on Utility-Scale (Grid) Energy Storage Development. Bulk Energy Storage + Power Generation = Grid Modernization

The DOE announced today up to $52.5 Million for concentrating solar power research and development.

The 20% Wind report card was released last week -- B overall, Transmission lags at C-. "National Policy Commitment Urgently Needed to Ensure Greater Use of Clean, Abundant Energy Source". Check out the report here.

Technology Review had an article yesterday about upgrading the electrical grid in the U.S. if it is to increase the use of renewable energy resources. "But plans to string new high-voltage lines to bring wind power from the midsection of the country to the coasts, where most of the demand is, could be expensive and unnecessary, and a distraction from more urgent needs, some experts say."

Also reported yesterday -- has an article on Baltimore's massive smart grid program where 2 million meters are being installed. Earth2tech also has an article on this. also reports that a new U.S. renewable energy record was set: 13% of total electric generation in April 2009.

I've seen a number of things online now about energy transmission problems and to lend to that, last week T. Boone Pickens announced that his plans to build the $10 Billion, 4,000 megawatt, Pampa Wind project are on hold. article with the rest of the details here.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Superb Intnernet Hosting - New Virginia Data Center

Superb Internet announced the opening of a new data center today, located in Springfield, Virginia. DCA3 compliments its two existing data centers in McLean, VA and Seattle, WA. The new facility will facilitate a continued strong demand for data center space and they will offer dedicated servers as well as colocation services.

Check out the press release here.

SGI/Rackable ICECube Deployment Video

SGI/Rackable has some new media on their site for the ICE Cube Modular Data Center. I think this container has been one of my favorites ever since I saw it at a DataCenter World conference. It is really pretty unique in the container market -- if you get SGI servers inside. They take the fans out of the servers and are able to get amazing density: 1400U of available space and up to 22,400 processing cores. If you haven't seen inside of an ICE Cube - check out this video.

Check out this page on their site for a new product video, plus a nice white paper about their "Next Generation Data Center Infrastructure".

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Greenest Supercomputer

SGI performed quite well in the semi-annual ranking of the world's TOP500 Supercomputer sites this past June. They had the #4 supercomputer -- the Pleiades - Altix ICE 8200EX at the NASA/Ames Research Center. Although not an official award, they also were heralded as the industry's "greenest" supercomputer, as measured by performance efficiency.
Performance efficiency, or “LINPACK efficiency,” measures the ratio between maximum performance (RMax) and peak performance (RPeak). SGI dominated this new category with 12 of the 20 most performance-efficient supercomputers in the world."
Additionally the SGI Altix ICE cluster is the first time that an x86 scalar-based system outperformed vector-based systems.

Last week SGI/Rackable announced their x86 scale-out servers to support both on-board Quad Data Rate 40Gb InfiniBand and 10Gb Ethernet connections.
"The features of the expanded Rackable x86 server lines include dual QSFP InfiniBand/Ethernet ports at up to 40 Gb/s (gigabits-per-second), Intel Xeon 5500 series "Nehalem" processors, including the top-bin W5580 running at 3.2 GHz, and large memory capability with up to 96 GB (gigabytes) of ECC registered DDR3 DIMMs. It is also power optimized with over 90 percent voltage regulator module efficiency on the server board, which perfectly complements SGI’s up-to-96.5 percent-efficient power supplies."
96GB of memory! One of the things that made me such a fan of SGI was a computer I saw in 1994; a SGI with 4GB of memory (which was a TON back then). It ran a flight simulator that looked Amazing.....

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Tech Industry M&A Activity

It's always fun to speculate about IPO's, mergers and acquisitions. In the tech industry it happens so often it's hard to keep track of who bought who and how long ago it was.

My current train of thought on the topic surrounded the recent news of CoreSite. CoreSite is a Carlyle Group company, which as I mentioned before is a HUGE global private equity company. I wondered if CoreSite would do an IPO in the near future. Carlyle invested in Equinix in 1999 -- their site says "acquired" in 1999. Equinix then raised $240 Million in their IPO a year later.

Some other interesting ones I have seen a few times:
With all of the news Cisco has made lately, there could be some acquisitions by the other big players to get deeper into the networking market:
I refuse to believe that Cisco would buy EMC, but do think they could/should buy NetApp. Or maybe Isilon Systems?

Either HP or Cisco could by F5

All speculation -- but the tech industry M&A activity does seem to be picking up.