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    Thursday
    May062010

    Can Bloom's Energy Server be used in Data Centers?

    Today is a beautiful morning, getting up early for an East Coast phone call. I got the following view.

    image

    With a view of Mt Rainer on a clear cold morning in Redmond.

    image

    Mt Rainier is here in above picture.

    image

    Thinking about a Low Carbon Data Center, fuel cells as a potential source.  It's been a while since Bloom Energy made its debut at eBay's campus showing fuel cells used in the office environment.

    eBay

    "eBay believes in the power of our business model to make a real difference in the world, and that includes how we embrace innovation to reduce our carbon footprint. When Bloom came to us, it was an easy decision to become an early-adopter of their cutting-edge new technology. As a result, we're meeting financial and environmental goals with the project while fueling a more energy efficient global marketplace. That's good for us, our customers and the planet."
    – John Donahoe, CEO

    photo

    www.ebay.com

    Bloom Installation

    500kW
    June 2009
    San Jose, CA

    Objective

    eBay Inc sought a cost effective, 24/7 solution that delivered 100% renewable energy, allowing them to meet both financial and environmental goals.

    When I went up to Bloom Energy's site I found the mention of data centers.

    DC Power: Bloom systems natively produce DC power, which provides an elegant solution to efficiently power DC data centers and/or be the plug-and-play provider for DC charging stations for electric vehicles.

    Also, Bloom Energy Server can be used with intermittent renewable energy to generate hydrogen to later be used in the fuel cells.

    Hydrogen Production: Bloom's technology, with its NASA roots, can be used to generate electricity and hydrogen. Coupled with intermittent renewable resources like solar or wind, Bloom’s future systems will produce and store hydrogen to enable a 24 hour renewable solution and provide a distributed hydrogen fueling infrastructure for hydrogen powered vehicles.

    Fuel cells aren't up to the high availability for data center power generation which can be addressed with reverse backup.  This could make sense for areas with power prices above $0.10 kw/hr as cost reduction.

    Reverse Backup: Businesses often purchase generators and other expensive backup applications that sit idle 99% of the time, while they purchase their electricity from the grid as their primary source. The Bloom solution allows customers to flip that paradigm, by using the Energy Server as their primary power, and only purchasing electricity from the grid to supplement the output when necessary. Increased asset utilization leads to dramatically improved ROI for Bloom Energy's customers.

    One fact I hadn't seen is the ease of carbon sequestration.

    Carbon Sequestration: The electrochemical reaction occurring within Bloom Energy systems generates electricity, heat, some H2O, and pure CO2. Traditionally, the most costly aspect of carbon sequestration is separating the CO2 from the other effluents. The pure CO2 emission allows for easy and cost-effective carbon sequestration from the Bloom systems.

    How long will it be before a data center is powered by fuel cells? A friend offered to make some introductions at Bloom Energy, I think it is time to take him up on his offer and discuss some projects I know of that could use a fuel cell solution.

    Click to read more ...

    Thursday
    May062010

    Cloud Computing is changing behavior, one of the hardest steps in Greening the Data Center

    A Green Data Center is not a binary thing that is demonstrated by achieving a performance number.  Achieving a sub PUE of 1.2 is a good step, but does that make the data center Green?  It is more energy efficient than others.  A LEED platinum data center means the building has achieved enough points that the building now has more points than others, but is that Green?  These are all good ideas, but overall it is not changing behavior for the holistic system.

    The book Switch: How to change things, when change is hard makes an excellent point.

    Buy Switch.
    Come see us on the book tour.
    • Read the first chapter.

    Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives?

    The primary obstacle is a conflict that’s built into our brains, say Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the critically acclaimed bestseller Made to Stick. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems—the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort—but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.

    that

    Usually these topics are treated separately—there is "change management" advice for executives and "self-help" advice for individuals and "change the world" advice for activists. That's a shame, because all change efforts have something in common: For anything to change, someone has to start acting differently.

    When you build a LEED certified data center does it change the behavior of the occupants?  Does a low PUE change how you host your IT?  It changes the mindset a bit for the mechanical operations staff.

    If you are running a Cloud Computing data center that is charging users for their resources used and there is a clear profit and loss goal for operations and customers, there are behavior changes all over.

    James Hamilton posts on Dave Patterson's latest Cloud Computing keynote at Cloud Computing 2010.

    The Berkeley RAD Lab principal investigators include: Armando FoxRandy Katz & Dave Patterson (systems/networks),Michael Jordan (machine learning), Ion Stoica (networks & P2P), Anthony Joseph (systems/security), Michael Franklin(databases), and Scott Shenker (networks) in addition to 30 Phd students, 10 undergrads, and 2 postdocs.

    The talk starts by arguing that cloud computing actually is a new approach drawing material from the Above the Cloudspaper that I mentioned early last year: Berkeley Above the Clouds. Then walked through why pay-as-you-go computing with small granule time increments allow SLAs to be hit without stranding valuable resources.

    James does a good job of identifying the top 6 slides out of the 50 slide talk.

    If you look at all these slides each one of these are discussing how Cloud Computing is and will change behavior of people in the IT system.  Which is the biggest step in a Green Data Center.

    I think leading Cloud Computing data centers will be greener than most as performance per hr is a number all think about.  And, a natural 2nd question is how much it costs.  The costs are largely affected by the power consumed.

    Click to read more ...

    Thursday
    May062010

    Can China build Green Data Centers?

    I am having conversations with an entrepreneur in China who is working on the Green Data Center idea in China.  All the big data center operators have been to China to look for data center sites.  I would expect most cannot find the right site for their data center operations for a variety of reasons.  Building data centers will be difficult with a short term approach if you only want to build one building.  What makes more sense is to take small incremental steps with continuous build out in China and other areas in Asia Pacific.

    I've been to Beijing,Shanghai, and Hong Kong over a dozen times when I was working at Microsoft and Apple.  As well as Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Singapore.  I saw many different sides of the country working with hardware suppliers, internal development groups, and software entrepreneurs.

    Google's recent pullout of China can be interpreted in many ways and there are some interesting assumptions I can make based on some key people who are coincidentally now working in Google Asia who I used to work with.  These ideas are much too complicated and subtle to try and write in a blog entry.

    So, back to the problem of can China build Green Data Centers?  Ideally China would have a few big US companies building data centers in China that Chinese engineers can learn from.  But as far as I know no one has done this, even though a lot of have evaluated sites.  Which makes things difficult, but creates an opportunity.  China doesn't have data center people who have been doing the same thing for the last 20 years who want to build data centers the same way they did in the past.

    China can build smaller data centers, using geo-redundancy as part of the design.  Power may not exist, but China is building power generation faster than anyone else.  So, it isn't what power is available.  Tell me what power will be available.  See this Economist article.

    Electricity and development in China

    Lights and action

    China is parlaying its hunger for power into yet more economic clout

    Apr 29th 2010 | HONG KONG | From The Economist print edition

    AFTER a brief blip caused by the global economic slowdown, the electricity business in China is back to normal: in other words, it is buzzing. On April 26th Huaneng Power, the country’s biggest utility, began work on a nuclear reactor on the island of Hainan. The week before, the firm had announced that its power output had risen by 40% during the first quarter. The day before that, Datang International Power, the second-largest utility, had said its output was up by 33%. Surges of this magnitude, unimaginable in most countries, are commonplace in China.

    China’s endless power-plant construction boom has accounted for 80% of the world’s new generating capacity in recent years and will continue to do so for many years to come, says Edwin Chen of Credit Suisse, an investment bank. Capacity added this year alone will exceed the installed total of Brazil, Italy and Britain, and come close to that of Germany and France. By 2012 China should produce more power annually than America, the current leader.

    The US gov't hasn't treated the Data Center industry as a strategic industry to provide special treatment.  China will.

    Much of the data centers are built and designed to maximize profits for the vendors.  Data Centers are the most profitable construction.  The silos in Real Estate, Facilities, Data Center Ops, IT Ops, Finance, and SW are ripe for over specification for features that have little business value in the holistic view, but look right from a limited perspective.  The top data center people know this which is why they have broken down the silos and integrated the functionality within one manager.  Look to Google's Urs Hoelzle as the epitome of owning the data center stack, including SW infrastructure.

    It is a bit of irony if China's data center strategy targeted Urs and his thinking as the customer, asking what he wants in data center infrastructure.  Google wants cheap, reliable, cleaner power.  Multiple Fiber paths.  And, government support for the data center build out.  In the US we hear about the tax incentives, and this is proof the local community wants the data center construction.

    An example of the opportunity is to be work with the SinoHydro on a China Data Center strategy.  Here a perspective you'll enjoy reading on China's HydroElectric build out.

    China: Not the Rogue Dam Builder We Feared It would Be?

    Hydropwer accounts for the overwhelming share of China’s alternative energy mix, but is perhaps also the one of the more controversial alternative energy options due to the ecological and social impacts of dam construction.   This guest post by Peter Bosshard, policy director of International Rivers Network, examines China’s growing pains in its increasing role as an exporter of hydropower technology and expertise.

    A few years ago, Chinese dam builders and financiers appeared on the global hydropower market with a bang. China Exim Bank and companies such as Sinohydro started to take on large, destructive projects in countries like Burma and Sudan, which had before been shunned by the international community. Their emergence threatened to roll back progress regarding human rights and the environment which civil society had achieved over many years. However, new evidence suggests that Chinese dam builders and financiers are trying to become good corporate citizens rather than rogue players on the global market. Here is a progress report.

    Could you partner with China to build data centers around the world where dams are being built?  The power generation is one part, and Fiber is next.  Government support fits in easily as governments were involved in the Hydro construction.

    One of Google's crown jewels are its data center designs.  Is part of the reason why Google pulled out of China are the issues they ran into if they built a data center in China?

    Click to read more ...

    Tuesday
    May042010

    Why I didn't buy an iPad 3G on Apr 30, opted for a Thinkpad X200 TabletPC

    The iPad has sold over a million units since launch in 28 days.

    iPad comfortably beats iPhone to 1 million mark - Can other OEMs grab some of the success?

    Posted by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes @ 4:20 am

    Categories: Industry

    Tags: Apple iPhone, Apple iPad, Apple Inc., Tablets, Notebooks...

    It took the iPhone 74 days to hit the magic 1 million sales mark. The iPad has accomplished the same feat in under half the time.

    “One million iPads in 28 days—that’s less than half of the 74 days it took to achieve this milestone with iPhone,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Demand continues to exceed supply and we’re working hard to get this magical product into the hands of even more customers.”

    The first iPads I saw in public and used was at Microsoft Commons

    image 

    The Commons, a signature piece in a massive expansion that is adding the equivalent of a Columbia Tower to what the company calls the world's largest corporate campus.

    The Commons is a cross between the University of Washington's HUB, University Village and Pike Place Market.

    The complex of 14 restaurants, shops, soccer field, even a pub is the gooey filling in the emerging West Campus, a 1.4 million-square-foot town square of four office buildings that will house the company's Entertainment and Devices division, which developed video-game player Xbox and music-player Zune.

    I've talked to Microsoft employees who stood in line to buy an iPad when first available.   It is sad that Microsoft made the choice to invest in development of the Surface while Apple choose mobile devices - iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.  Which reminds me of data center guys who think bigger is better.  Mobile, smaller, integrated, and agile is the new thinking for data center design.

    Mike Manos has an iPad. Olivier Sanche of course.  Bunches of people I know have one as well.  Why didn't I buy one?

    My Dell Laptop is 3 years old and I am ready for a mobile device.  Apple has released new MacBook Pros with i5 chips, iPad is shipping.  I used this as a good opportunity to think about how I work and what is the best tool, treating this as a design exercise similar to designing products and data centers.

    First where do I work?  Here is my home office where I spend all of my time when I am not travelling.  I spend 2 -3 days at a stretch working in my home office.

    Here is a picture of my home office.

    I have 500 sq ft of space and  a treadmill to exercise given I am not walking much. image

    My commute home is down 100 stairs to our small 850 sq ft beach house.

    image 

    While we are building a new house above.

    image

    Now that you see my site,  What are the primary tasks I do.

    • Blog with Windows Live Writer.  I've tried to find a better blogging tool on Mac and Windows, and there are bloggers on the Mac who will actually run Windows VM just to run Live Writer.  Blogging is one of my main communication tools, as my clients read my blog regularly.
    • e-mail is where I next spend time.
    • IM using Skype, Messenger, and Office Communicator, vast majority texting, not using voice
    • iPhone for another screen, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter feeds, idea writing.
    • Mind-mapping with Mind Manager.
    • Talk on the phone less than an hour a day.

    People get iPad's to play games.  I have an xBox 360 on a 47" LCD Samsung display.  It works well for watching videos.  8 inch iPad display or 47"?   I think I'll choose the 47 inches.

    image

    So, what did I buy?  While hundreds of thousands of people were getting iPad 3G on Apr 30.  I received a ThinkPad X200 TabletPC. 

    lenovo_thinkpad_x200_tablet_outdoor_screen_slate-display

    1.86 Ghz Intel duo processor, 3 GB RAM, 160 GB HD, USB ports, full keyboard, etc.  The few things I can't do on the Thinkpad vs. iPad, like buy apps through Apple App store is what I can do on my iPhone.

    And, best yet, I was able to buy last year's model from Lenovo outlet for $995.  So, while a million people are making trade-offs owning an iPad, I have all the functionality I need in a Tablet device - full keyboard, pen input, usb ports, DVD drive.  It weights 3.5 lbs, but I think my arms are strong enough to hold it.

    And, last I did a peer review.  I sat down with one of my Microsoft friends yesterday who has an iPad, and he agreed the X200 Tablet was the right device for me as I spend more time creating which means I need to type.  And, now I can write on the TabletPC.  Ink and paper form has its benefits.

    My new idea desk is set up as big post-it area with the TabletPC.

    image

    Click to read more ...

    Monday
    May032010

    Psychology of the Data Center, learning from the Science of Football - Alabama’s Nick Saban

    I just had a conversation with Tom Roth who introduced me to some of the work that The Pacific Institute does.  Tom and I had an interesting discussion on data centers as he is familiar with real estate development in Eastern Washington’s recent data center build out that has used up hydroelectric power which has little employment impact the original dam developers intended.

    image

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    When I heard of Tom’s company I thought of some of the top data center leadership (Urs Hoelzle, Mike Manos and Olivier Sanche) all leaders with better people skills better than most.  It made sense that the flaw in many data center is not thinking about psychology and the people.

    Tom Roth was a college quarterback at WSU and his brother, Joe Roth was a Cal quarterback.


    * Cardiac QB Tom Roth wasn’t the only standout signal caller in his family. Younger brother Joe starred at Cal and finished sixth in Heisman Trophy balloting as a senior in 1976. Tragically, he died of melanoma cancer three months after that season ended. He was forecast to be a first round NFL draft pick.

    Behind the Helmet: The Life of Joe Roth

    Joe Roth was an exceptional
    Joe lived with class and he died with dignity. His football success brought him a great deal of individual attention which he shied away from and shared with his teammates. He was determined to battle his cancer and live his life without pity, excuses, blame, and special attention. Joe taught his teammates, coaches, professors, classmates, friends, fans, and family members to cherish life and to never take a moment for granted.


    Joe's life still serves as a model for all of us to live with faith, humility, and courage.

    Running a Google search for “The Pacific Institute” I turned up this article about Alabama’s football coach Nick Saban use of The Pacific Institute training.

    The Science of Alabama's Nick Saban

    Larry Burton by

    Larry Burton

    Sabanatpractice_cropped

    Larry Burton (Panama City Beach, Fla.): The longer I am around Nick Saban, the more I learn about him.

    I guess that's true of anyone you know. But I am always surprised when I see a new layer of Saban peeled back.

    To understand Saban is like dealing with a mutating virus. Constantly changing, always working, always seeking to grow, and infectious to others.

    Of course, I mean all that in a good way.

    This sounds like the data center innovators, not a typical data center IT mindset.  Can you imagine if football was played the way IT is run?  Boring and out of sync with current practices like IaaS, PaaS, and other Cloud Computing methods.

    Alabama used the Pacific Institute for mental conditioning.

    It's all just one more part of the Science of Saban.

    Then there is the mind itself. Not just inputting the playbook and the knowledge to do your job, but how to condition your mind, just like your body.

    For this, Saban brought in the Pacific Institute, a Seattle-based company that has conducted mental conditioning classes for Crimson Tide players since 2008. So if you have a new untested quarterback as Alabama did last season, you get his mind as conditioned as his arm.

    "They've proven to us you can be so much more effective if your mind is allowing you to be effective," quarterback Greg McElroy said. "Both Antowaine and Nesby (Pacific Institute instructors) have helped us incredibly."

    We talked about the kind of off-the-field activity that had Alabama players in the headlines a few years back. Now, that too has disappeared, thanks in part to the science of Saban and the Pacific Institute.

    Forbes even mentions The Pacific Institute in their article about the most powerful football coach.

    All players have to attend personal growth seminars taught by Seattle's Pacific Institute.

    I don’t think I’ve run into a Psychology and Data Center discussion, but it makes so much sense.  In the same way a good quarterback makes critical decisions for the rest of the team, shouldn’t data center staff have the skills of a top quarterback.

    The main problem is getting IT executives to spend money on people.  A few will get this idea and realize most IT problems are related to a decision someone made before or after an event.

    For all the money spent on IT, shouldn’t more be spent on Mental Conditioning, the psychology of a data center?

    I am looking forward to many more discussions with Tom Roth and his network to discuss psychology in the data center.

    Click to read more ...