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    Saturday
    May012010

    Green Incident Management approach, another smart data center blogger to follow

    This last week was an intense week of face-to-face discussions talking to some really smart people who are working on innovative solutions.  For example, my meeting with Smooth-Stone was quick and compressed, running at speeds of idea transfer that builds future relationships of information exchange.  When I blogged about meeting Smooth-Stone there is nothing I really wrote about that isn’t public information other than I now know 4 Smooth-Stone executives. 

    I keep the GreenM3 blog constrained to either my own thoughts or public accessible information, always asking people for permission to blog about specific areas.  This way I can have intense knowledge sharing conversations and people know I won’t blog about conversations without their permission.  As one executive who I met on the phone last week, then met in person twice, and have taken him on wild ride of ideas introducing him to people who can help him execute green solutions said, “you know 95% of what you talk about, people can’t follow and you lose them.”  

    Part of the reason why I write this blog is to slow down, simplify ideas, discuss publicly accessible concepts - thinking about when is the right time to discuss ideas with a broader audience. One of my long time technology friends who I am glad to start discussing his ideas is John Farmer now that he has his own blog at http://farmhead.blogspot.com/.

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    Here is a bit of background on John.

    I've always been fascinated by machinery, whether software, hardware, or large organizations. I'm currently an Engineering Director at Adobe Systems and work on SaaS-related technology.

    Interests

    John’s interest and I overlap a lot, including both having black belts which is not relevant for physical fighting, but more as we have gotten older in how you fight battles and win vs. the competition in organizations and the industry.

    John’s recent posts on Incident Management reminds me of a green approach to the problem.  How do you be the most efficient and effective in resolving the problem?

    Tips for Handling Events, Incidents, Outages, and Maintenance

    I get a lot of questions from new service teams about what they should do to prevent downtime but very few people ask for advice on how to handle an incident. This is a bit like asking a boxer for the best way to avoid getting in the ring. It’s not a question of “if” you’re going to be in the ring but “when”. There’s an old saying – the more you bleed in the gym, the less you bleed in the ring and that definitely applies to incident management as well.

    John has taken the time to write three posts on Incident Management.

    Having sat in on more war rooms than I’d like to remember, I thought it might be handy to write down some of the things that my team has found useful over the years. I think every service organization should have a standard approach towards three specific activities:
    1.    Tips for Handling Service Incidents (just one service)
    2.    Tips for Handling Service Outages (multiple services affected)
    3.    Tips for Handling System Maintenance

    Here is one my favorite Tips.

    Get your head straight
    First, stay calm. The worst thing you could do is cause a major outage, destroy some data, or make the existing problem worse in a panic. Simple problems can easily become large complicated problems after a few bad decisions made in haste. Take a breath before continuing. This is especially important with a page at 3AM or if a panicky client is in your office. Tell the client you’ll handle the problem and run through your normal procedure.

    John closes with good advice that is grounded in years of martial arts practice and ways to handle the stress of combat.

    I hope these posts help you with your handling of incidents, outages, and maintenance. Success here is mostly about being prepared, being calm, good communication, and practice, practice, practice. If you think your service is bullet-proof and you won’t need the practice – you’re wrong :-)

    I’ll be reading John’s blog post on a regular basis, and referencing posts that I think are relevant to a green data center approach.  On my last trip, I was able to squeeze a 1/2 hour meeting with John before I flew from SJC to SEA. 

    In the airport, I was able to shake hands with three of the Smooth-Stone executives I met 8 hrs earlier and were flying back to Austin. The Smooth-Stone CEO was on the flight to SEA, and we were able to discuss more ideas when we landed and I hitched a ride instead of taking the bus back to Redmond.  This last week was intensely interconnected.

    Click to read more ...

    Wednesday
    Apr282010

    Are ARM Servers the disruptive change coming to Green the Data Center? Smooth-Stone is trying

    GigaOm has a post on ARM taking on Intel in the Data Centers.

    ARM Ready To Take On Intel in Servers

    By Stacey Higginbotham Apr. 28, 2010, 3:15pm PDT 2 Comments

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    ARM plc has confirmed that within the next 12 months its architecture, which is currently used primarily in cell phones and consumer electronics, will also be used in servers — pitting it against the lifeblood of Intel’s chip business. Speaking with EETimes, Warren East, the CEO of ARM, said servers using ARM-based chips should appear within the year.

    The news shouldn’t come as a surprise to our readers, since I profiled Smooth-Stone, one company trying to build low-power servers earlier this month, and in that same post pointed to ARM’s server ambitions. And it’s not just startups that are interested in using the low-power ARM architecture inside data centers, either. Google recently acquired a secretive startup called Agnilux that was rumored to be making a server with the ARM architecture. We also reported on a Microsoft job listing that sought a software development engineer with experience running ARM in the data center for the company’s eXtreme Computing group.

    I blogged about this idea in May 19, 2009.

    Energy efficiency is a new focus for many, and much to the  frustration of Intel, AMD, and Server OEMs, not everyone wants a multi-core high cost chip.

    So, what’s next?

    ARM based servers that can be even higher performance per watt.

    Don’t know who has done this, but given the hardware ecosystem, there are people who have experimented with this and Linux OSs.  The popularity of ARM chips in mobile devices is where the knowledge exists for low power solutions.

    Why not take a mobile device, an iPhone and turn it into a server.

    GigaOm has a specific post about Smooth-Stone.

    Smooth-Stone Bets ARM Will Invade the Data Center

    By Stacey Higginbotham Apr. 9, 2010, 10:00am PDT 2 Comments

    67 0

    Smooth-Stone CEO Barry Evans

    Intel, with its x86 architecture, has owned the corporate computing market for decades, but Barry Evans, CEO of Austin, Texas-based systems startup Smooth-Stone, thinks it’s time for a change. Smooth-Stone, which Evans co-founded in 2008, is using ARM-based processors to create a box for the data center. Its goal isn’t a slight reduction in power efficiency, he said, but to “completely remove power as an issue in the data center.”

    However, the specifics of Evans’ stealthy company are overshadowed by one key question: Is ARM ready to invade the data center? Evans thinks yes, and I think the IP licensing company behind the architecture does too, because it appears to be cooking up something that involves using its architecture inside servers. Ian Ferguson, director of enterprise and embedded solutions at ARM Plc, declined to talk to me for this story, saying the timing was not yet right to talk about the company and servers “for a few reasons that I can’t discuss.”

    What is hilarious is while I was reading the GigaOm post about ARM taking on Intel, I am sitting in the car as a passenger next to Barry Evans sharing a ride from the airport, and had met three other Smooth-Stone executives that morning for breakfast thanks to a well connected data center insider.

    What is Smooth-stone?

    Founded in January 2008, Smooth‐Stone brings ultra‐low power mobile phone technology to the datacenter. Smooth-Stone has brought together leading engineers with experience in volume and blade server platforms, mainframes, server CPUs, networking processors, telecom infrastructure, and high performance cellular application processors and cell phone system-on-chips.  With depth in both hardware and software design and development the Smooth-Stone team is uniquely positioned to deliver a complete low power solution.

    Smooth-Stone technology, combined with the industry-standard ARM architecture and tools, enables truly green datacenters.

    Note the last sentence "enables truly green datacenters."

    I did write a brief post about Smooth Stone in Oct 2009, but it was hard to find any other information.

    Here is information in local papers. Austin Business Journal.

    Smooth-Stone Inc., which is a member of the Austin Technology Incubator and develops low power server technology, will receive an initial $250,000 pre-seed investment from the state with potential for $1 million in total investment for the commercialization of its technology.

    “Smooth-Stone’s innovative architecture has the potential to change the server market and keep Texas on the cutting edge of technology,” said Jack McDonald, chairman and CEO of Perficient Inc. and chairman of the Central Texas Regional Center of Innovation and Commercialization.

    Now that I know 4 executives from the Smooth Stone team and they know what I do besides write a blog you can expect I'll have more to say in the future about Smooth-stone as they are talking to the right companies and people who have a passion for greening the data center with a change in server hardware.

    I had a great time talking to the executives at Smooth-Stone about ARM chip, data center industry, IT issues, energy efficiency, and our backgrounds.  I've been talking to some folks at ARM and other big data center users about the same ideas and our paths were crossing.  There is a perfect storm coming to data centers with a good chance ARM chips will be the power efficiency behind the change.  The environment and customers are going to be happy with the change, the current data center ecosystem will have to adapt fast once the change happens as it is not hard to crank out lots of ARM servers given ARM is the most popular processor now thanks to the mobile industry.

    Click to read more ...

    Tuesday
    Apr272010

    Researching Topics using GreenM3 site metrics, example Social Security Data Center post

    I regularly go through my feedburner stats to see what blog posts are getting traffic.

    A typical post will look like below.  Peak, then fall off to single digit traffic.

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    The Social Security Administration's mistake in site selection post is different.  It is keeping steady at 40 - 50 hits a day 1 1/2 weeks after I posted.

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    Part of the traffic I think stems from learning from other's mistakes which rarely get published.  As most content is vendor sponsored, most content discusses buying new products to solve problems.

    I went to the typepad metrics to track down one of Google Search hits.  My blog entry made it up to #9 on "social security administration data center"

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    The SSA data center says they were trying to a be a green data center, but it is going to be probably be one of the slowest built data centers out there.

    SSA data center to go green

    Agency will use energy-efficient technology

    The Social Security Administration intends to use green information technology solutions in the new $800 million data center that will replace its existing facility.

    SSA will use money from the economic stimulus law to help identify and install energy-efficient IT solutions at the new National Support Center, which handles Social Security benefits, according to a plan released May 18 on the Recovery.gov Web site. Green IT solutions are designs, practices and devices that reduce environmental impact and limit energy consumption.

    A data center friend tipped me off the SSA is hesitant to adopt hold and cold aisles.  Can imagine what the SSA PUE will be?  It will be a long time before we see that number.  Given the data center won't go online until Oct 2013 based on 2009 estimates.  Who cares what the PUE is as by 2014 I hope we have beyond PUE reporting by then.

    Click to read more ...

    Monday
    Apr262010

    Iceland Data Center Power, Fiber, and Natural Disasters, Perception vs. Reality

    The folks at Iceland's economic development group provided PDF documents describing the Power and Fiber infrastructure and natural disasters.

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    As requested I am sending you a map showing the location of the substations and transmission lines of Landsnet, the Transmission System Operator of Iceland.  As may be seen from the map, the 132 kV and 220 kV part of the transmission system is built as an interconnected, N-1 system, i.e. it is built and designed in such a way that a single failure of one component should not have an effect on the delivery of power to our customers. 

    Also the map shows the location of the current volcanic activity in Eyjafjallajökull and a shaded grey area where ash fall has resulted from the volcanic eruption.  The ash that is falling is composed of both fine and course particles.  The wind direction and other meteorological conditions have an impact on where the ash falls to earth. 

    The Natural Disaster Risk is top in the news and is in this pdf.

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    The Power Infrastructure is mapped here.

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    The Fiber Infrastructure is here.

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    Here is a press release as well translated to English.

    LANDSNET’S REACTIONS TO THE EYJAFJALLAJÖKULL ERUPTION

    Ever since the volcanic eruption started at Fimmvörðuháls, followed by the larger eruption in the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, Landsnet has been on alert to manage any unexpected events in Iceland’s electricity transmission system. No disturbances due to falling ash have occurred.
    We are keeping a close watch on developments and our team remains on alert in case any action is needed. Our Operation & Maintenance department is preparing condition checking on the South Transmission Line to examine the effects of the ash-fall.
    Representatives of the Electricity Sector Emergency Partnership (ESEP) are working at the National Emergency Coordination Centre at Skógarhlíð in Reykjavík to provide information to stakeholders as developments unfold and warrant. This role is carried out by standby personnel of Landsnet’s System Operations division. In addition, the Coordination Centre monitors the telecommunications network. These parties also supply updates on the electricity system’s status to the Civil Protection Department.
    Regular consultation meetings on the situation are held with representatives of ESEP and the telecommunications system. ESEP representatives are co-operating closely and exchanging information on the eruption and its effects.
    The Eyjafjallajökull eruption appears to have changed from an explosive eruption to an effusive eruption. Steam explosions have decreased and the ash plume is not reaching such high altitudes as previously. This indicates that water is no longer reaching the crater and that an effusive lava flow has begun. Splashes of lava are streaming out of the crater and the eruption plume is now mostly white. According to the Icelandic Met Office, the probability of ash-fall in the Greater Reykjavík Area is minimal. The wind direction is forecast to turn easterly on Thursday, but rain is forecast, which reduces the likelihood of ash-fall substantially.
    The eruption has caused no disruptions to electricity transmission or distribution, nor has it caused damage to electricity infrastructure in the affected region. There have been no disruptions to telecommunications. Water supply to the Westman Islands is being closely monitored, as the islands’ water source is located in the volcano’s vicinity. A power line from Iceland State Electricity (RARIK) along the Eyjafjöll mountains tripped over the weekend, but this was confirmed to have been due to birds flying into the line. Back-up diesel generators are being operated at the town of Vík as a result.
    The fine-grained ash gets into all electricity infrastructure in the area and is deposited on outdoor electrical installations. However, this has not caused any disturbances. According to information from RARIK, all the indications are that the ash does not have high conductivity, as neither dry nor wet ash has caused any interruptions. The ash will be largely washed off installations and equipment by rain. Confirmation regarding the ash’s conductivity is being sought from the Science Institute of the University of Iceland.
    Regular updates on the eruption are provided on the website of the Icelandic Civil Protection Department: www.almannavarnir.is

    I don't disagree with any of these being facts, but Perception vs. Reality is something few understand.

    Truth vs. Fact
    In his book Story, the legendary screenwriter Robert McKee wrote, “What happens is fact, not truth.  Truth is what we think about what happens.”  Facts are reality (Smaller cars are safer than SUVs).  Truth is perception (Bigger is safer).  Facts are the way things are (It doesn’t matter what golf ball you hit; it’s still going to end up in the woods).  Truth is the way your brain view things; your thoughts, opinions, evaluations, feelings and conclusions (You’re a winner . . . like Tiger.  So you need a ball with a swoosh on it).  You believe that your truths are the facts. We all do.

    This is a difficult concept to grasp.  Not because it’s intellectually challenging; it’s not. Rather, because it’s difficult to feel.  For example, do you feel that you are the outgrowth of a spinning sphere that is rocketing through space at more than twenty times the speed of a bullet?  Probably not, but those are the facts.  So what does this have to do with marketplace success? Everything!  Because the cold, harsh reality is that your audience judges you based upon the very little bit of you that they hastily perceive.  They speed read you, and prejudge you with their resultant feelings.

    I see this Perception vs. Reality (Truth vs. Fact) mistake being made repeatedly in data center discussions.  The data center experts think one thing, the pubilc thinks another.  Data Center experts say they are right.  Public doesn't care.  Look at the Facebook page run by Greenpeace.  It is now up to 400,000 people for English,  Spanish and French versions.

    Take action: Join a group in your language!
    English Group: We want facebook to use 100% renewable energy

    Spanish Group: Queremos que Facebook utilice 100% energía renovable

    French Group: Nous demandons 100% d'énergie renouvelable pour Facebook

    Join the group to get facebook.com onto 100 percent renewable energy

    More than 400,000 facebook members in 8 weeks!

    Facebook announced in February that it will build a massive data centre in Oregon, U.S., packed full of the latest energy efficient computers to serve the hundreds of millions of friends connecting on their near-addictive social networking website. But the company plans to run the place on electricity made by burning coal--Yes, the dirtiest source of energy and largest single source of global warming pollution in the world.
    Read more...

    Facebook has tried to tell the truth on their energy efficiency.

    At the same time, it is simply untrue to say that we chose coal as a source of power. The suggestions of “choosing coal” ignores the fact that there is no such thing as a coal-powered data center. Similarly, there is no such thing as a hydroelectric-powered data center. Every data center plugs into the grid offered by their utility or power provider. The electrons powering that data center are produced by the various sources (e.g. hydro, natural gas, coal, geothermal, nuclear, etc.) the provider uses in proportions similar to the mix of sources used. That is, if 25% of the providers energy comes from natural gas, it’s a good guess that 25% of the electrons powering the facility come from that source. Even when a facility is in close proximity to an individual source of energy, such a dam or coal plant, there is no guarantee that the electrons from that source are flowing to the facility at any particular time.

    I know of one power site that runs as a microgrid with 100% biomass renewable energy  at 10 - 20 megawatts currently being evaluated as a data center site.

    Click to read more ...

    Monday
    Apr262010

    Compliance and Sustainability Solution - IHS Environment

    I am at OSIsoft's user conference and found one compliance solution from IHS for the Environment.

    Environmental Solutions

    IHS provides a full suite of environmental and chemical management software and service solutions for EHS and sustainability management.  Solutions include:

    Effective environmental, sustainability and chemical management is no longer simply about regulatory compliance. Increasingly these concerns are central components to companies’ strategic planning and management.


    IHS Environment solutions help you manage your Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) and sustainability programs -- from the corporate level down to individual facilities.


    By offering a complete portfolio of solutions, from EHS and chemical management software to strategic consulting services for climate change management in a cap and trade environment, IHS is your single source for cost-effective environmental management.

    The IHS Environment makes sense to evaluate if you run industrial processes and use other IHS software.

    I've also met some other sustainability folks at OSIsoft and I will discuss how well the IHS Environment solution can work for a green (low carbon) data center.

    Click to read more ...