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    Wednesday
    Mar312010

    Google's Data Center System Engineering approach

    There was recent news on system engineers being the best job in America.

    1. Systems Engineer

    Systems Engineer

    Anne O'Neil, a chief systems engineer at the N.Y.C. Transit Authority, is one of five female senior managers in a department of 1,500.

    Top 50 rank: 1
    Sector: Information Technology

    What they do: They're the "big think" managers on large, complex projects, from major transportation networks to military defense programs. They figure out the technical specifications required and coordinate the efforts of lower-level engineers working on specific aspects of the project.

    Why it's great: Demand is soaring for systems engineers, as what was once a niche job in the aerospace and defense industries becomes commonplace among a diverse and expanding universe of employers, from medical device makers to corporations like Xerox and BMW.

    CNet News wrote as well.

    Systems engineer deemed best job in America

    by Chris Matyszczyk

    If you're a systems engineer who wonders whether you've chosen the right profession, I bring you good news.

    But, what got me write a blog entry was Google's job post for Data Center system engineer.

    The role: Data Center Control Systems Engineer

    Data Center Control Systems Engineers possess demonstrated design, operation, and construction experience in the areas of complex and mission critical facilities. You will have extensive knowledge of large-scale facilities controls and monitoring systems for all infrastructural systems.

    As the Data Center Control Systems Engineer, you have excellent communication skills and are able to work in teams and matrix organizations. You are expected to develop and maintain strong functional relationships across multidisciplinary teams to anticipate future controls and monitoring design requirements. You will be continuously involved in the improvement of plant performance based on historical data collected and collaborate on retrofit projects to improve plant efficiency based on business case justifications.

    and on top of that there is a Data Center Strategic Negotiator job which fits as a business/technical person to work with the system engineer.

    The role: Data Center Strategic Negotiator

    As a Data Center Strategic Negotiator,you will lead a team to collect and analyze large sets of location data, execute extensive on-the-ground due diligence, and to ultimately lead negotiations in to develop comprehensive legal contracts for data centers, real estate, power, and networking services around the world, for both new and existing assets, of all sizes. You must have substantial knowledge of global markets, in-depth technical expertise, and strategic analytical skills, in addition to rock-solid negotiation and collaboration capabilities. All location strategy and site selection initiatives are team efforts spearheaded by the Global Infrastructure Group (“GIG”). You will need to be a flexible, proactive team player who understands and seeks to support the larger strategic initiatives of the company. You are a proven professional with a track record that matches our philosophy of leading by innovation, who has a detailed understanding of both the technological and the commercial sides of data centers, and who has the ability to deliver against aggressive deadlines with a driving passion for cost reduction and highly effective solutions.

    The Data Center Strategic Negotiator will carry out the selection and negotiations process for new data centers from start to finish. You will have experience designing and executing large-scale international site selection initiatives; deep and broad transactional knowledge; strong technical negotiation skills in the areas of data centers; real estate leases, purchase agreements, and entitlements; energy and other utilities; telecommunications; and economic development incentives. Technical knowledge and experience negotiating collocation space, racks, power circuits, cross connects and remote hands in conventional data centers is preferred. You will be adept at strategizing, structuring, negotiating, and closing a range of mission critical transactions in diverse settings and with diverse parties.

    I spent more time going through the Google job postings for Mtn View.  Google is building teams I was used to working with at Apple developing hardware.  But, Apple didn't have the system engineers above as data centers back when I worked there were just for enterprise applications.

    It will be hard to discover what Google's data center system engineer and strategic negotiator do, but keep in mind, they are developing systems for the way Google operates as a business.  Copying their actions could cause more problems than they solve unless you think of the whole system.

    It is great to see that Google has reached a stage in maturity to identify system engineering and holistic system negotiation as keys to their continue growth and cost reduction.  On the other hand the job for these people would have been much easier if they were hired 10 years ago as they now need to work with the momentum of dozens of groups who are entrenched.

    The biggest challenge to doing the jobs above is whether you have the organizational skills to instill change in groups.

    My next read is Switch.

    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.

    Click to read more ...

    Tuesday
    Mar302010

    GreenPeace targets Cloud Data Centers environmental impact and use of coal power

    I blogged back in July 2009 asking what would be Greenpeace's target for environmental impact of data centers, speculating Apple, Google, Microsoft as a possible target.  Well Greenpeace uses the Apple brand recognition and the iPad announcement to create awareness.

    The announcement of Apple’s iPad has been much
    anticipated by a world with an ever-increasing appetite for
    mobile computing devices as a way to connect, interact,
    learn and work. As rumours circulated – first about its
    existence and then about its capabilities - the iPad
    received more media attention than any other gadget in
    recent memory. Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs
    finally showcased his company’s latest creation before a
    rapt audience in San Francisco. From their smart phones
    and netbooks, the crowd feverishly blogged and tweeted
    real time updates out to a curious world.

    Greenpeace report cover: Cloud Computing and Climate Change
    Whether you actually want an iPad or not, there is no
    doubt that it is a harbinger of things to come. The iPad
    relies upon cloud-based computing to stream video,
    download music and books, and fetch email. Already,
    millions access the ‘cloud’ to make use of online social
    networks, watch streaming video, check email and create
    documents, and store thousands of digital photos online
    on popular web-hosted sites like Flickr and Picasa.


    The term cloud, or cloud computing, used as a metaphor
    for the internet, is based on an infrastructure and business
    model whereby - rather than being stored on your own
    device - data, entertainment, news and other products
    and services are delivered to your device, in real time,
    from the internet. The creation of the cloud has been a
    boon both to the companies hosting it and to consumers
    who now need nothing but a personal computer and
    internet access to fulfill most of their computing needs.

    image

    Greenpeace has been making noise about Facebook's data center, and now has started the public awareness in this pdf.

    image

    I know of some companies that have a sigh of relief they are not on the Greenpeace list.

    image

    Some of you have noticed I made a change last week to the blog title and now have Green (low carbon) data center.

    image_thumb[1][1]

    Green is such an overloaded term it made sense to clarify a focus on discussing low carbon as a goal of a green data center.  Note the following in the Greenpeace pdf.


    More cloud-computing companies are pursuing design and siting
    strategies that can reduce the energy consumption of their data
    centres, primarily as a cost containment measure. For most
    companies, the environmental benefits of green data design are
    generally of secondary concern.

    Cloud computing infographic
    Facebook’s decision to build its own highly-efficient data centre in
    Oregon that will be substantially powered by coal-fired electricity clearly
    underscores the relative priority for many cloud companies. Increasing
    Key trends that will impact the environmental footprint of the cloud
    the energy efficiency of its servers and reducing the energy footprint
    of the infrastructure of data centres are clearly to be commended, but
    efficiency by itself is not green if you are simply working to maximise
    output from the cheapest and dirtiest energy source available. The US
    EPA will soon be expanding its EnergyStar rating system to apply to
    data centres, but similarly does not factor in the fuel source being used
    to power the data centre in its rating criteria. Unfortunately, as our
    collective demand for computing resources increases, even the most
    efficiently built data centres with the highest utilisation rates serve only
    to mitigate, rather than eliminate, harmful emissions.

    Some people thought the hype about Facebook's coal power was a fad.  No it is a trend and the start of evaluating the carbon impact of data centers.

    image

    Here is a sampling of other media coverage.

    Coal Fuels Much Of Internet "Cloud", Says Greenpeace

    New York Times - Peter Henderson - ‎5 hours ago‎

    By REUTERS SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The 'cloud' of data which is becoming the heart of the Internet is creating an all too real cloud of pollution as ...

    Greenpeace issues warning about data centre power

    BBC News - ‎7 hours ago‎

    Greenpeace is calling on technology giants like Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook to power their data centres with renewable energy sources. ...

    Data clouds called out for dirty energy

    Marketplace (blog) - ‎5 hours ago‎

    Environmental activities are concerned about server farms' use of dirty energy to keep sites like Google and Facebook running. ...

    Greenpeace: Cloud Contributes to Climate Change

    Data Center Knowledge - Rich Miller - ‎5 hours ago‎

    The environmental group Greenpeace says data center builders must become part of the solution to the climate change challenge, rather than part of the ...

    Cloud computing 'fuels climate change'

    PCR-online.biz - Nicky Trup - ‎8 hours ago‎

    The growth of cloud computing could cause a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions, Greenpeace has warned. ...

    2020: Cloud Computing GHG Emissions To Triple

    Basil & Spice - ‎9 hours ago‎

    San Francisco, United States — As IT industry analysts label 2010 the “Year of the Cloud”, a new report by Greenpeace shows how the launch of quintessential ...

    Greenpeace criticises coal-fuelled internet cloud

    TechRadar UK - Adam Hartley - ‎10 hours ago‎

    Eco-campaigners at Greenpeace have criticised the idea of an internet 'cloud' - with data centres built by the likes of Facebook, Apple, ...

    The iPad, internet, and climate change links in the spotlight

    Greenpeace USA - ‎13 hours ago‎

    International — On the eve of the launch of the iPad, our latest report warns that the growth of internet computing could come with a huge jump in ...

    Click to read more ...

    Monday
    Mar292010

    Mobile Devices shifting power to the users, away from IT departments

    When I was visiting Mizzou last week, I was able to visit Clyde Bentley.  Clyde writes a blog on Mobile Journalism and the conversation with Clyde was quite useful to build future discussions on mobile devices and its effect on information publishing.

    Below is a video of Clyde discussing the change in journalism caused by Mobile Devices.

    Clyde Bentley: Why editors should make the move to mobile now from Bill Densmore on Vimeo.

    And, what got me thinking more was this post on AgileOperations.

    Agile Operations is a concept which combines lean, low-cost service delivery with flexible, just-in-time response to business demands, helping you keep your department relevant and competitive with trendy low-cost solutions available outside the business. In a sort of technology judo, Agile Operations seeks to use the strengths of these alternatives against them, keeping the flexibility and the savings in house and under the control of the IT department without resorting to heavy-handed prohibitions and lock-down measures which simply serve to force users further and further from a state of trust and understanding with the CIO.

    This post on AgileOperations and Mobile discusses the impact on IT departments.

    The challenge to the IT department in this scenario is to provision and support users with these devices and solutions. This is a far different prospect than traditional IT provisioning and support, and many IT departments are having trouble keeping up. It's not the first time IT has had trouble staying on the same plane as users when new technologies emerge, but this time, the devices and the online solutions are sufficiently cheap that those users don't need the IT department to implement them. While IT has held the keys to the kingdom for many years, there is an increasing chance that the IT department will simply become irrelevant as users bypass it for easier, cheapers solutions. As this Wall Street Journal article outlines, that day is coming.

    We have all been frustrated with IT departments who standardize the desktop and laptops we use to reduce IT costs.  In Mobile, this is the strength of RIM's Blackberry server and the ability to manage the Blackberry device.  But, the rest of the industry is moving so fast, and managed mobile devices are not a priority for many.

    I had a blackberry curve last year and now have an iPhone 3GS.  There is no way I would go back to a Blackberry device.  If anything I would try a Google phone.

    Maybe one of the most rapid innovations and growth for Mobile's is the fact they are not in control of many IT departments.

    How many of you think you would have a better mobile experience if your IT department made your purchasing decision?

    Feel sorry for all those blackberry users who have a choice of one.  Unless you are an executive and you can get the more expensive Blackberry one with a touch screen.  Ooohhh!!!!

    Click to read more ...

    Friday
    Mar262010

    Sustainable Farming Method applied to Sustainable Data Centers, Dan Barber's entertaining how I fell in love with a fish, it's about relationships

    This is a video that has 5 stars. It is entertaining, funny and educational.

    Here is Huffington post article about the video.

    Dan Barber: How I Fell in Love With a Fish

    Chef Dan Barber squares off with a dilemma facing many chefs today: how to keep fish on the menu. With impeccable research and deadpan humor, he chronicles his pursuit of a sustainable fish he could love, and the foodie's honeymoon he's enjoyed since discovering an outrageously delicious fish raised using a revolutionary farming method in Spain.

    Here is a picture of the fish farm.

    image

    Which is different than a typical fish farm.

    image

    One of the best lines that gives you the method, the secret to success in the sustainable farm is the biologist isn't an expert in fish, but is an expert in relationships.  If you go to time mark 8:10 you can listen to this.

    Dan asks How did he become an expert on fish?

    Fish??  I don't know anything about fish.  I am an expert on relationships.

    Why is this so important?  Because the people who are doing the most innovative data center work understand the relationships of the site to the building to the IT equipment to the software and the services provided.  This is what good system engineers know in mature industries.  This is beyond the data center building with its power and cooling systems.  The enlightened are looking at the energy supply chain with a focus on cost, carbon impact, and changes in the supply chain in the future.  What is the future of services and applications that need to run on servers, storage, and networks.  This is one damn hard problem to address as the silos in data center are powerful and entrenched in a companies organization and the rest of the industry.

    I just came back from Missouri and got a chance to talk in more detail to the Civil Engineering company, Allstate Consulting who is working on site analysis of the Ewing Industrial Park.  Over the past 9 months there are a variety of people who are being exposed to data centers who had no previous data center experience.  Yet, there are many instances of where potential site users are surprised on the engineering analysis and drawings prepared.

    Having a pizza at Shakespare's Pizza in Columbia, MO, with Chad Sayre, VP of Design Services at Allstate Consulting.

    Chad W. Sayre, PE, Vice-President

    Mr. Sayre obtained a Master of Science and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from University of Missouri-Columbia.  Since 1994, Mr. Sayre has been a Project Engineer for Allstate Consultants.  In 2000, he became Principal/Vice President and Chief of Design Services for the firm.  He is responsible for municipal and land development engineering projects including forensic, water, wastewater, land planning, environmental compliance permitting, highway design, hydraulics, and stormwater projects.  He is closely involved with construction administration, inspection, specification preparation of public and private projects and has a considerable amount of experience in expert testimony.

    He was telling the story of how he attended DataCenterDynamics conference and was in the bar (which is common networking method at all DataCenterDynamics event), and was telling a big data center customer, "A year ago, I didn't know shit about data centers." 

    But, I'll tell you what Chad does know is the methane gas production issues from the adjacent land fill.  How the topography of the site can be used to create isolation areas to protect the site and change building design. How easy it is to dig trenches to connect to additional fiber. How BioMass can be used to generate renewable energy. How construction techniques that have been applied to multiple other industries can be used in manner similar to what Microsoft has proposed.

    These facilities will not be pretty and might actually resemble the barns I spent so much time around during my childhood in rural Illinois. That, combined with the fact that these facilities will be substantially lower cost per megawatt to build and substantially lower cost to run, makes it very easy to become excited about what we’re doing here.

    William Gibson said it best: “The future is here, it’s just not widely distributed yet.”

    When you look for who knows how to build sustainable, green, low carbon data centers, look for those who understand relationships.  I am tired of hearing people tout their latest hardware as the answer to the problem, but they can't explain how this new equipment effects the rest of the system.

    It would be pretty damn funny, but almost impossible to create a video like Dan Barber did for "How I fell in love with a Data Center"

    Actually, I do know lots of people who fell in love with their data centers.  But many times it is more like this image, high density, low PUE, with little discussed on the carbon impact or waste.

    image

    Wouldn't it be cool if data centers could help the environment?

    image

    Click to read more ...

    Friday
    Mar262010

    Bill Gates has the data for connection between energy and climate, sees opportunities for Gates Foundation and his own money - Terrapower

    Bill Gates recently presented at the TED conference.

    image

    His video is below and it is 30 minutes long so I know most of you will not watch the whole thing.

    There are a few things I learned from his talk that most will miss.  I've been in a variety of BillG meetings while at Microsoft and have watched from the inside and outside how Bill operates.

    One funny story I used to tell ( the story is over 10 years old) is a BillG keynote at Seybold Seminars.  This was back in late 1996-1998 when Bill wanted Windows to win the battle for desktop publishing.  He wanted the data on what Microsoft needed to do to win vs Apple.  Seybold Seminars no longer exist, but here is bit of background.

    Jonathan Seybold sold the company, and various successors ran the conference into the ditch, with the seminar, once the biannual gathering of the print tribes, disappeared a year ago. Jonathan was the oracle of desktop publishing, whose late-80s mantra ("standard platforms, shrink-wrapped software") set the direction for desktop publishing, and, later, the open source movement for all content production.

    I had researched the topic before the event and collected detailed notes on Apple and Adobe's presentations to prepare Bill for his keynote.  I also prepared discussion material for Jonathan Seybold visited Microsoft for a Bill Gates meeting and sat in the meeting.  Bill is a data driven guy and the night before his keynote the rehearsals was a data driven discussion on what to discuss.  There were at least eight Microsoft guys surrounding Bill as he practiced his presentation and asked for clarification or more data.

    Where was I?  200 ft away in the audience sitting with the Seybold Seminar event staff, five women I was joking with watching the Microsoft guys jockey to get a word in.  I figured out a long time ago, there was not a huge upside to getting in front of Bill.  It's not like he says "great job Dave, here are more options."  But, he can say "that's f*** stupid." and you now need to fight your point to prove Bill is wrong or admit Bill was right and I am stupid.  How much fun is that? Vs. sitting with five women for 1 1/2 hrs having pleasant conversations.  Also, one of the five is now my wife.

    I tell this story, because I look at Bill's speech from a different view.  So, back to what I saw in Bill's speech. 

    1. Bill has the data that shows the same people he is trying to help with health initiatives at the Gates Foundation are impacted to a greater degree by climate change and availability of energy. (seemed kind of obvious to me)  If there is a drought caused by global warming, then crops and water supplies are effected for the population.  This is explained in the first minute above video.
    2. The cost of energy has the most impact on the poor.  Here is a graph of the price of energy.image
    3. He has a simple formula. The sum of CO2 increases temperature has a negative effectimage
    4. Bill asks his scientist.  Can't we just reduce carbon to solve the problem.  His scientist say until CO2 from energy generation hits zero the temperature will continue to rise. image
    5. Bill next goes into what can be done to get to zero.  Asking the question can any of these go to zero.  Walks through each the conclusion is C02 per unit energyimage
    6. What Bill says is we need Energy Miracles that are cheap and no CO2.image
    7. Bill identifies the areas he think miracles can be done. image
    8. Bill makes this excellent point on energy storage.  All the batteries on the earth only store 10 minutes of energy.image 
    9. Then he gets to his answer for a miracle. Terrapower a travelling wave nuclear reactor.image
    10. And last, Bill appeals that there are many things that need to be done to reach the goal of 1/2 cost power with no carbon.image

    One other big point that was made after Bill was presenting when discussing Terrapower.


    Intellectual Ventures® investments in energy inventions have evolved to become TerraPower, an expert team that is investigating innovative ways to address energy needs. TerraPower’s most advanced work centers on radically improving ways to make electricity using nuclear reactors.

    At minute 21:10 in the video, the question is asked where Terrapower and Bill's team is discussing who to work with.  The answer is China, Russia, and India.  Conversations with US Secretary of Energy are mentioned as well, but I can imagine the regulatory and political activists issues in the US have Terrapower seriously looking at countries outside the US to develop the technology.

    On my next trip to Missouri I hope to get a tour of their nuclear reactor, and maybe I can ask them if they have had any discussions with Terrapower.

    Here is a presentation by Terrapower's John Gilleland.

    “The TerraPower Initiative”

    presenter:

    John Gilleland

    Organization:

    TerraPower LLC

    Gilleland

    video:

    Click here to watch a recording of the talk

    TerraPower, LLC is a privately funded initiative focused on the development of a new reactor and simplified nuclear infrastructure. Objectives include (1) reduction, and eventual elimination, of the need for enrichment facilities; (2) elimination of any future need for chemical separations-based reprocessing facilities; (3) utilization of natural or depleted uranium as fuel; and (4) achievement of a COE competitive with clean coal plants. Participants include 65 individuals from UC Berkeley, MIT, UNLV, ANL, Burns & Row, CBCG, and Intellectual Ventures.
    The reactor is based on the travelling wave concept. The speaker will review the concept and discuss the development challenges.

    Thanks to some friends at Intellectual Ventures, I have contacts at Terrapower, but Terrapower Nuclear power generation is decades off, and I can take my time until I have more data.  :-)

    Click to read more ...