Apple Recruits eBay Data Center Executive Olivier Sanche, Can Apple Change Data Centers the way they changed cell phone and media players?

I have been lucky to meet eBay’s Sr. Director, Data Center Services & Strategy, Olivier Sanche at a variety of data center events and discuss many different green data center ideas. Last week, Olivier joined me as a panel member at Data Center Dynamics Seattle to discuss Carbon Reporting: Risk or Opportunity.  Olivier took a position different than many that carbon reduction is a must, and should not be compromised. 

Below is a summary of the panel members.  We had a nice balance having an engineering firm (Callison), Switch and Data (hosting), eBay (data centers and applications).  We were also lucky to have Charles Kalko from eBay join us as he brought in the view of the software and services running in the data center and their role in Carbon.  Charles discussed Green Metrics for the data center and eBay’s support for the use of The Green Grid’s DCeP metric.

PANEL: Carbon: Risk or Opportunity?
Implementing a Strategy to Manage Your Data Center's Carbon Risk Exposure
David Ohara, Founder and Architect - Green M3
Leonard A. Ruff AIA, Director - Callison Architecture
Herb Villa, Customer Solutions Engineer - Switch & Data

Charles Kalko, Operation Excellence Program Lead, eBay
Olivier Sanche, Senior Director, Data Centers Services & Strategy – eBay

Global carbon regulation is arguably the largest risk and opportunity most corporations will face in the beginning of the 21st century. Voluntary and mandatory reporting protocols are emerging. Questions we will ask:

Some of the discussion went to the practical side of financial costs, consolidation, energy efficiency, and what the industry accepts as standard practice. And, we could count on Olivier to be ready with a passionate view on doing the right thing for the environment, adding issues about water consumption, eWaste, and other environmental concerns beyond simply the power consumed. Watching Olivier reminded me of the focus we had on features that were absolute must haves while I was at Apple. 

An example of the passion for pushing for the right thing is when I was at Apple, working on the Macintosh II RGB monitor team. They had a quality requirement for the RGB gun convergence across the whole display area.  The guys at Sony said that is not possible, the standard we all use is like a bulls eye target where convergence is best in the middle, and as you get to the edges misconvergence is acceptable.  IBM has been doing this for years for the PC, and it was the accepted standard (Keep in mind this was in 1986, well before Windows).

Our design lead, Brian Berkeley was adamant about the convergence specification applying across the whole screen.  He finally showed the Sony guys what a Mac display looked like.  "look what we have in the corners of the screen, the Apple icon, the pull down menus, the trash can. there are things are around the edges."  The Sony guys gave in, and the Mac II RGB monitor was the must have monitor for the Mac II, and Apple had an inventory shortage of RGB monitors as forecasting misread the market demanding 90% of the monitors be RGB.  Apple went against the industry standard pushing for what consumers would want to buy.

I tell this story, because Olivier gave me a call to let me know he accepted Apple’s Director of Global Data Center Operations position. I don’t think Olivier could resist the opportunity to build and operate data centers where the user experience is the highest priority.  I bet Olivier’s passion to green the data center and being environmentally sensitive to the impacts of his data center practices was part of the reason why he stood out versus others who interviewed for the job.

Personally, I think Olivier is the absolute right guy for Apple at the right time.  Coincidentally, I recently wrote this post about Greenpeace possibly targeting Apple Data Centers. There is no other person I can think of who could better prepare Apple for Greening the Data Center.  Olivier is one of the few data center managers who uses a Mac, and he craves the moment he can drop the blackberry and switch to the iPhone.

I am sad in some ways, as eBay has been quite open to discuss its data center practices.  Below are a few pictures of Olivier and his team.IMG_0828IMG_0843

Going to Apple will most likely quiet Olivier Sanche's voice in the industry.  But, who knows.  Olivier may change that as well. Here is Olivier speaking at Google’s data center summit.

One of the questions for the panel members was on subject of green and sustainability.

Ken Brill gave a practical view of show me the money. Green is overhyped and a clear ROI needs to be established for projects.

Olivier Sanche starts by telling the story of his child telling him how the polar bears are drowning, then he thinks he is potentially building a data center that will have a bigger impact to global warming than any other action he has as an individual.  Olivier tells his team we need to do the right thing, and how we impact the environment is part of the equation.

Good Luck, Olivier.  I am placing my bets Apple will change the data center industry the way they changed cell phones and media players with the iPhone and iPod.  It is not just the environmental issues, there are huge opportunities to leverage the data center servers with client devices - iPod, iPhone, and Macs.  Photos, Music, and Video and the associated media industry is Apple's strength.  Google focuses on Search.  Microsoft focuses on Windows, Office, and competing against Google.  Apple focuses on consumers.

Who do you think is going to change the data center industry the most Google, Microsoft, or Apple?

Or maybe what individuals will change the data center industry?  Keep your eye on Olivier.