48 hours at a Data Center Conference, Example Gartner DC LV 2010

I learn a lot going to data center conferences, but I go to almost no sessions.  My calendar is booked with numerous meetings, but I leave time to network and find new connections.

This is my 2nd Gartner DC Conference in LV and it was well worth my time, but I kind of have a unique way of leveraging the conference.

Given my blog I attend the conference as media with a press badge.  Weeks before attending I start to get e-mails and phone calls from public relations company to meet with vendors who have executives at the conference.  I choose carefully who I will set up an appointment with.  Some of the companies on the list were HP, Dell, SGI, Nimbula, Equinix, and APC.

The Gartner keynotes start on Monday morning at 8a.  I arrive in LV at about noon and start my meetings, and within 48 hours I am on a plane leaving LV.

While I am at the Gartner conference I don’t speak to a single Gartner employee.  And, I actually don’t listen to any of their presentations.  There are many who find the sessions educational, but I don’t learn enough new content to make it worth the time.  Spend 1/2 hour with a senior HP executive or 45 minutes listening to Gartner explain its surveys of a group who are not the innovators.  I spend so much of my time talking to innovators, listening to how the masses think is convenient for tracking the market, but not for being more competitive than the rest.

All my interviews are with what people see as what the future data center will look like which many time are greener data centers too.

As soon as I get close to the conference I start saying hi to people who I have seen at other conferences.  My first stop after registering is going to the press room.  The press room is one of the sparsest media rooms - no food, water, coffee.  Some mints.  Rich Miller and Kevin Normandeau from DataCenterKnowledge are the first media guys I see and we catch up a bit.  Two months ago, we were all at AFCOM LV, so it has only been a short period since we chatted. Also, I see Matt Stansberry from SearchDataCenter who I hadn’t seen for a while.

Matt and I discuss Oregon Duck Football as he lives in Eugene, OR and his wife is completing her post graduate degree at UO.  I tell Matt that I educate many people it is he who broke the story on Facebook’s choice for coal power.

Maybe Facebook should have bought a Bloom Box to diffuse Greenpeace’s campaign against a coal powered data center

Thanks to Matt Stansberry’s reporting on SearchDataCenter, attention was drawn to Facebook’s Prineville Data Center being coal powered.

Tiered energy rates bring higher prices for new customers
By 2012, BPA will charge tiered rates for power. Customers that signed 20-year contracts in 2008 will pay tier-one (i.e., inexpensive) pricing for their current electricity demand. These customers use most of the power produced by the dams.

By 2012, Oregon's Bonneville Power Administration will charge tiered rates for power.

To meet new customer demand or increased demand from existing customers, BPA also purchases power from other sources. In 2012 this electricity will be classified as tier two, and it will be charged at a much higher rate than the BPA's current hydropower.

Which brings us back to Facebook: The company's new data center is being built in Prineville, Ore., a small town on Oregon's high desert. Pacific Power, a utility owned by PacifiCorp, will provide the electricity. While Pacific Power gets some hydropower from BPA, its primary power-generation fuel is coal, according to Jason Carr, the manager of the Prineville office of economic development for Central Oregon.

With the price of hydropower increasing in the Northwest, Facebook opted to bet on the incremental price increases associated with coal rather than face tier-two pricing from BPA.

I’ll see Matt and Rich many times at the conference as we interview many times the same executives.  I’ll ask what they are finding interesting.

Besides interviewing there are attendees who come to do business and we’ll meet to discuss what is going on in the industry and where there are new opportunities.  Who is doing some of the best work and who is starting up new projects.  I’ll start looking for new connections and interesting people to have discussions with at the conference.

When the exhibit area opens, I’ll look for people I know, and watch which vendors are getting lots of traffic.  I rarely spend much time at an exhibit unless I know people at the company.  Most of the time I talk to a booth person, I find I can learn more by surfing their website.  One booth I went to was Splunk which is one of the fastest growing IT management tools.  I ended up spending over 1/2 hr at the Splunk booth as the guy I was talking to just happened to work for a good friend of mine at Microsoft and I knew there was a guy who had interesting insight.  Within 24 hrs, I was able to have a telephone conversation with Splunk’s CTO to discuss an innovative use of Splunk which I hope to write more about in the future as we prove a scenario to green the data center using Splunk.

Throughout the 48 hours I talk to business friends in site selection, engineering services, construction, facility operations, containers, server hardware, cloud SW, networking, and management tools.  Looking for how the pieces fit together in interesting ways.  Making introductions, and discussing new ideas.

There were a couple of good “ah ha” moments when I figured out some new things.  One example is the big whales aren’t at Gartner.

In the end I talked to some amazing data center executives, found some new technologies sooner as they were brought to my attention, reinforced established connections, made new connections, and had a good time discussing new ideas.

BTW, I don’t expect the Gartner folks to talk to me as I am not going to pay for their advice as I am not a client.  But I will help talk about what goes on Gartner DC LV.  Everybody gets a different experience than others.   The above is my 48 hrs at Gartner DC LV 2010.