Detroit vs. Iowa Data Centers, GM vs. Detroit competing for the IT talent

Chris Crosby has a post on Detroit as a data center location and brings up the folks in Iowa with Facebook.

Detroit. The Data Center Capital of America

Life is good in Altoona, Iowa. With the coming of Facebook, servers will quickly outnumber the community’s 15,000 residents and the city is poised to become one of the country’s leading data center destinations. The citizenry of Altoona are, of course, ecstatic at their good fortune. The economic benefits alone are too numerous to consider. The police department is contemplating adding a second car, the country club might add nine more holes so members can play a full 18, and there’s a rumor going around that Krispy Kreme might be coming to town. Yes indeed, the gentrification of Altoona has begun—and good for them. I have nothing against the good people of Altoona. And yet I have to ask, “Why Altoona?” Why this small oasis in the Hawkeye state as opposed to say, the Motor City? That’s right, why not Detroit? I pose this as a serious question. I realize that a few of you effete data center snobs might snort in derision at the mere mention of this discussion, but really, what has Altoona got that the buckle of the Rust Belt doesn’t?

Coincidentally, GM has been making some news not nearly as widely covered as Facebook on its data centers in Detroit.

Facebook adding to its existing infrastructure is actually less transformative as GM going from its past of outsourced IT to data centers it owns and runs.  GM has recognized that IT infrastructure is critical to its success just like Facebook.

The GM renaissance of IT, canceling outsource contracts, building state of the art data centers I think is actually a cooler story to read about the transformation of IT than just another Facebook data center.  WSJ tells the history of how in 2011 a three day HP mainframe shut down woke up the CIO how ancient their IT infrastructure is. 

Hewlett-Packard Co. ’s outsourcing relationship with General Motors Co. may have been doomed regardless, but the last straw might have occurred in October 2011, early in GM CEO Dan Akerson’s tenure, when a mainframe computer that H-P operated on its  behalf went on the fritz for three days.

“All of a sudden we started having slowdowns in our manufacturing around the globe.  A bell went off in my head,” Mr. Akerson told the Wall Street Journal in an interview earlier this year. “It was so fundamental you just assumed that a company of our stature, our size, our complexity, our global reach, you had to have a 21st century IT infrastructure. We didn’t.”

General Motors Co.CIO Randy Mott

The outage meant that GM suppliers couldn’t be sure how to fill certain expected orders and had to guess at the details, according to Jeff Liedel, executive director of infrastructure engineering at GM. He said the outage probably “couldn’t have gone on longer, without forcing us to shut plants down.”






Here is a B-roll video with no sound that shows the new data center space.  It's not as sexy as a Facebook data center and the dress shirts with slacks don't look anything like the jeans and t-shirt culture.

GM is building a private cloud environment to support innovation.

The enterprise data center and a companion data center at the Milford Proving Ground are part of a previously announced plan to transform GM’s global IT footprint from 23 facilities to two by 2015. Construction of the $100 million data center expansion in Milford will begin this summer.

GM IT is leveraging the Warren and Milford data centers to create a secure, private cloud that allows super-computer applications, servers and data storage to be efficiently and quickly accessed among multiple users.  

“Our data center consolidation is just one of the initiatives driving the transformation of GM’s business,” said Randy Mott, GM vice president and CIO. “It’s part of an overarching strategy to transform not only information technology but also allow GM’s business operations to be more responsive to our customers, quicker to market and deliver on our objectives to shareholders.”

GM has a 2nd data center to provide an active fail over site where data can be mirrored.

The Milford location was chosen because it is more than 25 and less than 50 miles from Warren, allowing “mirrored” data, so if one facility is off line for any reason, the other will have the same data available without interruption.

"It's all about reducing risk and making sure no one event would affect both centers at the same time," said Curt Loehr, GM Information Technology project manager. "Each Center has its own utility feed using separate paths to provide uninterrupted power.  We even checked weather data going back a half century and Warren and Milford are affected by separate weather patterns." 

GM is saving money by having the data centers on existing campuses, which have negotiated bulk utility rates, existing infrastructure and security.

I guess I kind of felt compelled to write about GM given I have a Cadillac CTS as a rental car.  no comments on the car.  The data center is way more interesting.