Remembering a Great Thought Leader in DC Industry, Olivier Sanche - a water well was built

4 years ago at this time of year we lost one of great thought leaders way before his time was to depart us.  Olivier Sanche was a dear friend and passionate about data centers and the environment.  One of things Olivier's family did in memory of Olivier is sponsor a water well in Mali.

It is in this desert area that the well bearing Olivierʼs name has been built because ” Water is the Source of Life”.

Here is some background on the well that Karine Sanche, Olivier's wife shared.

-  The well was Bernard Sancheʼs idea ( Olivierʻs dad) because he wanted to honor Olivier with something useful and that would last.
-  He shared this idea with Olivierʼs mom, his brother and myself and we all agreed that instead of having people bring flowers to Olivierʼs funeral, we would have a fundraiser for the well instead and we ended up raising 4500 euros ( almost 6000 dollars).
-  The idea of building a well came to my father-in-law because he had been doing humanitarian work in the Northern Mali since 1984. His associationʼs main goal was to help the Touaregs ( nomad populations) and he knew that one of their biggest problems is having access to drinking water. In an area ( the size of Belgium) called Adeil.hoc, some people must travel over 18 miles to get water to drink, to cook and to give to their herds. It is in this desert area that the well bearing Olivierʼs name has been built because ” Water is the Source of Life”.
-  The exact location of the well has been decided by a local mayor ( the mayor of Abindnage) because he is a liaison with the association; this location was found to best serve the local populations. It was a difficult project because of the wellʼs location which is at 2 days of the nearest town meaning that all the building supplies ( gravel, ciment, steel, the molds ( form work) for reinforced concrete etc...) had to be transported through the desert.The well is 72 feet deep and has several “bowls” so several herds can drink at the same time.
-  Olivier was closely following his dadʼs efforts to help the Touaregs in Mali. These efforts include the construction and/or repair of 180 wells, the construction of schools and infirmaries in the bush, as well as the training of several bush nurses. The association also bought a truck to transport feed from Gao ( over 310 miles away).

Here are a few more pictures showing the construction of the well.


Small World of Data Centers and Our Dear Olivier Sanche

This last week was a day to catch up with old friends, many of which were connected to Olivier Sanche.  One of the small world stories a friend told me is their move to SF Bay Area has gone well and his son has taken up Polo.  When I hear polo, I think of water polo, not the equestrian sport of polo.  So, the first time I heard his story I missed the point.  

Traveling to a polo match his wife and son gave a ride to another family (mother and daughter).  Traveling in the car the small talk came up what does your husband do, he works on data centers.  The single mom said oh that’s what my husband did until he passed away.  Oh, so sorry to hear.  What was his name?  Olivier Sanche.  OMG, your husband was Olivier, my husband knew him and was shocked by the news.

This last week I caught up with Olivier Sanche’s widow, Karine.   Karine told her story of meeting the unnamed data center executive who knew Olivier, and I gave more background on him and how he was a good friend of Olivier and I know the two of them connected well. 

Asking about how her daughter is doing Emilie, she is doing so well in school and she is so tall.  How tall?  5’ 8 1/2” and she’ll be 13 in Sept one week away from my daughter who will also be 13 and is maybe 4’ 10”.  Olivier and I had talked about one of these days our girls meeting each other, and one of these days hopefully they will.

Here are some pictures of Emilie playing Polo.





A smile from Heaven, Olivier Sanche's environmental efforts paying off

Apple's Lisa Jackson at the Sustainability Conference Verge, and GigaOm sent a reporter to core the presentation.

Apple’s high profile new environmental chief — the former head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency — Lisa Jackson spoke publicly for one of the first times on Wednesday after taking the role at Apple four months earlier. At thesustainability conference VERGE, Jackson said she plans to pump up Apple’s efforts in using energy more efficiently and bringing more clean power to Apple’s data centers and office buildings.

“Tim Cook didn’t hire Lisa Jackson to be quiet and keep the status quo. We understand our responsibility and we do care,” said Jackson.

Bloom Energy

The article continues with the efforts Apple has been making in the past.

Jackson came to Apple when the company already had begun to devote more money and time on increasing its use of renewable electricity at its data centers and taking other actions to lower its carbon footprint.

When I read this, I immediately think of Olivier Sanche who had the passion to green Apple's data centers.

It is sad to think it has been 3 years since Olivier left us.  This time of year is when I remember Olivier the most.  His birthday was Oct 4, and he left us in Nov at Thanksgiving 2010.  A bunch of us are getting together at 7x24 Exchange in San Antonio in Nov 17-20, and I am sure we'll chat about Olivier's impact on us.

Apple's 100% greening of its data centers, why? a passion to do the right thing

GigaOm's Katie Fehrenbacher has a post on Apple being 100% renewable powered.

Apple now powering its cloud with solar panels, fuel cells (photos)


MAR. 21, 2013 - 12:11 PM PDT


Apple Solar Farm

Apple’s massive solar panel and fuel cell farm are now live and providing clean power for its huge data center in Maiden, North Carolina. By the end of the year 60 percent of the power for the data center will come from these sources.

Apple has turned on the first halves of both its massive solar panel farm and adjacent fuel cell farm, and is using the systems to provide power for its $1 billion, 500,000 square-foot data center in Maiden, North Carolina. The clean power projects are some of the largest non-utility owned systems in the world, and they’re part of Apple’s plan to use 100 percent clean power for its data centers. Apple revealed the information in a new environmental report on Thursday.


Apple’s Renewable Energy Projects at Maiden

In 2012, we built the nation’s largest end user–owned, onsite solar photovoltaic array on land surrounding the data center. This 100-acre, 20-megawatt (MW) facility has an annual production capacity of 42 million kWh of clean, low-carbon, renewable energy.

Late last year, we decided to double our capacity by beginning construction on a second 20-MW solar photovoltaic facility nearby that should be operational near the end of 2013.

In 2012, we also worked with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) to develop state-specific rules under which fuel cells supplied by biogas from landfills and other renewable sources can be used to generate renewable energy. Consistent with these rules, we built an onsite 4.8-MW fuel cell installation fueled by landfill biogas that provides more than 40 million kWh of 24/7 baseload renewable energy annually.

In early 2013, we expanded this installation to 10 MW, which makes it the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country, supplying more than 83 million kWh annually. 

Including a video that shows the site.

What gave me a good laugh is reading DatacenterKnowledge's coverage of the 100% green Apple data center speculating that Greenpeace is the cause of Apple's efforts.

In the wake of pressure from the environmental group Greenpeace, Apple said Thursday that it has achieved 100 percent renewable energy at all of its data centers, including facilities in North Carolina, Oregon, California and Nevada.

The author goes on to reference other Greenpeace efforts and press releases.

Gary Cook, senior IT analyst at Greenpeace called Apple out at an Uptime Symposium saying that it and Facebook should  “wield (its) power to alter the energy paradigm.” Apple has since stepped up in a big way. Since 2010, it has achieved a 114 percent increase in the usage of renewable energy at corporate facilities worldwide, up to 70 percent overall from 35 percent.

“Apple’s announcement shows that it has made real progress in its commitment to lead the way to a clean energy future,” Cook said in a statement Thursday. “Apple’s increased level of disclosure about its energy sources helps customers know that their iCloud will be powered by clean energy sources, not coal.”

Long before Greenpeace was going after the data center industry Olivier was passionate about green data centers at eBay 5 years ago and he most likely took that same passion to Apple.  

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.

Here is Olivier speaking at a Google event 4 years ago.

At Google’s Efficient Data Center Summit, there was a panel discussion on Best Practices. Panel members left to right: Ken Brill, James Hamilton, William Tschudi, and Olivier Sanche.


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.

If Apple was following Ken Brill's advice from above that Green is overhyped, then you could more easily believe that Greenpeace got them to change their mind. 

You could argue that DCK was correct in saying Greenpeace was an influence, but compared to what Olivier did inside Apple I would say Olivier was 1,000 times more influential for the direction of Apple's green data center efforts than Greenpeace.  The benefit Greenpeace has is they still have a voice and they have the incentive to tell their supporters that they can change the industry.  "Look we got Apple to change its direction."  Olivier is no longer with us, and I am sure he would screaming loudly that this is BS.  We greened our data centers because it is the right thing to do, not because an environmental group has chosen to target the company.

Apple achieving this public statement of being 100% renewable in its data center is an achievement of OIivier Sanche, not Greenpeace.

Disclosure:  Olivier Sanche was one of my closest data center friends, and I still keep in touch with his family. I work with GigaOm as an analyst, so I know Katie Fehrenbacher and how she writes.  If Katie writes something I don't agree with I'll tell her where she needs to correct her facts.  GigaOm hires me for my independent opinion and industry expertise.

NYTimes - Data Centers are evil power consuming polluting cloud factories

Unrestricted consumption is at the root of many bad things for the environment.  Not too long ago magazine and newspapers were the primary method people got the news and the advertising print ecosystem made money.  Behind all the paper consumption were huge pulp and paper mills that are now straining for survival if they aren't already closed.

Now you have products like Instagram that was built on free unlimited image sharing which was great to build market share and be disruptive to Facebook and Google's social media strategies.  Here is a question though, how many of those photos are needlessly wasting HD space sitting idle with little traffic.  

The NYTimes has published an article takes the direction of thinking of data centers like the pulp and paper mills - power consuming polluting buildings. 


This is the first article in a series about the physical structures that make up the cloud, and their impact on our environment.

The author is planning more articles.  Given the bad positioning of the data center industry I bet there are a bunch of people mentioned in the article that wished they hadn't spent time with the author.

A yearlong examination by The New York Times has revealed that this foundation of the information industry is sharply at odds with its image of sleek efficiency and environmental friendliness.

Most data centers, by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner, interviews and documents show. Online companies typically run their facilities at maximum capacity around the clock, whatever the demand. As a result, data centers can waste 90 percent or more of the electricity they pull off the grid, The Times found.

Here are a few example that will get you thinking.

“It’s staggering for most people, even people in the industry, to understand the numbers, the sheer size of these systems,” said Peter Gross, who helped design hundreds of data centers. “A single data center can take more power than a medium-size town.”


“This is an industry dirty secret, and no one wants to be the first to say mea culpa,” said a senior industry executive who asked not to be identified to protect his company’s reputation. “If we were a manufacturing industry, we’d be out of business straightaway.”


To guard against a power failure, they further rely on banks of generators that emit diesel exhaust. The pollution from data centers has increasingly been cited by the authorities for violating clean air regulations, documents show. In Silicon Valley, many data centers appear on the state government’s Toxic Air Contaminant Inventory, a roster of the area’s top stationary diesel polluters.

The US is positioned as the worst offender.

Worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants, according to estimates industry experts compiled for The Times. Data centers in the United States account for one-quarter to one-third of that load, the estimates show.

Power back up is criticized.  Bet those vendors are glad they didn't talk to the NYtimes.

Even running electricity at full throttle has not been enough to satisfy the industry. In addition to generators, most large data centers contain banks of huge, spinning flywheels or thousands of lead-acid batteries — many of them similar to automobile batteries — to power the computers in case of a grid failure as brief as a few hundredths of a second, an interruption that could crash the servers.

“It’s a waste,” said Dennis P. Symanski, a senior researcher at the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit industry group. “It’s too many insurance policies.”

The air quality issues are highlighted.

At least a dozen major data centers have been cited for violations of air quality regulations in Virginia and Illinois alone, according to state records. Amazon was cited with more than 24 violations over a three-year period in Northern Virginia, including running some of its generators without a basic environmental permit.

The fight club data center culture is spun as a conspiracy.

For security reasons, companies typically do not even reveal the locations of their data centers, which are housed in anonymous buildings and vigilantly protected. Companies also guard their technology for competitive reasons, said Michael Manos, a longtime industry executive. “All of those things play into each other to foster this closed, members-only kind of group,” he said.

That secrecy often extends to energy use. To further complicate any assessment, no single government agency has the authority to track the industry. In fact, the federal government was unable to determine how much energy its own data centers consume, according to officials involved in a survey completed last year.

The PR people who set up interviews with the NYTimes must be sweating as they wonder what will be published in the future.

To investigate the industry, The Times obtained thousands of pages of local, state and federal records, some through freedom of information laws, that are kept on industrial facilities that use large amounts of energy. Copies of permits for generators and information about their emissions were obtained from environmental agencies, which helped pinpoint some data center locations and details of their operations.

In addition to reviewing records from electrical utilities, The Times also visited data centers across the country and conducted hundreds of interviews with current and former employees and contractors.

The author even compares data centers to the paper industry.

The industry has long argued that computerizing business transactions and everyday tasks like banking and reading library books has the net effect of saving energy and resources. But the paper industry, which some predicted would be replaced by the computer age, consumed 67 billion kilowatt-hours from the grid in 2010, according to Census Bureau figures reviewed by the Electric Power Research Institute for The Times.

Direct comparisons between the industries are difficult: paper uses additional energy by burning pulp waste and transporting products. Data centers likewise involve tens of millions of laptops, personal computers and mobile devices.

People feared the folks at Greenpeace.  Now they are going to watch out for the NYTimes and maybe other media.