Archive for the ‘Energy Efficiency’ Category

My story in Reno and receiving the Technologist of the Year award

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

A few nights ago I was honored to receive an award from NCET as Technologist of the Year. This journey started nearly 15 years ago, so I thought I would share more about it.

In 2002 I finished the build out of a colocation data center in Reno, Nevada. I never thought I would come to Reno yet an opportunity to lead a colocation data center company focused on middle sized but underserved cities was appealing for many reasons. Early with this data center in Reno I experimented with and used air economization and hot-cold aisle containment, each very unknown ways to improve data center energy efficiency, perhaps the first use of these techniques, and they did significantly reduce energy use.

Starting in 2004 and for over a decade I worked mostly remotely from Reno for Google (when we started buying, designing, building and operating internal data centers), and Equinix (the largest data center provider), DuPont Fabros (at the time second largest wholesale data center provider), Yahoo!, in which I managed global data center strategy and development at a time when we were building out large internal data centers and expansions around the globe. I also worked for BEA Systems before acquired by Oracle running their global data centers, and completed long-term marketing and product development consulting for Digital Realty, the largest wholesale data center provider, and many others, including Facebook and other Big 7 Internet companies. I call Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Yahoo! and eBay the Big 7, as they build, own and operate the majority of data centers, outspending data center capital every year of all of the colocation providers by a factor of almost 10. I have been lucky enough to work with five of these seven big data center companies.

In the midst of this, myself and others worked together to create and build the Reno Technology Park (RTP), the largest dedicated data center campus known at the time, located just outside of Reno in Washoe County. I worked with many companies to influence them to locate a future data center in Reno, and secured Apple as the first tenant of the RTP.

While maintaining a residence in the Reno area, with its very close proximity to Lake Tahoe, fabulous skiing, mountain biking, cycling and other activities that I love to do and have spent much time in the area for years playing. Yet with a home in the area, I avoid the congestion and high cost of living of the SF Bay Area and also a state income tax. There are many workers in technology companies that live and work in the Reno area and many like me that live in the Reno-Tahoe area yet commute to the Bay Area or elsewhere for work as needed, including executives of technology companies.

Because of the many great companies and people working in the Reno area I am even more humbled to receive this award. Thank you NCET and the board for this recognition and Abbi Whitaker for her nomination. Having developed data centers in over 20 countries and data center site selections in almost 30 countries as well as throughout the United States, I saw that Reno Nevada was a good place to locate data centers, and that they would be great for the local economy. I wanted to bring my industry to my home, and see the local economy continuing to grow and evolve.

I commend the team at EDAWN, Governor Sandoval and his staff including Steve Hill for helping to make these wins. I look forward to continuing to work with our community, all of you, NCET and EDAWN to see Reno’s economy grow and develop.

How to save on water costs in your data center

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Two weeks ago I spoke at the Recycled Water Use and Outreach Workshop in Sacramento. I know what you’re asking, “why is a data center guy talking at a recycled water conference?” Well, funny that you asked.

First of all, most of my ultra-efficient designs use water for cooling, often indirect evaporative systems. Hence, we trade energy use for water use. Now water is far less costly than energy and often has a much lower carbon footprint and other environmental impact per unit of cooling than electricity. But it always is a bonus to use recycled water, as it has an even lower environmental impact than standard potable supply. Of course, all water IS recycled. There are only a finite number of water drops on this wonderful planet that sustains us and every one of them has been around the water cycle block at least a few times, so in essence, all water is recycled.

As we use water to help or entirely cool our data centers, water plays an even greater role in data centers to achieve the greatest efficiency. Hence, water quality, capacity, cost and reliability of service are just as important as any other valuable input into our system of operations, making these factors and the future cost of water even more important into our site selection decisions. I’ve seen water cost between $.10 to $10.00 per 1,000 gallons—wow! What a spread! And I’ve seen it increase at 40% rates per year! Wouldn’t it be nice to have a consistent price from a non-profit water system that YOU have control over and full visibility into all costs? And one that is built to meet the high-availability and quality standards for data centers, and is DEDICATED to data center use? That is what you get at the Reno Technology Park!

And it’s not just the supply but also the discharge of water. I learned much about water discharge challenges in Quincy, WA, when building the Yahoo! data center there, as the local water utility wanted Microsoft and Yahoo! to pony up $10-15 million to pay for a new water treatment plant to handle the QUANTITY of our discharge water. Our quality was fine, but the quantity was too much for the current systems. This led me to find solutions to reduce the cooling tower blow down and avoid this $10+ million unplanned cost to our project.

I’ve always been a fan of chemical-free water treatment systems, but when looking for new solutions to solve our problem, I came across WCTI, which makes a chemical-free system quite different than other systems, and could provide us a system to get the cycles of concentration up over 200!!! Yes, that is over 200 cycles of concentration, which means nearly zero blow down! Which means it lowers water consumption by 30-50% and avoidance of paying for a new water treatment plant for the city. And it’s truly chemical free (even no biocides), which means it’s safer for people and the environment, as well as much lower cost. Keep those chiller tubes and/or pipes clean!

This is one of the comprehensive solutions that we provide for our clients at MegaWatt Consulting. It’s about saving money, and water is just another critical part of our system. Reach out to us to learn more!

Call for Case Studies and Data Center Efficiency Projects

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

As many of you know, I have chaired what has become known as the SVLG Data Center Efficiency Summit since the end of it’s first year’s program. That was fall of 2008. A wonderful summit held at Sun Microsystem’s Santa Clara campus. This has been a customer-focused, volunteer-driven project with case studies presented by end-users about their efficiency achievements. The goal is for all case studies to share actual results of the savings to show what works, best ways to improve efficiency and to provide ideas and support for all kinds of efficiency improvements within our data centers. We’ve highlighted software, hardware and infrastructure improvements, as well as new technologies and processes, in the effort that we all gain when we share. Through collaboration we all improve. And as an industry, if we all improve, we avoid over-regulation, we all help to preserve our precious energy supplies and keep their costs from escalating as quickly. We all help to reduce emissions generated as an industry and drive innovation. In essence, we all gain when we share ideas with each other.

As such, I have thought of this program to be immensely valuable as an industry tool to efficiency and improvement for all. Consequently, I have volunteered hundreds of hours of my time and forgiven personal financial gain to chair and help advance this program along with many other volunteers who have also given much of their time to advance this successful and valuable program. I do not have the resources to continually give of my volunteer time–I wish I did–but do hope to provide more support or time with future corporate sponsorship.

I do hope that you can participate in this valuable program and the corresponding event held in the late fall every year since 2008. Below is more information from the SVLG. You can also call me for more info.

Attention data center operators, IT managers, energy managers, engineers and vendors of green data center technologies: A call for case studies and demonstration projects is now open for the fifth annual Data Center Efficiency Summit to be held in November 2012.

The Data Center Efficiency Summit is a signature event of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group in partnership with the California Energy Commission and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which brings together engineers and thought leaders for one full day to discuss best practices, cutting edge new technologies, and lessons learned by real end users – not marketing pitches.

We welcome case studies presented by an end user or customer. If you are the vendor of an exciting new technology, please work with your customers to submit a case study. Case studies of built projects with actual performance data are preferred.

Topics to consider:
Energy Efficiency and/or Demand Response
Efficient Cooling (Example: Liquid Immersion Cooling)
Efficient Power Distribution (Example: DC Power)
IT Impact on Energy Efficiency (Example: Energy Impact of Data Security)
Energy Efficient Data Center Operations
In the final version of your case study, you will need to include:
Quantifiable savings in terms of kWh savings, percentage reduction in energy consumption, annual dollar savings for the data center, or CO2 reduction
Costs and ROI including all implementation costs with a breakdown (hardware, software, services, etc) and time horizon for savings
Description of site environment (age, size or load, production or R&D use)
List of any technology vendors or NGO partners associated with project
Please submit a short (1 page or less) statement of interest and description of your project or concept by March 2, 2012 to asmart@svlg.org with subject heading: DCES12. Final case studies will need to be submitted in August 2012. Submissions will be reviewed and considered in the context of this event.
Interested in setting up a demonstration project at your facility? We may be able to provide technical support and independent evaluation. Please call Anne at 408-501-7871 for information.

We learn our skills in and out of the work place

Monday, September 19th, 2011

From time to time, I write a little about non-data center or energy things, just to mix it up and share with folks. Sometimes it is these blogs that generate the most interest and conversation from folks. Plus, I do believe that since we all work together, it’s nice to share some of our personal life with each other. After all, we are people working together based upon relationships, it is these things in our personal lives that drives us to work hard, and thus, they are essential parts of who we are as people and consequently, these personal things affect our daily work lives and relationships.

I also find that many of the things that I do in my personal life influence my work life. I’m sure we all find that at times, we reach an epiphany when walking the dog, talking to our spouse or friends, or some other activity that drives a decision or direction in our work the next day. I had one two weeks ago when talking with friends over dinner. But, that is not the topic of this blog.

Instead, it goes back another week but really starts when I was in college. I have always liked to push myself physically, and I get a lot out of those endorphins from a good physical challenge but also one with a mental challenge.

So I started mountain biking in college, riding longer and longer, more often and more often, until I was riding 365 days per year and training about 30+ hours per week. That on top of my 7-8 course load each semester (a consequence of earning multiple degrees simultaneously) and working part to full time year around. What can I say, I like to stay busy (also was on sports teams in addition to cycling, several clubs, an RA, etc, etc).

I then turned this “hobby” into training for races, became sponsored (it took me years to finish all those boxes of PowerBars I was provided), and finished races often in the top 10 out of hundreds or thousands of finishers. I earned enough points in my last year of racing and college to be in the top 10 nationally.

However, this, like many other hobbies, wasn’t my calling for a profession, and often hobbies and professions don’t mix very well. But I still get out to ride as often as I can and still love it. And do a race or two each year, purely for fun but also competitive. So on August 27th & 28th, I completed another 24-hour mountain bike race. I believe this is around my 6th, but I can’t remember nor have I been keeping track.

People ask how a 24 hour mountain bike race performs. Well, you ride a lap, usually about 10-15 miles long–which is usually takes about 45-90 minutes to finish–all on dirt, often much single track, climbs, descents, technical sections, fast sections, and complete as many laps as possible in 24 hours. Races can be completed as a solo team, or with up to 5 people on a team, trading off each lap in rotation, making each lap an all out sprint, then resting, downing as much water as your body can absorb, repairing your bike, recharging light batteries and trying to eat and sleep in the 45 min to 3 hour rest time before the next lap. Usually races start at about noon and end at noon the next day. Powerful bike light systems are used in the night laps, and the key is efficiency and speed while staying upright. Crashes not only hurt people–broken bones are quite common and sometimes trips in an ambulance for those racers that push their speed too fast for their ability at the time. Ability changes much after hours of riding, little sleep, little food, dehydration, and tired bodies. And especially at night when visibility is limited to a spot of light 5-20 feet in front of you as speeds exceed 30 mph in faster downhill and flat sections with still plenty of rocks, ditches and other obstacles to avoid.

The key to these races is to manage energy and speed to skill. Those that push too hard in the beginning of the race (a common mistake) or on any lap typically burn out before the race ends and either can’t finish it (often just finishing the race allows one to move up in the score board) or get hurt along the way.

So the key to 24-hour mountain bike racing is maintaining energy for 24 hours of riding with little sleep. It becomes somewhat of a mental game, especially in the late night laps. But even more so, a continual focus on the efficiency of every single pedal stroke–all 100,000 of them–and on the rest of the body, especially the lungs and heart. One must constantly “economize” while pushing their bike and self as hard (and consequently fast) as possible up every hill, down every descent, and around every lap to maintain the fastest average lap time. So any one slow lap kills the average, and hence, efficiency with the greatest speed. My lap times varied by less than 10%, even though temperatures ranged by 50 degrees F, some were in full sun, some in full dark; some with heavy traffic of other racers, some with passing  another racer only every 15 minutes; some with full energy, and last lap with maybe an hour of sleep over 24 hours, little food, and likely mild dehydration and most certainly tired legs and body, and even one with a mechanical and another with a flat tire.

In the data centers I design, efficiency doesn’t change much between hot and cold weather, day and night, packed full or empty of servers, mechanical failures or perfect operations. The key is being as efficient as possible all the time, not matter the adversity. It’s all about economizing and energy efficiency, just as my continuous focus in designing and operating data centers. I love it!

Here is a video of my most recent 24-hour race, the Coolest 24-Hours, which took place end of August in Soda Springs, CA (Donner Summit area of the Sierras). The race raised money for those dealing with cancer. In this video, I am the first rider out of the start of the 24 hour racers, wearing silver jersey, black and yellow cycling shorts with USD on the side (I still fit in my college cycling team shorts almost two decades later), red single speed 29″ Niner bike. I enjoyed being in first place for about the first mile before some of the racers pass me. You can see me do a little jump off the pavement start onto the dirt and also my buddy and fellow racer Stewart do the same in his third place position with red & white Niner Bikes jersey. I posted a photo of my aunt along the course–who died of cancer not long ago–which many photos of survivors and victims can be seen staked in the ground at the first turn. I finished the race with a smile, a dirty face, a dusty body, a respectable finish, and another lesson in efficiency. Enjoy the video and getting out to learn more! Here is the video: The Coolest 24 Hours, 2011–KC leads the pack at the start of the 24 hour race

The Olivier Sanche Tree and Room @ eBay

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

This week I had the pleasure of not only flying on 8 Southwest flights in one week–I believe this may be a new record for me of flights in one week on the same airline–but I also had the pleasure and privilege to tour ebay’s Topaz data center.

While we all know that I wouldn’t release any confidential data. Having been in the data center industry now for well over a decade, worked for Yahoo, Google, Sun, BEA, and completed large data center projects for financial institutions, banks, government entities, educational and research entities, Facebook, Equinix, and many others, I know and understand the importance and value to not only my reputation but also the importance of maintaining other’s confidential information. So, I will not share anything more about the data center—you can learn from what is already available from public sources.

However, I do want to comment on one item that I did see which does not have any confidentiality tied to it—the Olivier Sanche Memorial Tree and conference room. It touched me very much. Olivier and I were working on a project and talking just literally two days before he passed. Olivier and I were the exact same age. His job at Apple was essentially the same as mine at Yahoo. And at the time he passed, we were both running fast, traveling to many countries, several continents and states each month. We were trying to do everything we could to support our growing data center demand at the lowest cost and the highest energy efficiency as possible, and to help the industry achieve more as well by collaborating, sharing and guiding. And just as he touched my heart and those of many others in the data center industry, he managed to be the best dad possible.

While I enjoyed touring the ebay data center, it was the moment I spent reading Olivier’s memorial against the now small tree yet growing in size to eventually become a large icon in the entrance of this facility. It was that moment under this tree, and reading the memorial, that I once again remembered Olivier, and the touching reminder of how he touched many.

I applaud the fine folks for the very kind memorial to Olivier—we should all strive to support each other, work together, collaborate, and most of all, enjoy each other’s company. Not get out there and do something good today.