Sunday May 03, 2009

Innovation Matters, What's Cool in Datacenters

Late last year I had a fun conversation on Greg Papadopolous show, Innovation Matters.  This show was targeted for Sun Internal, but there was quite a bit of interest to share it externally.  So on February 14th, it was shared on We are very transparent when it comes to the work we do, and we want our customers to benefit from it.   So enjoy the segment Greg titled, What's Cool in Datacenters.

Friday Apr 10, 2009

The Chill Off Is Ready To Go!

The Chill Off testing will begin in two weeks.  In this Data Center Pulse episode, Brian Day and Mike Ryan step us through the test bed where the chill of tests will be conducted.  A lot of companies have donated their design expertise, parts and labor to get this ready.  This includes Sun Microsystems (test location, infrastructure, test equipment), Redwood City Electric (electrical design and installation), SynapSense (Meters, Sensors and other controls), Western Allied (Mechanical design, parts and labor), California Hydronics Corporation (Water Control Pump), Norman S Wright Mechanical Equipment Corporation (Variable Frequency Drive), F Rodgers Insulation & Specialtiy Contractors (Chilled Water Pipe Insulation), and Liebert Corporation (Refrigerant Pumping System - XDP).



Make sure to watch the video in HD!  The button is on the bottom right (HD).  God bless Google's YouTube upgrade!  :-) 

Watch the Data Center Pulse YouTube Channel for more updates. We will be highlighting each of the vendors technologies as the testing is conducted. The testing is scheduled to wrap up by August 15th. The results will be presented at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Energy Summit slated for end of September, 2009.  Additional Chill off details can be followed at the official Chill Off Site on 

Tuesday Oct 07, 2008

Chill-Off 2

Based on the feedback from the AFCOM NorCal chapter meeting roundtable and follow on meetings with SVLG and LBNL, we have finalized the approach for the Chill-Off 2.  Below is the stack that I created to represent all of the different layers that will be covered in this test.  It is a much more aggressive goal this year.  I have also included the updated presentation (pdf) that describes the Chill-Off 2 strategy and project information.  We are still searching for a few more companies to participate.

Please provide any feedback or suggestions directly to

Sunday Jul 20, 2008


On April 2, 2007 I met Ray Pfiefer from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG).  He was soliciting help in datacenter demonstration projects for SVLG.  On May 21, 2007 I signed us up to host a demonstration project to compare cooling products for datacenters.  We were undergoing a major consolidation and had the perfect environment to be able to host these tests.  At that point I didn't realize how much we had signed up for.

Over the next year we coordinated the testing of five differant modular, closely coupled cooling solutions.  It was dubbed the "Chill-Off".  Brian Day, my chief of staff, was the program manager, Mike Ryan assisted in all of the mechanical/electrical details, Serena Devito coordinated all server and network needs, and Eric Garcia was the technican that racked, reracked and put the sweat into getting the tests setup. Power Assure did the server characterization and load testing.  Modius did the measurement of over 1500 points, collecting over 40 million measurements. Tim Xu from Lawrence Berkeley National Labs (LBNL) was the independent party that defined the testing methodology then executed the tests and reported the results.  The participants were Liebert XD, APC InRow, Rittal LCP+, IBM/Vette Cool Blue and Spraycool chip-level cooling.  For this test we decided not to use new, high efficient equipment. We used older V20 Sun servers to create a more hostile environment for the solutions.

My goal in hosting this test was to get to find out how efficient these devices really were. We design datacenters all over the world and talk to customers and peers building datacenters almost every day.  I was tired of hearing the marketing hype, opinions and posiitioning of these solutions.  I wanted an independent test that could be shared with the industry so we all could make our own call on which one will solve the problem.

The effort payed off.  On June 26, 2008, we hosted the SVLG Data Center Energy Summit on our Santa Clara, CA campus. We had over 300 datacenter customers and industry professionals show up to hear the results of this test as well as 10 others.  I had purposely not looked at any of the results during the test.  I waited until the draft reports were finished and reviwed them just like my peers and customers would.  I then took what I gleaned from the reports and created a simplified presentation of the findings.  I told the paricipating vendors that I wanted to spice the presentation up.  The people didn't come to hear me talk, they came to get content to help them make informed decisions.  So, I decided to present a quick history, have Tim describe the testing methodology, show a single results slide comparing the vendors and then conclusions.  I got through this as quickly as I could and then called representatives from each of the companies on stage for a panel debate. I prepared a list of questions to ask them that would give them a chance to defend their results and spark debate. It was a blast. To give you an example, I asked Rittal why their numbers were so much higher than the others.  I asked Liebert and APC to tell me why I would buy one of their products since they tied. I also asked all the vendors why we wouldn't just raise the inlet temperatures of the all the IT equipment to 80+ F degrees, use economizers and eliminate the need for their modular products. That one was fun. All of the vendors took my questions and attempts to increase the debate very well.  I was hoping for more fireworks, but it was a great session. The audience was very receptive to the format and the questions.

You can get a copy of my presentation here (pdf format).  You can get the final Accenture/SLVG report here.  All of the case studies can be found here including our Modular Cooling Test, the Chill Off.  In the end, I found a number things that stood out the most for me in this test.

  1. All of the modular cooling solutions are more efficient than traditional datacenter designs.
  2. As an industry, we need to keep pushinng the inlet temperatures higher.  Our server fans did not kick into higher speed even with an inlet temperature of 80 degrees F.
  3. If we can get these temperatures higher, it opens a huge amount of the world to economizers.
  4. The collaboration and effort from all involved was incredible, even from from fierce competitors.


Lastly, I realized that we have just started.  We need to continue these collaborative tests and challenge each other to push the envelope. At the end of the presentation & panel, I put the challenge out to our competitors and partners. Lets get more equipment and more solutions side by side in Chill-off 2. Containers, ducting, mixed vendor hardware loads and locations, highly optimized equipment via virtualization, raised air and water temperatures,  30kw loads, plus what ever we can come up with. I want to drive more independent content so that everyone who is contemplating datacenter construction or retrofits will be able to make informed decisions.

I will be soliciting input via a roundtable at the next AFCOM Northern California chapter meeting. Stay tuned for details.  If you are not an AFCOM member, please contact Craig Easley ( to get set up.  I'm looking forward to an even better event next year.

Stay tuned.

PS. I gave a tour to some reporters and industry analysts the morning of the SVLG event.  One of the reporters posted a video of the tour on youtube.  Check out the two parts of the tour here.


PSS. Deborah Grove, from Grove Associates, interviewed some of the presentors during the SVLG event.  See the summary video here.

Monday Jun 09, 2008

The Role of Modularity in Datacenter Design

In June of 2006 we presented our proposal to Jonathan Schwartz's staff for the largest, most complex and aggressive datacenter consolidation in Sun's history.  We had just completed a years worth of great datacenter projects in Czech Republic, China, UK, and Norway and we were raring to go. The proposal said that in just 12 months we would consolidate 202,000 square feet of datacenter space from of our Newark & Sunnyvale, CA campuses into less than 80,000 square feet of new datacenter space in our Santa Clara, CA campus. At the end of that meeting we received the approval for the project and Jonathan asked one final question, "Where's the book that I can hand out to customers?".  Needless to say, we had our hands full with the California consolidation and the new acquisition of StorageTek.

I am happy to say that today we finally finished that task. You can download the blueprint here:

Energy Efficient Datacenters: The Role of Modularity in Datacenter Design.

In August, 2007 we finished the California consolidation project on schedule, under budget and with the ability to almost triple our densities as our load increased all while maintaining a brutally efficient PUE. We had also completed an Eco Launch that highlighted some of our successes in the form of Solution Briefs and a Datacenter Tour Video. We were also well underway with the next largest consolidation, Louisville, CO (StorageTek) to Broomfield, CO. In addition, we received a deluge of requests for tours of the new Santa Clara datacenter. Our customers, industry and partners wanted to see what we had done first hand.

We started on the blueprint in January 2008 in addition to the 40+ active projects we had globally. We knew this was important and we wanted to fulfill the commitment we had made to Jonathan, albeit later than he had likely expected. In the end, I am really glad we waited. The Blueprint is full of examples of what we did right, what we did wrong and what we believe the future holds for datacenter design. Remember, we are the company that solves our customers technical problems with our technology innovations, but, we are also generating more heat in the datacenter with those solutions. This blueprint is a guide to help our customers understand our approach and lessons learned along the way. The datacenter is a complete eco system that requires a dynamic balance between the IT load and support load to enable flexibility and ensure efficiencies for both economic and ecological gains. In my job my team is blessed to work with the product groups who are building the next generation equipment.  These are the products that will be rolling into our customers datacenter 1-3 years from now.  In other words, it's like having a crystal ball.  We have tomorrows technology in our datacenters today including the power, cooling and connectivity challenges that come along with them.

To date, we have had over 2,200 people walk through Santa Clara. The Datacenter Tour and Solution briefs have been downloaded over 12,000 times from the website.  We also distribute this content on memory sticks to the thousands of people on the tours and different conferences we speak at.

This blueprint is the first of nine chapters that will be released over the next 12 months. I encourage you to give your opinions and suggestions or raise your questions and concerns through this blog entry, email or the blueprint wiki site.

Stay tuned. This is just getting fun... :-)

Sunday Oct 21, 2007

Not Rocket Science!

Man, what a month.

Earlier this month, I did an interview with Contrarian Minds editor, Al Riske. He captured my ramblings and then published the following report titled, "Not Rocket Science". It was an honor to be on the same website as people like Scott McNealy, Jonathan Schwartz, Greg Papadopoulos, Radia Permlan and James Gosling to name a few. Talk about some brain power. :-)

Instead of complicating things, my team and I have really tried to simply them when it comes to datacenter design philosophies that support the equipment of today and tomorrow. Take a look here:

    Not Rocket Science...

I won't be building a rocket any time soon. Then again that may be kinda fun...


Gig: GDS Director
Global Lab & Datacenter Design Services, Sun Microsyste


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