Sunday Sep 14, 2008

Data Center Pulse: The Community

This weekend I created a new group on Linkedin to bring the global datacenter community together.  It is called Data Center Pulse.  DCP is an exclusive group of global datacenter owners, operators and users. It already includes many from some of the largest datacenters in the world. DCP will track the pulse of the industry through discussion and debate with the goal of influencing the future of the datacenter.

No vendor consultants or individuals with primary roles in a sales, marketing or business development capacity will be allowed to join the group. Members must participate, or be responsible for, one or more of the following within their own company.

  • Data Center Strategy
  • Data Center Architecture/Design
  • Data Center Operations
  • Data Center Efficiency
  • Data Center Sustainability
  • Data Center Use

There are specific reasons why these rules for membership have been established.  I have been involved with a number of groups, forums and online bodies that have attempted to tap into the different datacenter trends.  The problem has usually been that they turn into individual promotion or company sales pitches.  Now don't get me wrong, consultants, business development, marketing and sales professionals provide great value to companies and the industry, but that is not what this group is about. We want to have open, passionate discussion and debate around problems data center professionals are facing, directly.  We then want to take the problems and ideas generated within the group and share them with the industry. In the near future, the threads generated in this group will be posted to  All particpant names and companies will be stripped from the threads to ensure our members anonymity.  (The DCP board maintains the right to remove discussion content if it is deemed inappropriate).  The board will also frequently scrub the member list to ensure that the community stays end-user focused. 

Anyone who is not part of this group, can submit questions to the community by emailing question to  (It is the sole discretion of the DCP board on wether or not these questions will be posted) 

Our goal is to build this global community to 1000 strong by the end of 2008. 

The more DC professionals we can add, the better.  To achieve this goal, we could use your help in recruiting for this community.  If you would like to participate, please request to join the Data Center Pulse Group.  Then, plan to bring it to the table...  :-)

If you have any questions feel free to contact me (Dean Nelson - or my co-chair, Mark Thiele, ( Director of R&D Business Operations from VMware.

Monday Jul 28, 2008

Innovation Award

I don't think I could smile any wider than I am right now.  On Wednesday July 16th, my team received Sun's Innovation Award at the Marriot in downtown San Jose, CA. The Innovation Award is one of the highest recognitions you can receive at Sun. It is presented by our CEO, Jonathan Schwartz and CTO, Greg Papadopolous at Sun's annual leadership summit for all global VPs, CTOs and Distinguished Engineers. To make this award even sweeter, it is the first time in Sun's history that the Workplace Resources group (Real Estate) has received this award.




 On award day, my small global team converged on San Jose. At the ceremony, Greg took the time to describe in his own words (I loved that he didn't just read something from a script) why our contributions have been so innovative for the company. One anecdote he cited was that he received a call from one of our largest customers to fly to their corporate headquarters and discuss datacenters. This customer was one of the 2200 people who toured our Santa Clara datacenter over the last year.  They are spending a half a billion on new datacenters and wanted to get some help. So Greg, Subodh and I are flying down to chat further.  The fact that our customers are seeing us as thought leaders in not only the technology arena but the underlying environment that allows those solutions to be deployed, e.g. datacenter design, is fabulous. I really appreciated the way that Greg was able to articulate our contributions to the company on many different levels. The team was on cloud nine. I have to say that we owe our success to the support from our executive management. It starts with David Harris, my boss who runs Workplace Resources and was the one who started this program four years ago. He has been actively supporting the program since his return last year. Then to Bill MacGowan, the EVP of People & Places who has embraced our efforts and never waivered in his support as we traversed the difficult path of change in the company. Without them, we would not have been able to get any traction.  With them, I feel like we have jets strapped to our backs.  :-)

Besides the obvious, there were two additional benefits I saw when we received this award. First, the Real Estate and Facilities teams are now receiving recognition for the difficult work that they perform. Like our IT group, it can be a thankless job. Usually service organizations become visible when there is a problem. When things are going well, people forget that the service is there. Secondly, it is a new, valuable connection with our customers. Having a peer to peer conversation about how we have solved our current internal datacenter problems as well as how we future proofed our datacenters to scale with next generation equipment (which we already have in our R&D datacenters), without additional investments, is extremely valuable insight for our customers.

This is the award description:

    Sun's Innovation Award recognizes those individuals and teams who have made a significant contribution to Sun through innovation. Innovation is a starting point for the Sun Strategy and is key to helping differentiate Sun and attract communities to Sun. Product, process, and project innovations have increased Sun's ability to grow, make money, build our communities, enlist champions, and accelerate our business. The purpose is to reinforce and recognize exceptional perform ance related to a key pillar of Sun's strategy and one of our key values: Innovation.

    Innovation happens across the world and in many functions and businesses. We want to recognize those innovators across our Sun community who make a difference in our business. Whether it is a project which has made an impact, or new products coming to market which have challenged conventional thinking and changed the marketplace, or a process that has driven significant speed to market or cost efficiency, we want to hear about it.

    Product: A new product or service that provides Sun with a competitive advantage in the markeplace and grows Sun's revenues.
    Process: Development of a breakthrough business process innovation that accelerates our time to market, decreases cost, improves quality, or gives Sun so me other competitive advantage.
    Project: A solution that provides Sun with a competitive advantage.

This is an exerpt from an email that Bill MacGowan's, Executive Vice President of People & Places, sent to our organization.
    I'm delighted to announce that seven Workplace Resources employees received the prestigious Innovation Award at last night's award ceremony. It's the first Innovation Award ever earned by Workplace Resources, and I'm excited to congratulate the entire Global Lab and Datacenter Design Services team:

      Brian Day
      Serena DeVito
      Ramesh K V
      Dean Nelson (Team Lead)
      Brett Rucker
      Michael Ryan
      Petr Vlasaty

    Sun has been facing the same datacenter challenges as our clients - in space, power, cooling, and rising utility costs. To bridge the gap between Facilities and IT/Engineering my boss, David Harris, started the datacenter and lab design competency center within his Workplace Resources organization. This team, led by P&P employee Dean Nelson, enabled a successful consolidation of Newark and Sunnyvale labs and datacenters into one efficient datacenter in Santa Clara - reducing lab space from 202,000 to 72,000 square feet, and consolidating 152 rooms into 14.

    This team has truly transformed the way datacenters and labs are built at Sun, lowering datacenter utility costs by a remarkable 50% and reducing Sun's global carbon emissions by over 1% in just three months. As a result of this effort, Sun received $1.2 million in energy rebates plus a $250,000 "Innovation Award" from Silicon Valley Power.

    In addition to addressing Sun's challenges, Dean Nelson's team has shared their design best practices with customers. Further, they've toured over 2,200 people from more than 300 customer companies through the Santa Clara datacenter, and published solution briefs on and videos on that have been downloaded more than 11,000 times. Finally, they just published the Sun Blueprint which details their design methodology: "Energy Efficient Datacenters: The Role of Modularity in Datacenter Design." Available free for download.


As my team sat down to dinner that night a few of us had a similar thought. Sean Connellan, my boss who passed away last year, would have been very proud of this achievement. He was a huge supporter of our efforts and constantly pushed us to show our value proposition for the company.  

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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