This post represents a bittersweet moment in my career. As you have no doubt heard I am moving on from Microsoft to take on an exciting senior role at Digital Realty Trust. I will save the specifics on my new role and its mission for a future post on my personal Loosebolts blog. But for now, I want to reflect a bit on my work here at Microsoft, our team, and a little bit on what it means to be a farmer.
A farmer you say? What the heck is he talking about? As I sit here writing this post my thoughts go back to one of many memorable moments here at the company. It’s a rainy, windy and biting cold day in April and a crowd of around 150 people are milling about the recently completed Microsoft data center facility in Quincy, Washington. The crowd is an odd mixture of city and state officials, Microsoft executives and facilities personnel, and key vendors from construction firms to operational support teams. Everyone is anxious for the ribbon-cutting ceremony to begin and I am mingling my way to the front of the crowd. Despite the weather there is a warmth and a glow as we have just completed Microsoft’s first mega-scale facility and the team is full of pride at the accomplishment.
I stopped for a moment to talk to one of the Port Commissioners in Quincy. Like me, he was originally from the Southside of Chicago and had the personal misfortune of attending my high school rival (old grudges die hard). This was the source of some fun for the two of us during the construction phase of the project and I took this time to chide him once more. This time, however, he looked fairly serious despite his grin and produced an oddly shaped bag which he thrust towards me.
The bag, he said, was a gift from Haricot farms, and was from the last harvest of beans from the field where our facility now stood. On the bag was the caption, "Preparing the site for another farmer, Microsoft."
This simple presentation hit me on quite a few levels. Of course there was the surface analogy of bean farms to server farms. But the gravity struck me that this was a significant transitional moment in time. This field, which had long been cultivated and yielded beans, onions, asparagus, and a host of other produce, was now being cultivated for its next crop, information and cloud computing. It was a crop unlike the region had ever seen before but it would certainly not be a single event. As the ribbon-cutting event began, this fact was driven home as a local city councilman remarked how he had gone to the post office and found himself amongst complete strangers. Times had certainly changed.
That bag of beans is in a place of great honor in our facility today.
As I think back on my career here at Microsoft, I am extremely proud of our team’s accomplishments. We have overcome obstacles, we have changed mindsets both internal and external, we have impacted the industry as a whole, and I believe we have been more successful than we dared ourselves to believe. Whether it was our early adoption of energy efficiency and water conservancy, our rabid dedication to measurement and monitoring, the tooling and automation developed to drive our environments further, or the professional rigor brought to operations both in facilities and in the support of the IT equipment. Our accomplishments are many and would be too numerous to list. As with all such accomplishments it is always the result of significant group effort. So let me instead concentrate on the one item I am most proud of –The Data Center Services group within the Global Foundation Services organization.
Over the last five years I have fondly watched the growth of one of the finest world class operations organizations on the planet when it comes to the running and maintaining these complex environments. Whether it’s the work they are doing in Research and Engineering driving our Generations approach to facility design, the construction of the facilities themselves, the tooling and automation developed to run our facilities, or the dedication and devotion of our Operations teams ensuring that all was in order, 24x7x365. To each and every one in the organization, I want to thank you so very much. You are only at the beginning of this journey and I know that the innovation, hard work, and dedication will continue to drive you and Microsoft to great things as the years progress. I may now watch your great work from outside of the company, but know that I will be proudly watching and rooting with great interest. Remember that challenging standard conventions and assumptions is at the root of greatness. I know you will.
As I now move to depart Microsoft, I find myself in much the same position as the Port Commissioner or Haricot farmers found themselves in when we announced we were coming to the town of Quincy, Washington. The land is cultivated and the ground fertile with an incredible organization. The conditions are ripe for growing and spring is once again here. I don’t know what is yet to come, but I know the endeavor will be successful.
You have the seeds and fields to do some incredible things. To continue to drive the thought leadership Microsoft has brought to bear. To you I formally pass on my bag with the sincerest knowledge and hope that what is to come will surely exceed what has been before.
To Microsoft and specifically Global Foundation Services, thank you for such a wonderful opportunity to be a part of history. It has been an experience like no other in my career and I truly hope that I have helped to move the company forward in some small way.