Industry Impact : Brothers from Different Mothers and Beyond…

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My reading material and video watching habits these past two weeks have brought me some incredible joy and happiness. Why?  Because Najam Ahmad of Facebook is finally getting some credit for the amazing work that he has done and been doing in the world of Software Defined Networking.  In my opinion Najam is a Force Majeure in the networking world.   He is passionate.  He is focused. He just gets things done.  Najam and I worked very closely at Microsoft as we built out and managed the company’s global infrastructure. So closely in fact that we were frequently referred to as brothers from different mothers.   Wherever Najam was-I was not far behind, and vice versa. We laughed. We cried.  We fought.  We had alot of fun while delivered some pretty serious stuff.  To find out that he is behind the incredible Open Compute Project advances in Networking is not surprising at all.   Always a forward thinking guy he has never been satisfied with the status quo.    
If you have missed any of that coverage you I strongly encourage you to have a read at the links below.   


This got me to thinking about the legacy of the Microsoft program on the Cloud and Infrastructure Industry at large.   Data Center Knowledge had an article covering the impact of some of the Yahoo Alumni a few years ago. Many of those folks are friends of mine and deserve great credit.  In fact, Tom Furlong now works side by side with Najam at Facebook.    The purpose of my thoughts are not to take away from their achievements and impacts on the industry but rather to really highlight the impact of some of the amazing people and alumni from the Microsoft program.  Its a long overdue acknowledgement of the legacy of that program and how it has been a real driving force in large scale infrastructure.   The list of folks below is by no means comprehensive and doesnt talk about the talented people Microsoft maintains in their deep stable that continue to drive the innovative boundaries of our industry.  

Christian Belady of Microsoft – Here we go, first person mentioned and I already blow my own rule.   I know Christian is still there at Microsoft but its hard not to mention him as he is the public face of the program today.  He was an innovative thinker before he joined the program at Microsoft and was a driving thought leader and thought provoker while I was there.  While his industry level engagements have been greatly sidelined as he steers the program into the future – he continues to be someone willing to throw everything we know and accept today into the wind to explore new directions.
Najam Ahmad of Facbook - You thought  I was done talking about this incredible guy?  Not in the least, few people have solved network infrastructure problems at scale like Najam has.   With his recent work on the OCP front finally coming to the fore, he continues to drive the capabilities of what is possible forward.  I remember long meetings with Network vendors where Najam tried to influence capabilities and features with the box manufacturers within the paradigm of the time, and his work at Facebook is likely to end him up in a position where he is both loved and revilved by the Industry at large.  If that doesn’t say your an industry heavy weight…nothing does.
James Hamilton of Amazon - There is no question that James continues to drive deep thinking in our industry. I remain an avid reader of his blog and follower of his talks.    Back in my Microsoft days we would sit  and argue philosophical issues around the approach to our growth, towards compute, towards just about everything.   Those conversations either changed or strengthed my positions as the program evolved.   His work in the industry while at Microsoft and beyond has continued to shape thinking around data centers, power, compute, networking and more.
Dan Costello of Google - Dan Costello now works at Google, but his impacts on the Generation 3 and Generation 4 data center approaches and the modular DC industry direction overall  will be felt for a very long time to come whether Google goes that route or not.   Incredibly well balanced in his approach between technology and business his ideas and talks continue to shape infrastructre at scale.  I will spare people the story of how I hired him away from his previous employer but if you ever catch me at a conference, its a pretty funny story. Not to mention the fact that he is the second best break dancer in the Data Center Industry.
Nic Bustamonte of Google – Nic is another guy who has had some serious impact on the industry as it relates to innovating the running and operating of large scale facilities.   His focus on the various aspects of the operating environments of large scale data centers, monioring, and internal technology has shifted the industry and really set the infancy for DCIM in motion.   Yes, BMS systems have been around forever, and DCIM is the next interation and blending of that data, but his early work here has continued to influence thinking around the industry.
Arne Josefsberg of ServiceNow - Today Arne is the CTO of Service Now, and focusing on infrastructure and management for enterprises to the big players alike and if their overall success is any measure, he continues to impact the industry through results.  He is *THE* guy who had the foresight of building an organiation to adapt to this growing change of building and operating at scale.   He the is the architect of building an amazing team that would eventually change the industry.
Joel Stone of Savvis/CenturyLink – Previously the guy who ran global operations for Microsoft, he has continued to drive excellence in Operations at Global Switch and now at Savvis.   An early adopter and implmenter of blending facilities and IT organizations he mastered issues a decade ago that most companies are still struggling with today.
Sean Farney of Ubiquity – Truly the first Data center professional who ever had to productize and operationalize data center containers at scale.   Sean has recently taken on the challenge of diversifying data center site selection and placement at Ubquity repurposing old neighorbood retail spaces (Sears, etc) in the industry.   Given the general challenges of finding places with a confluence of large scale power and network, this approach may prove to be quite interesting as markets continue to drive demand.   
Chris Brown of Opscode – One of the chief automation architects at my time at Microsoft, he has moved on to become the CTO of Opscode.  Everyone on the planet who is adopting and embracing a DevOps has heard of, and is probably using, Chef.  In fact if you are doing any kind of automation at large scale you are likely using his code.
None of these people would be comfortable with the attention but I do feel credit should be given to these amazing individuals who are changing our industry every day.    I am so very proud to have worked the trenches with these people. Life is always better when you are surrounded by those who challenge and support you and in my opinion these folks have taken it to the next level.
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Reflections on Uptime Symposium 2010 in New York

This week I had the honor to be a keynote Speaker at the Uptime Institute’s Symposium event in New York City.   I also participated in some industry panels which is always tons of fun. However, as a keynote at the first Symposium a few years back it was an interesting experience to come back and see how it has changed and evolved over the intervening years.  This year my talk was about the coming energy regulation and its impact on data centers, and more specifically what data center managers and mission critical facilities professionals could and should be doing to get their companies ready for what I call CO2K.   I know I will get a lot of pushback on the CO2K title, but I think my analogy makes sense.  First companies are generally not aware of the impact that their data centers and energy consumption have, Second most companies are dramatically unprepared and do not have the appropriate tools in place to collect the information, which will of course lead to the third item, lots of reactionary spending to get this technology and software in place.  While Y2K was generally a flop and a lot of noise, if legislation is passed (and lets be clear about the very direct statements the Obama administration has made on this topic) this work will lead to a significant change in reporting and management responsibilities for our industry.

Think we are ready for this legislation?

Brings me back to my first reflection on Symposium this year.   I was joking with Pitt Turner just before I went on stage that I was NOT going to ask the standard three questions I ask before every data center audience.   Lets face it, I thought, that “Shtick” had gotten old, and I have been asking those same three questions for at least that last three years at every conference I have spoken at (which is a lot).  However as I got on stage, talking about the the topic of regulation I had to ask, it was like a hidden burning desire I could not quench.  So there I went, “How many people are measuring for energy consumption and efficiency today?”  “Raise you hand if in your organization, the CIO sees the power bill?”  and then finally “How many people in here today have the appropriate tooling in place to collect and reporting energy usage in their data centers?”  It had to come out.   I saw Pitt shaking his head.  What was more surprising, was the amount of people who had raised their hands on those questions. Why?  About 10% of the audience had raised their hands.  Don’t get me wrong, 10% is about the highest I have seen that number at any event.  But those of you who are uninitiated into the UI Symposium lore, you need to understand something important, Symposium represents the hardest of the hard core data center people.   This is where all of us propeller heads geek it out in mechanical and electrical splendor, we dance and raise the “floor” (data center humor).  This amazing collection of the best of the best had only had a 10% penetration on the monitoring in their environments.   When this regulation comes, its going to hurt.  I think I will do a post at a later time on my talk at Symposium and what you as a professional can do to start raising awareness.  But for now, that was my first big startle point.

My second key observation this year was the amount of people.  Symposium is truly an international event and their were over 900 attendees for the talks, and if memory serves, about 1300 for the exhibition hall.  I had heard that 20 out of the worlds 30 time-zones had representatives at the conference.  It was especially good for one of the key recurring benefits of this event: Networking.   The networking opportunities were first rate and by the looks of the impromptu meetings and hallways conversations this continued to be an a key driver for the events success.  As fun as making new friends is, it was also refreshing to spend some time and quick catch ups with old friends like Dan Costello and Sean Farney from Microsoft, Andrew Fanara, Dr. Bob Sullivan, and a host of others.

My third observation and perhaps the one I was most pleased with with the diversity of thought in the presentations.  Its a fair to say that I have been critical of Uptime for some time by a seemingly droningly dogmatic recurring set of themes and particular bend of thinking.   While those topics were covered, so too were a myriad of what I will call counter-culture topics.  Sure there were still  a couple of the salesy presentations you find at all of these kinds of events, but the diversity of thought and approach this time around was striking.   Many of them addressed larger business issues, the impact, myths, approach to cloud computing, virtualization, and decidedly non-facilities related material affecting our worlds.   This might have something to do with the purchase by the 451 Group and its related Data Center think tank organization Tier 1, but it was amazingly refreshing and they knocked the ball out of the park.

My fourth observation was that the amount of time associated with the presentations was too short.   While I have been known to completely abuse any allotted timeslots in my own talks due to my desire to hear myself talk, I found that many presentations had to end due to time just as things were getting interesting.  Many of the hallways conversations were continuations of those presentations and it would have been better to keep the groups in the presentation halls.  

 

Calvin thumb on noseMy fifth observation revolved around the quantity, penetration and maturation of container and containment products, presentations and services.   When we first went public with the approach when I was at Microsoft the topic was so avant-garde and against the grain of common practices it got quite a reception (mostly negative).  This was followed by quite a few posts (like Stirring Anthills) which got lots of press attention and resulting industry experts stating that containers and containment were never going to work for most people.   If the presentations, products, and services represented at Uptime were any indication of industry adoption and embrace I guess I would have to make a childish gesture with thumb to my nose, wiggle my fingers and say…. Nah Nah .  :)

 

I have to say the event this year was great and I enjoyed my time thoroughly.  A great time and a great job by all. 

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