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.
My 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.