This post was an interesting struggle for me. What should my first post since my departure from Microsoft be about? I have a great amount of topics that I definitely want to talk about regarding the distance and gap from the executive suite, to Information Technology to the data center floor and why there continues to be challenge in this space across the industry. In fact I probably have a whole series of them. I am thinking of calling them “Chiller-side Chats” aimed at priming both sides in conversations with the other. There are some industry-wide metric related topics that I want to take on, interesting trends I see developing, and literally a host of other things ranging from technology to virtualization. While at Microsoft I maintained Loosebolts and an internal Microsoft blog which as it turns out was quite a bit of work. I now have time to focus my energies in one place here at Loosebolts and unfortunately I may subject everyone reading this to even more of my wild ramblings. But to talk to any of these technical issues, business issues, or industry issues would be ignoring the gigantic, purple spotted, white elephant in the room. In fact, by the time I finished the original version of this post it was 6 pages long, and ran far afield on what I think is fundamentally changing in the data center space. Instead of subjecting you to one giant blog, I was counseled by close friends to cut it down a bit into different sections. So I will chop it up into two seperate posts. The first question of course is – Why did I leave Microsoft for Digital Realty Trust?
I accomplished a great deal at Microsoft and I am extremely proud of my work there. I have an immense amount of pride in the team that I developed there and the knowledge that it continues to drive that vision within the company. Rest assured Microsoft has a great vision for where things are going in that space and the program is on rails as they say. My final goodbye post talks more about my feelings there. Within it, however, are some of the seeds (to continue that farming analogy even farther!) of my departure. First we need to pull our heads out of the tactical world of data centers and look at the larger emerging landscape in which data centers sit. Microsoft, along with Google, Amazon and a few others are taking aim at Cloud Computing and are designing, building, and operating a different kind of infrastructure with different kinds of requirements. Specifically building ubiquitous services around the globe. In my previous role, I was tasked with thinking about and building this unique infrastructure in concert with hundreds of development groups taking aim at building a core set of services for the cloud. A wonderful blend of application and infrastructure. Its a great thing. But as my personal thought processes matured and deepened on this topic flavored with what I was seeing as emerging trends in business, technology and data center requirements I had a personal epiphany. The concept of large monolithic clouds ruling the Information-sphere was not really complete. Don’t get me wrong, they will play a large and significant role in how we compute tomorrow, but instead of an oligarchy of the few, I realized that enterprise data centers are here to stay and additionally we are likely to see an explosion of different cloud types are on the horizon.
In my opinion it is here in this new emerging space where the Information Utility will ultimately be born, defined, and true innovation in our industry (data center-wise) will take place. This may seem rather unintuitive given the significant investments being made by the big cloud players but it is really not. We have to remember that today, any technology must sate basic key requirements. First and foremost amongst these is that it must solve the particular business problems. Technology for technology sake will never result in significant adoption and the big players are working to perfect platforms that will work across a predominance of applications being specifically developed for their infrastructure. In effect they are solving for their issues. Issues that most of those looking to leverage cloud or shared compute will not necessarily match in either scale or standardization of server and IT environments. There will definitely be great advances in technology, process, and a host of other areas, as a result of this work, but their leveragability is ultimately minimized as their environments, while they look like each other’s, will not easily map into the enterprise, near-enterprise, or near-cloud space. The NASA space program has had thousands of great solutions, and some of them have been commercialized for the greater good. I see similar things happening in the data center space. Not everyone can get sub 1.3 Average PUE numbers, but they can definitely use those learnings to better their own efficiency in some way. While these large platforms in conjunction with enterprise data centers will provide key and required services, the innovation and primary requirement drivers in the future will come from the channel.
So Why Digital Realty Trust?
Innovation can happen everywhere in any situation but it is most often born under the pressure of constraints. While there are definitely some constraints that the big players have in evolving their programs, the real focus and attention in the industry will be at the Enterprise and Information Sub Station provider layer. This is the part of the industry that is going to feel the biggest pinch as the requirements evolve. Whether they be political, economical, social, or otherwise this layer will define how most of the data center industry looks like. It is here at this layer in which a majority of companies around the world will be. It is here at this layer that will be the most exciting for me personally. The Moon Missions were great but they were not about bringing space travel to the masses. Definitely some great learnings there that can be leveraged, but the commercialization and solution to the masses problem is different, perhaps bigger, and in my opinion more challenging. At the end of the day it has to be economical and worthwhile. We have to solve that basic business need and use case or it will remain an interesting scientific curiosity much like electricity was viewed before the light bulb.
In Digital Realty Trust I found the great qualities I was looking for in any company. First, they are positioned to provide either “information substation” or “enterprise” solutions and will need to solve for both. They are effectively right in the middle of solving these issues and they are big enough to have a dramatic impact on the industry. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, they have a passionate, forward looking management team whom I have interacted with in the Industry for quite some time. Let me reiterate that passionate point a moment, this is not some real estate company looking to make a quick buck on mission critical space. I have seen enough of those in my career. This is a firm focused on educating the market, driving innovation in application of technology, and near zealot commitment on driving efficiencies for their customers. Whether its their frequent webinars, their industry speaking engagements, or personal conversations they are dedicated to this space, and dedicated on informing their customers. Even when we have disagreed on topics or issues in the past, its always a great respectful conversation. In a nutshell, they GET IT. Another key piece that probably needs some addressing is that bit about application of technology. We are living in some interesting times with data center technologies in a wonderful and terrible time of evolution. The challenge for any enterprise is making heads and tails of which technologies will be great for them, what works, what doesn’t, what’s vaporware versus what is truly going to drive value. The understanding and application of that technology is an area that Digital knows very well and the scale of their deployments allow them to learn the hard lessons before their clients have to. Moreover they are implementing these technologies and building solutions that will fit for everyone, today!
Another area where there is significant alignment in terms of my own personal beliefs and those of Digital Realty Trust is around speed of execution and bringing capacity online just in time. Its no secret that I have been an active advocate of moving from big build and construction to a just in time production model. These beliefs have long been espoused by Chris Crosby, Jim Smith, and the rest of the Digital team for some time and is very clearly articulated in the POD ARCHITECTURE approach that they have been developing for quite a few years. Digital has done a great job of bringing this approach to the market for enterprise users and wants to drive it even faster! One of my primary missions will be to develop the ability to deliver data center capacity start to finish in 16 weeks. You cannot get there without a move to standardizing the supply chain and driving your program to production rather than pure construction. Data Center planning and capacity planning is the single largest challenge in this industry. The typical business realizes to late that they are in need to add data center capacity and these efforts typically result in significant impacts to their own business needs through project delays or cost. As we all know, data center capacity is not ubiquitous and getting capacity just in time is either very expensive or impossible in most markets. You can solve this problem by trying to force companies to do a better job of IT and capacity planning (i.e. boiling the ocean) or you can change how that capacity is developed, procured, and delivered. This is one of my major goals and something I am looking forward to delivering.
In the end, my belief is that it will be companies like Digital Realty Trust at the spearhead of driving the design, physical technology application and requirements for the global Information Utility infrastructure. They will clearly be situated the closest to those changing requirements for the largest amount of affected groups. It is going to be a huge challenge. A challenge, I for one am extremely excited about and can’t wait to dig in and get started.