Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Postcards from TelaData's Convergence Conference

I attended and presented at TelaData's Data Center "Convergence" conference yesterday, and had the opportunity to chat with a number of Facilities and IT Operations managers for really big companies. Over 300 folks were at the event, and I bet 2/3 of them were facilities managers looking for an edge to improve the efficiency (and reduce the cost) of building/maintaining large data centers.

Bob Brown, TelaData's CEO offered that the theme of "convergence" applied to 3 areas:
  • Technology Convergence as it applies to voice, video & data all converging to a IP-based standards, and what the implications are on data center build-out, power, cabling, etc.
  • Organization Convergence - the need/requirement that IT and Facilities cooperate and drive new efficiencies; without this cooperation, breakthrough efficiencies and cost reductions just aren't possible
  • Automation convergence, e.g. building/facilities automation standards (like BACnet) interoperating with IT automation (power control, distribution)
One of the highlights was an end-of-day panel with Robert Aldrich (Cisco - Green Data Center solutions), Bill Weihl (Google's "Energy Czar"), and Dean Nelson (Sun's Global lab & data center services person). The panel was congenial, but it was clear that the companies approach "greenness" from slightly different perspectives:
  • Google made it clear that all employees are encouraged to look at Total Cost of Ownership for every project they pursue; they encourage tradeoffs from everyone, esp. between Facilities, operations and IT. It's a numbers game, which benefits the company overall.
  • Cisco operates huge data centers as well - they're also numerically driven, and seem focussed on deriving metrics and standards around energy use - before they implement new programs/policies
  • Sun also drove home the need for IT & Facilities to interact (Dean brought his Facilities counterpart along) and really emphasized that one of the massive benefits of efficient IT is to "give back" real estate to the company. Real estate is the 2nd largest cost to a company (next to payroll) and this has made a huge impact on Sun's margin and bottom line.
A number of talks on the "energy efficiency" track (including mine) dealt with power control at the server level. During our presentations, Cassatt, Server Technology, PowerAssure and VMware all alluded to various approaches to actively managing server power status. Server Tech took a clearly Facilities-minded approach to "Load Shedding" in emergency conditions; PowerAssure takes a managed-services approach, and VMware spoke to future product capabilities. Cassatt (from my biased perspective) had the best holistic and cross-platform story for actively managing server power status across an enterprise.

What was clear from conversations with folks who attended was that there still a rift between facilities managers and IT. For there to be any meaningful progress in data center efficiency, there had to be shared corporate and economic goals for both. And this had to start at the CFO level (for example).

1 comment:

Deborah Grove said...

Thanks for a great synopsis of Teladata's conference in Santa Clara. I found it very valuable as well. What struck me most is that while participants talk about facilities and IT folks not sitting down and eating lunch together, at an industry event such as this, there is a collegial tolerance for not knowing what the other person's problems are and not understanding his job details. This enables people on both sides of the fence to ask a lot of basic questions and learn more quickly. As a result, I think the barriers will break down quickly.