Sunday, July 26, 2009

Will Data Follow the Moon?

If you follow evolving data center trends then you’ve heard the buzz about data processing “following the moon.” Google is leading the way, having opened a data center in Belgium which has no chillers. Chillers of course consume a large amount of electricity. By transferring data processing from center to center data crunching will literally migrate around the globe, “following the moon” as the phrase goes, allowing processing to occur in dark zones with cooler temperatures, thereby avoiding the need for chillers.

The ability to operate data centers without chillers has enormous implications to power reduction. The key of course will be the ability to transfer data and processing routines in a seamless manner that provides for data integrity and security. Among other difficulties this will require large amounts of bandwidth.

Aside from simply consuming less energy the strategy also has the advantage of consuming cheaper energy, since dark hours are normally off-peak times with lower rates.

I suppose the ultimate marriage here might be this follow the moon strategy coupled with renewable energy sources. Wind and solar energy production is daylight centric, but lots of very smart people are working on larger and more efficient storage systems.

The Beatles sang about following the sun, but it was a melancholy song. Data following the moon, however, could have us all humming a happier tune.

Monday, July 20, 2009

“We Live in Interesting Times”

Don’t we though? We are celebrating the original Moon Walk, an African-American sits in the Oval Office, and the Dodgers have the best record in the major leagues for crying out loud. When was the last time that happened? Yes, these are interesting times indeed. Not always so pleasant though, eh?

This past week was full of meetings and as I am sure sometimes happens to you, I realized at the end of the week that there was a common theme. In each meeting there was conversation about where we are, where we are headed; and what values, strategies and actions will help move us in the right direction.

There are lots of data points to think about, and we should all be doing exactly that as we endeavor to take care of our own little corner of the world.

Commercial Real Estate Defaults Rising Stories are everywhere you look stating that commercial RE is “the next shoe to drop” in the economic crisis. With properties entering or already in default status having nearly doubled since the beginning of the year many would say the shoe has already hit the deck. Real Capital Analytics, Inc. reports that 5,315 buildings representing $108 billion are now in default, bankruptcy or foreclosure. Those making the direst predictions have already pegged this as the deepest failure in U.S. commercial property market history with potential economic impact that dwarfs the residential crisis. Some analysts predict $90 Billion to $140 Billion in losses to securities backed by commercial property loans. Depending on who you listen to the turnaround in this market is 3-4 years away since recovery here will follow recovery in other market sectors such as manufacturing and retail.

CRE’s and FM’s should see risk in this predicament, certainly; but there may also be opportunity. Check the financial health of your landlords and develop contingency plans for their failure. Some may have opportunities to leverage the landlord’s difficulty, offering to extend terms in exchange for concessions. Others may consider buying when the cost is right.

“Extend and Pretend” Programs Only Defer the Inevitable The delay actions currently being proposed and implemented largely fail to solve or effectively deal with underlying problems. We are crafting ways to defer solutions because of the pain and displacement doing so now will cause. We may be releasing immediate pressure but at what cost? The bills will still come due but with added cost in financial and human terms.

When possible avoid falling into the trap. It is like any other conflict, business or interpersonal. The longer you wait the harder it gets. In this case extending the crisis will impinge future options and diminish future capability. Organizations that can avoid “extend and pretend” scenarios will have big advantages over competitors who are forced to play the delay game.

Expect Increased Taxes Governments world wide are running large deficits and few are monetizing them through liberal use of their printing presses. That’s good, but it does mean that the ability to pay the bills will have to come from somewhere. Guess where that will be, Mr. and Mrs. Tax Payer.

Here in California we are living the realities of all of these situations. Past failures are coming home to roost and it hurts. Services are being reduced, important programs slashed, unemployment and foreclosure rates are surging. Eventually we will find a way out but all of us, families and businesses alike should realize that “we” are going to be a big part of the solution. Many companies are taking a strong look at their tax liabilities and while working to minimize them they are also increasing allowances to accommodate new taxes and increasing rates on existing taxes.

Like the man said, “we live in interesting times.” I don’t know about you but I certainly hope no one ever looks back and calls these “the good old days.” While my grand parent’s and parent’s generations lived and eventually succeeded through the Great Depression, I have no desire to pass this one on to my heirs or theirs. Of course it’s tough. But it will be easier now than later.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Data Center Development

There are plenty of factual and anecdotal indicators which point to continued development of efficient data centers even in the midst of the economic crisis. Essentially, evidence is growing that green data centers are growing in strategic importance even while the definition of what qualifies as green is shifting at the margins.

The biggest driver of course is reduced energy consumption. As the cost of energy increases the payback calculus improves. Large development costs associated with a major new facility become more rational as the cost of operating inefficient facilities continues to rise. But energy savings aren’t the only financial benefit. As new facilities are developed IT groups take advantage of the opportunity and capital available through the project to re-engineer architecture and operational processes. Rich Lechner, IBM’s VP of Energy and the Environment states “for every dollar they save on energy, they can save another six or eight dollars on operational efficiencies.”

Why is the continued development of Green data centers developing such momentum in an era of financial constraint? The answer is in the numbers.

· IT accounts for 2.5% of global energy use and carbon dioxide emissions, and is growing 12 times faster than total energy use

· 69% of respondents in a recent Digital Realty Trust survey indicated they are extremely or very concerned about government regulation

· 81% of survey participants in that same survey indicate that carbon credits are now part of their Green IT strategy, up strikingly from 18% just a year ago

· 82% of companies participating in a IBM survey expect cap and trade climate technology and regulations in the U.S. and Europe within the next five years

Virtualization, consolidation, site selection and bundled energy pricing are all strategies to improve efficiency. The struggle for some companies, however, will continue to be choosing between building for greater efficiency, conversion of existing facilities or outsourcing. No matter the choice the investment required will be substantial.

As FM’s we are an integral part of the project development team. If you are even tangentially engaged in data center support or development for your organization then you need to know what your IT cousins are dealing with, what their issues are and where their industry is trending. That will help put you ahead of the game and position you as an equal partner.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Red, White, Blue….and Green

Stories abound these days that Green is taking a hit because of the economy. The rationale goes that companies are pulling back on sustainability investments and that lost momentum represents future risk to the movement. But it is not all bad news. Here are a few current stories that demonstrate the growing evolution of the science and creativity of Green, in large, small and sometimes humorous ways.

Sears Tower to Receive “Green” Retrofit: A major overhaul of the venerable building’s energy systems, including production of its own power.

Desert Home Uses Passive Ventilation: A sensible solution to desert heat. Not for everyone, but then neither is the desert.

Spaceport America Groundbreaking: OK, how does a venture as “out there” as a space port make it to a Green posting? Hey, why not? Gotta admit that Richard Branson is putting his bucks where his heart is….and how could it be anywhere but New Mexico?

Looking for a home in the hills? The Marmol Radziner Prefab folks are at it again with the installation of a LEED qualified customized prefab home in the Hollywood Hills overlooking Los Angeles.

What if those Ivy covered walls produced electricity? Imagine what you could do with this at Wrigley Field!

A shipping container home? Why not? Over 700,000 containers are abandoned every year in the U.S. You say industrial blight? IC Green says “building material.”

Solar roofing shingles could solve the appearance issue: We’ve long had solar panels for roofs but let’s face it, in a residential installation they aren’t always aesthetically desirable. Here is a well known technology that may be re-purposed to solve the problem.

And for the speed freaks among us: How to reconcile the need for speed with environmental sensitivity? Thank goodness someone is working on it, and thank goodness it will someday be affordable. C’mon you early adopters, start adopting!

A car with photovoltaic skin and accumulators: Koenigsegg’s Quant promises 0-60 in 5.2 and a 170 mph top end. All driven by power it collects on its skin. I’m in!

There you go. Now go out and light some fireworks….green ones of course!