The Future of Green IT – Recap of Uptime Symposium 2009

On Monday April 13th, Winter Street cofounder Mark Meche and Senior Associate Annette Popp Austraw presented with Tony Cataliotti, Datacenter Efficiency Manager for Sun Microsystems on Best Practices for Green Datacenter Design. After a succinct but powerful presentation on the realities of datacenter design/build, what we hear from clients and how to develop an integrated approach in order to move a datacenter design project forward, Tony, Mark and Annette were interviewed by Ken Brill, Uptime Institute Founder. Here are some major takeaways from that presentation and roundtable with Uptime:

Meche and Popp at Uptime with Ken Brill

Meche and Popp at Uptime with Ken Brill

When coordinating your green datacenter design process, don't make these mistakes

Once you have established your plan, consider these entries points for moving your datacenter design project forward and getting company or CXO buy-in

Once you have established your plan, consider these entries points for moving your datacenter design project forward and getting company or CXO buy-in

Throughout the conference, Brill and other technology leaders like Johnson Controls, IBM and Google consistently echoed a strong message of whole-systems design and an integrated process – points which were advocated and discussed during WSA/Sun’s executive roundtable with the Director.

“Whole-systems coordination and breaking down stove pipe organizations between IT and facilities is the future of best practices for better datacenter design. Breaking down organizational silos to look for “whole-system” solutions allows for an order of magnitude improvement to occur.” – Ken Brill, Uptime Institute Founder

An integrated approach gives you the most valuable perspective on your problem and creates huge opportunities for innovation.  Consulting outside your market, silo or perspective allows for all the stakeholders to understand how one decision affects another. A unique, synergistic and holistic approach,  where facilities, IT, architecture, finance are looking at the problem as a team defines this process, and it what Sun with Winter Street Architects are advocating and practicing.

We are working with WSA because they bring a knowledge base our engineers and IT professionals don’t. No one can do the best job alone – you have to leverage the knowledge of others tried and tested thought leaders. The industry is not monolithic, its segmented – on one hand you have a multimillion dollar company looking to develop a mission critical environment that will cost upwards of $50-$500M to construct.  On the other hand, you also have a small datacenter manager working with limited budget on a DC in the basement of a hospital…each one of those scenarios is important, but each of them have different needs.  Our job is to refine an approach that can develop solutions which are appropriate to each of these segments. – Tony Cataliotti, Sun Microsystems

During the roundtable discussion, the main question of why an architecture firm was presenting with Sun Microsystems was asked.   Collaboratively, Tony Cataliotti and Mark Meche answered by indicating that datacenter design was traditionally the job of IT, facilities and an engineer.  These parties all have their own agenda and specific answers built from personal perspectives and needs.  Engineers are highly technical and have a tendency to go straight to a solution, rather than an approach an architect might take which would be to make sure that people are asking the right questions to begin with.

Architects have a tendency to look beyond the purely technical. We are comfortable with ambiguity, the ever present contradictory set of project requirements; when facing this sort of challenge an engineer may tend to seek clarity and refined input from the stakeholders;  the architects would assume that the contradiction carries meaning and would probably not look for direct clarity but would tend to make a recommendation. The net effect is less silo decision making and a better connection to vision. – Mark Meche,  Winter Street Architects.

As a follow on to IBM and Johnson Controls, Sun Microsystems and Winter Street Architects left the final closing comments of the Keynote Presentations and Executive Interview Discussion on Monday.

1. Don’t confuse problem solving with planning. Solving datacenter issues shouldn’t be a tactical decision, however what we tend to see is a reactive band-aid to power,  space,  cooling and etc. Best practices dictate that clients should approach the problem from a strategic perspective and allow for an assessment, discovery and custom solution in order to find future-proof opportunities, this is where the most value is.

2. Don’t use initial cost as a deterrent. Understanding the complete total cost of ownership, from the cost of construction, life cycle of your compute infrastrsuction and the CAPEX vs. OPEX savings will allow you to show TCO savings versus band-aid approaches which cost more in the long run.

3.  Take an Integrated Design Approach. Use an End-to-End design approach with aligned stakeholders, an architect, facilities, IT, and engineers in order to develop a holistic solution which will save energy and ultimately save money.

Winter Street also supported Sun in the booth

Winter Street working with DCE consultants inside Sun’s booth

WSA managed the Datacenter Design & Build Kiosk as part of the booth; educating people on our integrated design approach and how we use BIM.

WSA managed the Datacenter Design & Build Kiosk as part of the booth; educating people on our integrated design approach and how we use BIM.

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  1. […] thinks engineer. A few years back our data center team was invited to be keynote presenters at the Uptime Institute’s annual symposium. Institute founder Ken Brill was interviewing our team in preparation for a panel discussion and […]



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