Data Center Consolidation and Adopting Cloud Computing in 2013

Throughout 2012 large organizations and governments around the world continued to struggle with the idea of consolidating inefficient data centers, server closets, and individual “rogue” servers scattered around their enterprise or government agencies.  Issues dealt with the cost of operating data centers, disaster management of information technology resources, and of course human factors centered on control, power, or retention of jobs in a rapidly evolving IT industry.

Cloud computing and virtualization continue to have an impact on all consolidation discussions, not only from the standpoint of providing a much better model for managing physical assets, but also in the potential cloud offers to solve disaster recovery shortfalls, improve standardization, and encourage or enable development of service-oriented architectures.

Our involvement in projects ranging from local, state, and national government levels in both the United States and other countries indicates a consistent need for answering the following concerns:

  • Existing IT infrastructure, including both IT and facility, is reaching the end of its operational life
  • Collaboration requirements between internal and external users are expanding quickly, driving an architectural need for interoperability
  • Decision support systems require access to both raw data, and “big data/archival data”

We would like to see an effort within the IT community to move in the following directions:

  1. Real effort at decommissioning and eliminating inefficient data centers
  2. All data and applications should be fit into an enterprise architecture framework – regardless of the size of organization or data
  3. Aggressive development of standards supporting interoperability, portability, and reuse of objects and data

Regardless of the very public failures experienced by cloud service providers over the past year, the reality is cloud computing as an IT architecture and model is gaining traction, and is not likely to go away any time soon.  As with any emerging service or technology, cloud services will continue to develop and mature, reducing the impact and frequency of failures.

Future Data CentersWhy would an organization continue to buy individual high powered workstations, individual software licenses, and device-bound storage when the same application can be delivered to a simple display, or wide variety of displays, with standardized web-enabled cloud (SaaS) applications that store mission critical data images on a secure storage system at a secure site?  Why not facilitate the transition from CAPEX to OPEX, license to subscription, infrastructure to product and service development?

In reality, unless an organization is in the hardware or software development business, there is very little technical justification for building and managing a data center.  This includes secure facilities supporting military or other sensitive sites.

The cost of building and maintaining a data center, compared with either outsourcing into a commercial colocation site – or virtualizing data, applications, and network access requirements has gained the attention of CFOs and CEOs, requiring IT managers to more explicitly justify the cost of building internal infrastructure vs. outsourcing.  This is quickly becoming a very difficult task.

Money spent on a data center infrastructure is lost to the organization.  The cost of labor is high, the cost of energy, space, and maintenance is high.  Mooney that could be better applied to product and service development, customer service capacity, or other revenue and customer-facing activities.

The Bandwidth Factor

The one major limitation the IT community will need to overcome as data center consolidation continues and cloud services become the ‘norm, is bandwidth.  Applications, such as streaming video, unified communications, and data intensive applications will need more bandwidth.  The telecom companies are making progress, having deployed 100gbps backbone capacity in many markets.  However this capacity will need to continue growing quickly to meet the needs of organizations needing to access data and applications stored or hosted within a virtual or cloud computing environment.

Consider a national government’s IT requirements.  If the government, like most, are based within a metro area.  The agencies and departments consolidate their individual data centers and server closets into a central or reduced number of facilities.   Government interoperability frameworks begin to make small steps allowing cross-agency data sharing, and individual users need access to a variety of applications and data sources needed to fulfill their decision support requirements.

For example, a GIS (Geospatial/Geographic Information System) with multiple demographic or other overlays.  Individual users will need to display data that may be drawn from several data sources, through GIS applications, and display a large amount of complex data on individual display screens.  Without broadband access between both the user and application, as well as application and data sources, the result will be a very poor user experience.

Another example is using the capabilities of video conferencing, desktop sharing, and interactive persistent-state application sharing.  Without adequate bandwidth this is simply not possible.

Revisiting the “4th Utility” for 2013

The final vision on the 2013 “wishlist” is that we, as an IT industry, continue to acknowledge the need for developing the 4th Utility.  This is the idea that broadband communications, processing capacity (including SaaS applications), and storage is the right of all citizens.  Much like the first three utilities, roads, water, and electricity, the 4th Utility must be a basic part of all discussions related to national, state, or local infrastructure discussions.  As we move into the next millennium, Internet-enabled, or something like Internet-enabled communications will be an essential part of all our lives.

The 4th Utility requires high capacity fiber optic infrastructure and broadband wireless be delivered to any location within the country which supports a community or individual connected to a community.   We’ll have to [pay a fee to access the utility (same as other utilities), but it is our right and obligation to deliver the utility.

2013 will be a lot of fun for us in the IT industry.  Cloud computing is going to impact everybody – one way or the other.  Individual data centers will continue to close.  Service-oriented architectures, enterprise architecture, process modeling, and design efficiency will drive a lot of innovation.   – We’ll lose some players, gain players, and and we’ll be in a better position at the end of 2013 than today.

Data Centers Hitting a Wall of Cloud Computing

Equinix lowers guidance due to higher than expected churn in its data centers and price erosion on higher end customers.  Microsoft continues to promote hosted solutions and cloud computing.  Companies from Lee Technologies, CirraScale, Dell, HP, and SGI are producing containerized data centers to improve efficiency, cost, and manageability of high density server deployments.

The data center is facing a challenge.  The idea of a raised floor, cabinet-based data center is rapidly giving way to virtualization and highly expandable, easy to maintain, container farms.

The impact of cloud computing will be felt across every part of life, not least the data center which faces a degree of automation not yet seen.”

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer believes “the transition to the cloud <is> fundamentally changing the nature of data center deployment.” (Data Center Dynamics)

As companies such as Allied Fiber continue to develop visions of high density utility fiber ringing North America, with the added potential of dropping containerized cloud computing infrastructure along fiber routes and power distribution centers, AND the final interconnection of 4G/LTE/XYZ towers and metro cable along the main routes,the potential of creating a true 4th public utility of broadband with processing/storage capacity becomes clear.

Clouds Come of Age

Data center operators such as Equinix have traditionally provided a great product and service for companies wishing to either outsource their web-facing products into a facility with a variety of internet Service Providers or internet Exchange Points providing high performance network access, or eliminate the need for internal data center deployments through outsourcing IT infrastructure into a well-managed, secure, and reliable site.

However the industry is changing.  Companies, in particular startup companies. are finding there is no technical or business reason to manage their own servers or infrastructure, and that nearly all applications are becoming available on cloud-based SaaS (Software as a Service) hosted applications.

Whether you are developing your own virtual data center within a PaaS environment, or simply using Google Apps, Microsoft Hosted Office Applications, or other SaaS, the need to own and operate servers is beginning to make little sense.  Cloud service providers offer higher performance, flexible on-demand capacity, security, user management, and all the other features we have come to appreciate in the rapidly maturing cloud environment.

With containers providing a flexible physical apparatus to easily expand and distribute cloud infrastructure, as a combined broadband/compute utility, even cloud service providers are finding this a strong alternative to placing their systems within a traditional data center.

With the model of “flowing” cloud infrastructure along the fiber route to meet proximity, disaster recovery, or archival requirements, the container model will become a major threat to the data center industry.

What is the Data Center to Do?

Ballmer:

“A data center should be like a container – that you can put under a roof or a cover to stop it getting wet. Put in a slab of concrete, plumb in a little garden hose to keep it cool, yes a garden hose – it is environmentally friendly, connect to the network and power it up. Think of all the time that takes out of the installation.”

Data center operators need to rethink their concept of the computer room.  Building a 150 Megawatt, 2 million square foot facility may not be the best way to approach computing in the future.

Green, low powered, efficient, highly virtualized utility compute capacity makes sense, and will continue to make more sense as cloud computing and dedicated containers continue to evolve.  Containers supporting virtualization and cloud computing can certainly be secured, hardened, moved, replaced, and refreshed with much less effort than the “uber-data center.”

It makes sense, will continue to make even more sense, and if I were to make a prediction, will dominate the data delivery industry within 5~10 years.  If I were the CEO of a large data center company, I would be doing a lot of homework, with a very high sense of urgency, to get a complete understanding of cloud computing and industry dynamics.

Focus less on selling individual cabinets and electricity, and direct my attention to better understanding cloud computing and the 4th Utility of broadband/compute capacity.  I wouldn’t turn out the lights in my carrier hotel or data center quite yet, but this industry will be different in 5 years than it is today.

Given the recent stock volatility in the data center industry, it appears investors are also becoming concerned.

Celebrating Independence in Moldova

Americans like to stress the fact we declared independence from England in 1776, and have been celebrating that event on the 4th of July ever since. No American remembers the struggles our country endured in securing our independence, and for the most part the day represents a great excuse to head to the park and barbeque hamburgers or hot dogs – topped off by a short fireworks display in the evening.

At the Independence Day Celebration in ChisinauIn Chisinau, Moldova, independence is an event everybody over the age of 20 experienced. August 27th marks the 19th year of independence from the Soviet Union. As a newly democratized state, Moldova has faced challenges, whether it is from politicians attempting to understand the dynamics of a democratic state, communists desperately trying to retain some snippet of control, or corruption by leaders who wish to capitalize on the chaos Moldova overcomes while rebuilding their society and economy.

Most Moldovans look to Europe, and their ethnic roots to Romania as a model and direction to build Moldova’s future. European Union flags fly beside Moldovan flags, and automobiles from around the EC routinely fill Chisinau’s streets. It is an exciting and scary time. Like starting a new job in a company that has a different culture and objectives – but a great reputation in its industry, Moldovans welcome the opportunity to make their country and quality of life on par with the rest of Europe, and the world.

But Now it is Time to Celebrate

The streets of Chisinau are filled with Moldovan flags, and you can see people on the street wearing makeup in the shape of Moldovan and Romanian flags on the side of their faces. An enthusiasm for their country, an indulgence On stage at the Chisinau independence day celebrationin celebrating their national identity. Walking into the center of Chisinau the main street is blocked off to accommodate a huge stage, with performers singing Moldovan folk tunes, rock songs, ballads, and anything else that makes young and old well up with pride in their country.

Americans and other western nations will find it a bit foreign to see the energy radiating from people on the street, but then again, we have not recently experienced 70 years occupation by an oppressive government. A government whose army is still entrenched along Moldova’s border in Transnistria, which is internationally recognized as part of Moldova, but in reality is an uncontrolled region that is part Moldovan, part independent, and part occupied by Russia. Unless you were present at Pearl Harbor in 1941, for an American the taste of foreign military encroachment on our own soil is an abstract.

Those over 30 years old will remember that at the time of independence, there was bloodshed, there was a human cost of freedom and independence that is still fresh in the mind of all Moldovans. And a deep-rooted desire to celebrate the sacrifices and courage of their family members and friends who paid the price of freedom.

And celebrate they did. While a large police force was clearly visible throughout the city center during the concerts and festivities, most appeared slightly jealous they could not strip off their uniforms and join in the indulgence of national identity. Others merely focused their energy on ensuring the safety of the people. No incidents such as you would see in Los Angeles or New York such as policeman kicking cyclists off their bicycles, threatening citizens, or trying to intimidate – just keeping it safe.

A Long Way to Go

20 years ago the nation was an infant desperately trying to get to its feet, now, while among the poorest countries in Europe, it is a comfortable place to live and work. While a large percentage of the population lives on a very small income, the GDP is growing at a steady rate, and there is always hope for the future.

Telecoms and Internet access are a very pleasant surprise. As in many developing countries, nearly every man, woman, and child has a mobile phone. On one street in central Chisinau you can find up to four separate Orange distributors on one city block (Orange claims they have more than 2400 distribution points), and most have a line of people waiting to get a new phone.

Wireless Internet is available throughout the city, and in the central park many park benches are filled with professionals and young people accessing the Internet on laptop computers. Orange Telecom claims they have complete national coverage with 3G, and offer wireless access speeds up to 21mbps.

Now, I sincerely wish I could get that performance in Burbank, California. Maybe when Verizon eventually gets around to implementing LTE or 4G…

NOTE: I was able to pick up an Orange prepaid phone in about 2 minutes, for about $20 and 600 minutes. I picked up a wireless internet account at the same time – about $15 for 2 weeks wireless access, and have been averaging just over 1.2mbps download speeds – quite enough to watch my Los Angeles TV stations with very high quality over Slingbox.

Moldova PrideHowever, on the bad side, Moldova has no energy resources within the country, and is completely dependent on Russia and other countries for fuel, natural gas, and power. While relatively self-sufficient on food, energy availability is at the will of Russia, and Moldova holds the same risk as Ukraine and other countries which have had resources throttled due to political issues with Russia.

But today is a celebration. I am almost jealous at the enthusiasm and level of pride Moldovans have for their country. Americans show pride by tying yellow ribbons around a tree in their front yard to show support for soldiers on military duty in a foreign land, we take pride in our economic and industrial achievements, and we show a lot of pride in our ability to show leadership in many ways around the world. Slap an American flag on your pickup truck – and you are a patriot.

But we have lost the scars of revolution, and lost the physiological sensation of emerging from oppression to taking on the challenge of democracy.

Moldovans have not. Happy Independence Day Moldova!

Broadband as the 4th Utility Gains Traction

Broadband communications access is rapidly gaining traction as a “4th Utility” in countries around the world. Recently, at Digital Africa 2010 in Kampala, several ministry-level delegates referenced their national initiatives building the “4th Utility” as among their highest priorities. On March 16th, FCC Chairman Genachowski stated “…broadband is essential for opportunity in America – for all Americans, from all communities and backgrounds, living in rural towns, inner cities, or in between.”

This means that broadband communications should be considered a basic right for all Americans, and persons from all countries, at the same level of other utilities including:

  1. Heating
  2. Water
  3. Electricity

None of the above utilities are free, all require major infrastructure development, and all are basic requirements for survival in the 21st century.

Genachoski went on to set some ambitious goals for the United States, as included in the “National Broadband Plan,” that include:

  • 1 gigabit to every community
  • affordable 100 megabits to 100 million households
  • raising adoption (of broadband access) from 65% to 90% adoption, heading to 100%

Consumer Network Test at FCC WebsiteNot a Bad Start

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn stated in a March 10th release that 93 million Americans still do not access broadband communications at home. 36% of those indicating they are not using broadband cite the high cost of access as their major reason for not gaining access, or terms of broadband access are unattractive.

While it would be easy for us to say Internet and broadband providers should be regulated on pricing and terms of service, we should also, if we want to consider broadband a 4th utility, compare the terms of access with other utilities provided to citizens of the United States. The cost of broadband will no doubt change based on:

  • Location – rural vs. urban
  • Number of providers in a community or market – including wireless
  • Distance from Internet interconnection and exchange points
  • Subscriber density in a specific geography (sparsely populated areas will have a higher cost of service)

The National Broadband Plan adds additional goals and action items that further reinforce the idea of broadband as a 4th utility, including:

  • Goal No. 1: At least 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second
  • Goal No. 2: The United States should lead the world in mobile innovation, with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation
  • Goal No. 3: Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose
  • Goal No. 4: Every community should have affordable access to at least 1 gigabit per second broadband service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals, and government buildings
  • Goal No. 5: To ensure the safety of American communities, every first responder should have access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable broadband public safety network
  • Goal No. 6: To ensure that America leads in the clean energy economy, every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption.

This is a pretty comprehensive framework, adding additional forward thinking such as using broadband to support the “intelligent grid,” and wireless communications. And there is still a lot of work to accomplish. The broadband.gov website now includes several utilities used to both give consumers an idea of their current broadband performance, as well as show a very good map on the best places in the United States for accessing Internet services, and the worst.

The best states, which give an average data download speed of greater than 10Mbps, include:

  • Massachusetts
  • Delaware
  • New Jersey
  • Maryland
  • Virginia

And the worst averaging less than 2Mbps downloads including:

  • Alaska
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Wyoming
  • New Mexico

Even the best locations in the United States are a fraction of the average Internet and broadband access speeds enjoyed in countries like South Korea, with average home access throughout the country nearing 50Mbps today and plans to increase that to 1Gbps by 2012 (Brookings Institution).

The Overall Framework

The National Broadband Plan correctly looks at more than just home access to the Internet. As a utility, the broadband plan must cover all aspects of society and life that require communications, and includes reference to broadband categories such as:

  • Broadband and US economic opportunity (global economy)
  • Education
  • Health Care
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • eGovernment
  • Civic Engagement
  • Public Safety
  • Entertainment

Next Steps in Broadband

Powerpoint slides and MS Word documents are fine, however we need to focus on tangible results that are measured by meeting our goals. Those goals start with digging holes in the ground, constructing towers, and pulling cable into houses and offices. Everything else is cute, but noise.

“This plan is in beta, and always will be

Like the Internet itself, this plan will always be changing—adjusting to new developments in technologies and markets, reflecting new realities and evolving to realize previously unforeseen opportunities” (From National Broadband Plan)

The National Broadband Plan was delivered to the American people on 17 March, 2010. The goals (as above) are mandated to be in place by 2020. It is an aggressive plan, however Chairman Genachowski appears to have the sense of urgency needed to get it done – unless of course American politics create barriers preventing success.

Americans, and people of all nations should take a close look at the US National Broadband Plan, and those of other nations. If the US and other nations around the world truly consider broadband access as a 4th utility, those who do not have that utility will not be functional in the mid-21st century.

The US plan and strategy is available to all at broadband.gov

Digital Africa 2010 and Cloud Computing in Developing Countries

At the Digital Africa Summit 2010 in Kampala, Uganda, discussion is rightly focused on both telecommunications policy and economic development. Cloud computing is a topic heard among sidebar Near Kampala Uganda and Digital Africa 2010discussions, although it has yet to hit the mainstream of conference programming.

We will bring a series of reports from Digital Africa – it is a very exciting group of people who truly have the best interests of Africa as their key objective. Kicked off by Dr. Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya, Vice President of Uganda, the conference also included ministers of communications from Uganda, Niger, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso. Other nations are well represented with representatives from the private sector, government, and education.

With that many politicians, you would think protocol would prevent any level of innovation or open discussion. Not the case, it was a very cooperative environment.

Why is cloud important in developing countries?

It is a reasonable question, and a reasonable answer. The basic requirements in developing countries (beyond clean water and food) are infrastructure, education, jobs, and eGovernment (including banking). Nothing works without the infrastructure in place. In countries without stable electricity and limited telecom infrastructure, this has to be a high priority.

When building out the basic infrastructure in countries with a tremendous amount of sunlight, wind or solar energy makes a lot of sense. A lot more sustainable than running diesel generators, and as an unfortunate byproduct of global warming, more sunny days each year are available to provide power.

In rural areas we are talking about enough power to provide electricity for schools, internet kiosks or cafes, and wireless access points in city centers. 15kW would do it, and that is not unreasonable. It is not unreasonable if we are looking at low-powered NetBooks and terminals that do not have a large burden of local resources for processing power, memory, storage, and high performance video applications.

According to several presentations at Digital Africa, there is strong evidence that with each 10% of any population in Africa having access to mobile or Internet technologies, there is a corresponding 1.8% increase in that nation’s GDP. Evidence that simply bringing Internet and education to the rural and unwired population will increase the national wealth, and quality of life, by a an annual increase of 1.8%

Bring the cable to the school, wire up a NetBook-based LAN, connect via wireless to a local access point, and you have an entry-level connected school. An entry-level school that can access Stanford classes online, from rural areas of Niger. Once that is available, and children are able to diffuse wired intellectual exposure into their intellectual tacit knowledge library, and we are creating a much more level playing field.

OK, let’s drop the physical fiber runs and electricity planning for just a moment. We’ll save that for a future article.

Cloud Computing Driving the Community

If we can build a data center in a couple of national locations with stable power, and with international or local funding build out a basic data center infrastructure, then with a bit of creativity and planning we will expect Infrastructure virtualization (IaaS) as a basic component of the data center.

Utility processing, storage, and memory available for the community. With a bit of further planning, adding one or more good PaaS models on the infrastructure, and we have a resource that can be used to host academic applications, business applications, and government applications. Remember this is the early days of development – in most cases there is no infrastructure to start with, so we can design this as a best practice from Day 1.

Take the burden of infrastructure away from the schools, startup companies, and existing SMEs and offer a virtual data center utility to server both their office automation and IT needs, as well as granting access to the global marketplace.

A Novel Idea – the Mobile Data Center

Bringing education to the students in UgandaUConnect is a project run by several independent souls who want to bring education to the small rural school children in Uganda. A panel truck, lined with computers, and a server hosting a wide variety of eLearning applications, UConnect drives to schools and lets the children work on computers for a couple hours each week. A project bringing education to areas where just a year ago there would be no opportunity for children to be exposed to either computer technologies, or formal education materials.

Hero bringing education to children in rural UgandaThis is creativity, and a refusal to let the children grow up in a world where they are completely out of touch with their global community counterparts. A technology baby step for us, a giant leap for Ugandan children. But not good enough. We need to inspire children to succeed, and to do that children need exposure to the same intellectual tools as a child in Calabasas, California.

Cloud computing can, should, and will be part of that plan. It makes sense.

Life without Internet in Ethiopia

For the first time in over ten years, I spent the night without Internet access. Ten years of working in remote parts of Mongolia, Vietnam, Palestine, Indonesia, and other small and developing countries, and in March 2010 I finally hit the access wall. My hotel in Addis Ababa does not have Internet access. And not a single WiFi or wireless connection available nearby.

Maybe it is just not realistic to believe that in the year 2010 travelers or residents of a major city like Addis Ababa would enjoy the same sense of Internet entitlement we enjoy in other parts of the world.  It is probably more realistic to think fresh water is a higher priority than Facebook.  Probably a higher priority to think that basic nutrition is a higher priority to some people in the world than Twitter.

Having been plucked up from the opulence of Burbank, California, where Friday afternoon brought the amusement of watching about 50 SUVs and minivans queuing to pick up elementary and middle school children, as it is not reasonable to expect children to walk more than 100 yards from school to home, being denied email and net access for a night is shocking.

Does the Opulent World Owe the Developing World Anything?

There is an old phrase explaining that “nobody likes a victim.”  When natural disasters occur, wars create a large number of refugees, or other events propel people to leave their homelands for safer places, the countries and people who are forced to absorb those refugees normally look at them with contempt.  It is one thing to watch the impact of a typhoon or earthquake on a country via CNN, and maybe donate a few dollars to help bring food, but in most cases we want to watch a different story on the next day’s news, and we rarely welcome refugees with open arms into our community.

 Easy to understand why.  As a society and culture, wealthy countries have normally built their communities with hard work, and the residents enjoy the quality of life they’ve built.  Visitors are welcome, but communities often find it difficult to absorb new people, particularly those with no money or have lost nearly everything they owned, into a community with a stable economy, school system, and social system.

We have some compassion for those who are in need, but much like driving past a major automobile accident on the freeway, we feel compelled to look, but then we drive past and soon forget the tragedy another human being is going through a few miles back on the road.

How We Reduce the Burden, and Strengthen our Global Community

For sure, Internet access may not purify or deliver water to those with a basic need.  However education delivered to all levels of economic or social groups will potentially bring better intellectual capacity to those residents and leaders in poor and developing countries to plan for the future, with the ever-increasing capacity of taking care of their own problems.  Educated people in most cases are simply better prepared to respond to disasters and problems when they occur.

Internet access is a very powerful tool in bringing basic and advanced education to any part of the world with a connection.  When a student in Addis Ababa, or any other part of the country, has the same access to online lectures, course materials, and even formal education programs over the Internet, the national capacity for dealing with topics ranging from developing water strategies, to energy, to agriculture, to entertainment all become one small step easier to attain than if the developing country had to do it on their own.

But what about UN and other NGO Programs?

Like the community that does not want to be burdened with a long term, recurring commitment to absorbing refugees, global philanthropy has a time threshold.  New disasters are happening daily.  New wars are popping up around the world at the same rate as ever, and when your own disaster is falling behind the front page in priority, then it is the people of that location or country who eventually have to solve the problems on their own.

There are simply not enough resources, emotionally or economically to go around.

There is one common characteristic of communities which handle disaster better than others.  They are well educated.  California handles earthquakes and wildfires without bringing the state to a halt.  France handles major flooding and other weather-related disasters, Okinawa finds Super-Typhoons a passing amusement, and Japan has tsunami response down to a science.

Sure, those countries have money, but even Japan and Germany started out with nearly no resources after the second war, and now are both economic powers.  It is education, and the resolve of an educated society.

Back to the Internet

Delivering online resources to poor countries is becoming cheaper and more powerful every day.  Wireless technologies are making fixed copper a legacy, and the cost of Netbooks and powerful workstations is dropping every day.  Localization and language translation are becoming more powerful every day.

Don’t stop delivering clean water, but let’s carefully consider the long term impact of delivering a tool to the nations of the world, including the area I stayed in Addis Ababa, and give everybody access to the same intellectual development tools as our kids in Burbank.

Check out resources published by the World Bank, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), US Agency for International Development (USAID), and others to find how we might better support development of eLearning in the developing world, as well as development of basic infrastructure.

Not So Green Hawaii

Energy Secretary Steven Chu has evangelized the simplicity of painting rooftops white to save energy. We believe a simple thing like painting a rooftop with solar reflective materials can reduce carbon dioxide production on a scale of billions of tons.

A black rooftop near WaikikiThink Green Hawaii, a local website highlighting local green initiatives notes that even tourists are starting to look for environmentally friendly hotels for their vacations, using examples such as the Hyatt Regency Waikiki which has implemented energy-efficient LED lights in public areas to reduce the use of energy.

Other local initiatives, such as the mbbEMS (Energy Management System) uses wireless communications connecting things such as lanai (balcony) doors to air conditioning units, shutting down the fans when doors are opened, and sensors to determine if guests are actually in their room (Hmmm…., that might not be so “cool’), shutting off lights and closing drapes to reduce the cooling load within a hotel. Great ideas.

Then I look out of my high rise condo window, and see around 100 rooftops scatteredA white rooftop near Waikiki around the neighborhood below. An unscientific count of the area gives me a tally of about 65% of Waikiki/Honolulu rooftops within my line of sight have black, tarred, asphalt, or dark colored tiling.

If the energy savings buildings expect to receive using solar reflective materials start at around 15% (at the low end) and work their way up, then it appears that Honolulu may be wasting a lot of energy on cooling systems.

Hawaiian Electric Company/HECO may have the highest electrical rates in the country, coming in at something over $.25/kw hour. Today, most of the energy produced in Hawaii comes from oil. The risk in Hawaii is not only using fossil fuels for energy, but also what might be the impact if Hawaii is hit by a natural disaster that disrupts the ability of HECO to provide power, which is mostly from oil-driven power plants.

“Hawaiian Electric Company shares the very serious concerns of many regarding the potential effects of global warming, and human contributions to this phenomenon, including the burning of fossil fuels for electricity production, transportation, manufacturing, agricultural activities and deforestation.”

(Policy Adopted in January 2007 by the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ Board of Directors)

However, the good news is HECO, at least publically on their website, fully promotes use of renewable energy, and is actively participating in finding energy sources to meet a state-mandated (Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative) to provide 40% of electrical needs through renewable energy by 2030.

So Why the Asphalt Rooftops?

Another black rooftop near WaikikiMaybe it is because solar reflective issues have not been a mainstream topic of conversation until the past few years. Maybe the building code is not enforced or strong enough to drive builders and landlords to either build all new buildings with solar reflective materials, or require all new roofing projects to include use of efficient materials.

Maybe people simply don’t care – “green” is a really nice buzzword to use, but to be green actually takes a bit of effort. This simple act (using solar reflective materials on rooftops) may help bring Hawaii (and HECO) to the state’s clean energy initiative goals – as well as saving a tremendous amount of money over the long run in air conditioning costs. Saving something higher than 15% in possibly 50% or more of the addressable buildings amounts to a bunch of kilowatts. Kilowatts provided today through fossil fuels.

“What is more, a white roof can cost as little as 15 percent more than its dark counterpart, depending on the materials used, while slashing electricity bills.” (NY Times, 29 July 2009)

When I ask friends and acquaintances, even in the real estate industry, why they don’t push the topic, sadly the normal responses I get include “what are you talking about? what is with painting your rooftop white? I have no idea what you mean, first I’ve ever heard of it.”

Sitting in my admittedly cool condo, high above Honolulu, I have never in my memory actually used the central air available in my unit. Tradewinds provide a very nice breeze nearly all the time, and in fact almost makes the room cold at night. My building has a white roof. If your’s doesn’t, maybe it is time to have a heart-to-heart with your landlord. If not for the environment, think about your energy bill, and how much you could potentially save with a cooler building.

Traveling the Telecom Highway with GTT’s Scott Charter

A very cold and icy evening in Denver. One of my new data center customers, WBS Connect, was based in Denver under the technical leadership of Scott Charter. Scott gave me a call, and asked if I had the time to get together and meet, since I was in town for some business meetings and he had some ideas I might be interested in.

Several hours later, with staff at the Rialto Café getting annoyed, and my head hitting the data absorption and comprehension threshold all of us experience when talking with people a whole lot smarter than us, I knew I’d met a true visionary.

Ideas. Ideas about technology, about business, about people, and about the world we live in. Beyond the technology, Scott is a guy who genuinely cares about people – an excellent role model for young entrepreneurs.

Pacific-Tier: Today we are talking with Scott Charter, who is with GTT.   Scott, how do you like Hawaii?

Scott Charter from GTT at PTC 2010Scott Charter: Love it. I’ve been here a few times (Hawaii) before, but this is my first time on Oahu.

Pacific-Tier: We’re at the Pacific Telecommunications Council annual meeting. Scott agreed to sit down and talk with us a little bit. Scott, you’ve had some changes professionally – what’s going on?

Scott Charter: December 16th, WBS Connect, my company that I co-founded in 2002 was acquired by GTT. The deal had been brewing a couple months prior (to December), but we announced it December 16th and we’ll call it the end of January when the integration will be complete.

Pacific-Tier: So what does that bring to the business? Aside from obviously the acquisition and things, does that bring any benefits to WBS, your customers, or to the business that didn’t exist before?

Scott Charter: That’s two pointed questions. I’ll start with my customers at WBS Connect. They will continue to receive the same level of service they did from WBS Connect, and now from GTT, with an augmented NOC (Network Operations Center), we are a much larger entity as a publicly traded company. So from a financial perspective it is a much healthier organization that is continuing to grow.

We feel that what we brought to GTT was something they didn’t have, and that was a network. GTT was a switchless, global network integrator, and it was an easy add-on to give them a global Ethernet backbone.

Pacific-Tier: So how about the services WBS Connect was offering? Video services, and different types of value-added services to your network, where do they exist today?

Scott Charter: The growth on where we are on a commodity-based, circuit-based, will only continue to grow as we layer on. We have to be careful though, not to layer too much in at once. We don’t want to have too much culture shock.

So for example, I don’t really see us striking out immediately and driving more video. Conferencing services as a primary add-on for our business customers, as a business product, give till the second or third quarter and we’ll roll back into that.

Immediately we’re talking about going back to all of the GTT customers with more Ethernet. Going into the WBS customer with more off-net circuits that GTT had already done as well.

Slowly, when we get out of that, we’ll go more into managed services. I see us actually going more with other managed services in addition to video, such as managed security. Probably by Q2.

Pacific-Tier: How about WBS Connect, and I hate going back to that, but I will… You were a very open network. You would peer with other networks, you would peer with CDNs (Content Delivery Networks), do you feel that your ability to integrate or work with other companies would be changed by your acquisition (or merger) by GTT?

Global Telecom and TechnologyScott Charter: I’m learning as we’re going, because I am now working with a publicly-traded company. Things are a little bit different than when you are with a privately held, entrepreneurial small organization that is quite dynamic.

We want to bring the dynamic nature of WBS Connect to GTT, however we also have to remember that we have certain parameters that go with a publicly-traded company.

On top of that you also have an organization that really focuses on ensuring they maintain good margin. Now what we’ve done in the past with WBS Connect was that at times we’d take a lower margin deal in order to expand our network, and ultimately grow our value in another way that was not standard “Hey I need to have this much margin.”

I don’t know how much of that we’ll continue to do, but if it doesn’t make sense financially we probably won’t do it moving forward.

Pacific-Tier: So you’ve always been a leader, a thought leader in the industry. There are things changing now such as carrier Ethernet exchanges, Internet exchange points, cloud computing and the integration of CDNs into the network itself. Tell me your visions. What’s happening now? Where will we go into the future that will either support, or change, or direct the future of our business?

Scott Charter: There are so many great things that I see on the horizon right now that all seem to layer back into one another. So when we talk about additional transport services that are required to talk about enhanced cloud. Machine-machine activity, and the way they are going to interact is the future of where hosting goes – for sure.

I mean just standard dedicated servers and things like that are… I don’t want to call them a typewriter of the future, but things are definitely going to evolve. I think that as a WAN operator as part of our business we definitely see the need to connect more and more data centers that have this idea of being able to understand the need for this cloud infrastructure.

And I think you are going to find that you are going to have a global consolidation in certain points around the world that are going to mirror this cloud that is going to happen in let’s call it 10 mega data centers, at least, for computing. And we want to be a part of that.

One of the things I’m really excited about though, is the game-changing effect that I believe that 4G will have on incumbent connectivity in our existing infrastructure. If you’re a LEC (Local Exchange Carrier) with DS3s, OC3s, out to an enterprise base, that’s going to compete in a way with 4G. Call it 18~24 months from now.

I see us steering GTT towards embracing 4G as a part of our WAN business.

Pacific-Tier: Are you going to get into the tower business yourself, or are you going to connect towers?

Scott Charter: Connect towers for sure. You know, continuing to talk about any type of carrier extensions or servicing that wholesale side. But in addition to that I see from a large enterprise side, really seeing us drive more and more into that (4G and connecting via the wholesale business).

Pacific-Tier: With 4G, and LTE – ultimately 4G, does GTT get into the wireless business yourself or are you going to stay in the terrestrial business?

Scott Charter: That’s to be seen. I’m cautious on what I say now on where we’ll be, depending on where we need to be then. When I look forward now – I’m only talking about LTE. No offense to WiMAX, but I feel the real play there is with LTE.

It’s not just North American LTE, it’s global LTE. So seeing the Vodafones, the China wirelesses, and how they’re going to drive global saturation of LTE, let’s call it over the next four years, five years possibly, we’ll want to play there one way or another. I’m not sure how we’ll do it.

Pacific-Tier: So in 18 months what is the difference between terrestrial cable, terrestrial services, and wireless? Is there a difference?

Scott Charter: I’m afraid that spectrum is going to be a too little, people are going to be so excited that we might almost have another iPhone paradox that we see now with AT&T – that their own success with their partnership with Apple has caused some people to believe that the AT&T 3G is completely saturated.

Now there are some people who have some data on it which says that’s not truly the case. But there is enough of a customer backlash that it’s a customer perception that the AT&T network, due to its own success, has lead to its current situation that people are accepting it.

Now, fast forward a couple years and say what happens if we actually eat through all that LTE spectrum that’s out there now that that Verizon and AT&T – let’s just talk that North America’s acquired, wouldn’t that be interesting if that too becomes so saturated that we’re now reverting back to just terrestrial, as we’ve eaten up all the wireless.

Pacific-Tier: Tell me something, domestic or international, where’s your focus?

Scott Charter: 50-50. Let me take that back. (the) Opportunity for growth, 80-20 international. Consistent with where we are today, 50-50. New growth, international.

Pacific-Tier: Why?

Scott Charter: Under-served markets with a much higher profitability margin. It’s much easier to go in and saturate MENA, or LATAM, or parts of Asia than it is to continue to try and compete against incumbents in major markets, Tier 1, Tier 2s, or for that matter try and compete against a Time Warner in a Tier 3.

Pacific-Tier: WBS Connect helped shake up the American Internet industry by bringing affordable bandwidth and high-performance services to people. How do you continue to disrupt Verizon and AT&T and people who would possibly like to hold back development of competitive services in the United States. How do you go about continuing to hit that “borg?”

Scott Charter: By coming to shows like this (PTC) and ITW. You continue to partner up with aggressive companies that are willing to shake up the status quo. If you are working within a fleet of speed boats, if you are not there you are probably in a super-tanker that is probably going to run aground at one point.

That’s a little too much of an analogy…

Pacific-Tier: Let’s talk about your effect on the social or the people part of this business. Do you feel that your new company (GTT) or your old company (WBS Connect), or yourself as an entrepreneur – do you feel you have a responsibility to contribute to the good of the community? Is there any inherent responsibility you have to the community?

Scott Charter: I believe we all do if we want to be good global citizens and good global businessmen. It’s in our best interest to make sure we are doing things more and more efficient.

Power (electricity) is probably a great analogy because we are all working towards a more efficient data center. It’s in our best interest to try and find a means to use off-peak power. We’re involved in something right now that I think is going to shake up data centers worldwide.

And when I talk to people about it I don’t want them to think I’m getting too…, what I really want to say is that I think I have a real opportunity to change what we’re doing in global computing with some colleagues that we’re involved with on power.

Pacific-Tier: Well we hope so, and whether it’s alternative energy using solar or wind, or whether it’s using innovative ideas like fuel cells or co-generation… All of those things are good for the environment and hopefully in the future we’ll be able to reduce our reliance on very energy-inefficient hardware.

Hopefully people like you will put in SSDs using 1% of the power draw as a spindle… But tell us, as we wind down the discussion to a close, again you’ve been a visionary ever since I’ve known you. For several years I’ve looked to you for ideas and thoughts on what’s going to happen to our industry in the future.

Shoot for the stars. Tell us something we don’t know that is going to excite us.

Scott Charter: Well let me follow up on this through energy consumption. To drive the existing grid to use it more efficiently so we don’t have to build new. If we can avoid building new coal-fired power plants in order to generate all this new data, because data centers are gobbling up more power per capita than any other sector in the world right now. I mean it’s amazing.

We’re not getting that many new aluminum smelters out there, but new data centers are coming up and just eating and eating more power.

What if? And we believe we’re on to something that will allow us to not have to go and just massively overbuild our electrical infrastructure in order to accommodate this data center growth. I can’t wait to see where we are in two years with this.

Pacific-Tier: I think it’s exciting too, as a former data center operator I saw the sins of inefficiency time and time again, and I applaud your efforts in trying to correct that problem in our industry.

Any final words for the readers?

Scott Charter: I’m excited where I am going with GTT. I’ve never been a chief marketing officer in a publicly-traded company before. Colleagues of mine have come up joked with me and said “Mr. CMO! What are you going to do?” I laugh. It’s so exciting. Coming here and just trying to drive brand.

Go meet 40 new companies out of Eastern Europe, or go meet Western Africa. Wow!

Pacific-Tier: The industry needs competent evangelists and we warmly welcome your entry into the marketing business. Thank you very much for the time!

You can download the audio/recording of Scott’s interview HERE

Scott Charter has more than 16 years of data telecommunications experience, specializing in data networking. Prior to launching WBS Connect, Scott held management positions with Qwest Communications, Rhythms Netconnections, and Echostar Communications.GTT is Global telecom and Technology http://www.gt-t.net/ 

Trouble at the Telecom and Communicator’s Bar

Have you heard the news? Unemployment is skyrocketing, companies are closing, there’s no investment money for startups, and the sky is falling, the sky is falling? Don’t I know, as the layoff frenzy hit my own Hanging out at the communicator's barhome, that it is a scary economic place to take a swim… Sharks, really hungry sharks, circling with an eye to take every last cent you have been able to hide.

And the outlook remains bleak. The New York Times reports that Europe is suffering in youth unemployment – even more than the US. 42.9% unemployment is Spain, 28% unemployment in Ireland, an EU average of 20.7% Makes California look like the “promised land.”

And, California may actually be the “promised land.” California still attracts the best of global engineering to the Silicon Valley, and the most creative minds in communications and entertainment to Los Angeles. Whether you are a European, Chinese, Indian, or even Canadian, Silicon Valley and LA offer an environment that is unsurpassed around the world. Our universities embrace people from other cultures and countries, and our ability to support entrepreneurs draws not only students, but the best engineers and thought leaders from around the world.

Back at the Communicator’s Bar

There are still tables with discussions reviewing the indignities of being laid off by struggling companies. There are still discussions with the whine of people talking about the “damn foreigners” who are here stealing our jobs. Still “barflys” slopped over the bar worrying about their Audi payments and how their ARM mortgage has put them under water.

Then there are other bars with tables full of Americans, And A scatter shot of foreigners talking about fun stuff. Fun stuff like cloud computing, virtualization, globalization, distributing computing, “the network is the computer,” “the computer is the network,” and how the carriers will return to their roots of providing high quality “big, fat, dumb” telecom pipes. The talk is of how we can finally start putting all this intellectual property that we’ve spent billions n producing Powerpoint slides into reality.

Green is here

Virtualization is here

Data Center outsourcing is here

2010 is a blank whiteboard set up to codify the thought leadership and technology spawned in the waning years of the 200x decade and put it into business plans and CAPEX budgets.

2010 is the year we aggressively deliver Internet-enabled technology to every man, woman, and child in the world who has a desire to live a life beyond killing their own food for dinner. Here is a funny though – if a radical 8 year old in one currently scary country is able to Yahoo chat or Facebook their way into discussions and relationships with kids in California and Beijing, doesn’t it make just a little sense the desire to blow each other up would be diluted, even just a little?

If the guy living next to me is producing a telecom switch that is head and shoulders above what is currently on the market, do I really care if his brain was conceived in Hanoi?

2010 is also the beginning of a true period of globalization. That doesn’t mean out hillbilly friends in Duluth, Minnesota have to quit drinking 3.2 beer and hanging out at setup bars watching Vikings reruns, it means that the hillbilly’s kid can participate in a lecture series online from Stanford or MIT. The kid might eventually invent a pickup truck that runs on pine cones, and a 3.2 beer that is actually palatable.

Embrace 2010

If not for the simple fact you have no other choice, consider all the great ideas being pumped out by companies like 3tera, the Google borg, Microsoft, VM Ware, and all the other companies with tremendous innovative ideas. Never before in our history have some many new intellectual and business tools been put on the shelf at the same time. Never before have we had such good reason to consider implanting those ideas (yes, I am a tree hugger and do believe in global warming).

So, even if you are currently living in a car under a bridge near you former upscale Orange County community – shave, wash your car, take a shower at the beach, and let’s get our depression, anger, tacit knowledge back into the business saddle. The young guys still need our experience to get their feet on the ground, and we need them to ensure we will have social security in the future.

Welcome 2010 – you have taken a long time to arrive

John Savageau, Honolulu

Copenhagen Climate Summit Ends – What Did They Accomplish?

The Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers, and other heads of delegation present at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen,… Have agreed on this Copenhagen Accord which is operational immediately.” And so ends the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

Long Beach port and oil island - major source of pollution for LA BasinBut what did the participants agree to? Was it substantial enough to make a difference? Did they silence the skeptics? Will Sarah Palin finally believe Alaska is melting into the North Pacific?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel defends the Copenhagen climate summit. In an interview with the German news source Bild am Sonntag Merkel stated “Copenhagen is a first step toward a new world climate order – no more, but also no less. Anyone who just badmouths Copenhagen now is engaging in the business of those who are applying the brakes rather than moving forward.”

The climate conference ended Saturday with 192 participating nations walking away with the “Copenhagen Accord,” a deal brokered between China, South Africa, India, Brazil and the US.

The “Accord” can really be brought into one statement:

To achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, we shall, recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius, on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development, enhance our long-term cooperative action to combat climate change.

How the global community gets to that objective resulted in a non-binding acknowledgement that doesn’t set hard numbers on reducing carbon emissions, specific timelines, or penalties on violators.

It does agree to provide $30bn in funding for poor countries to the “adverse effects of climate change and the potential impacts of response measures” from next year (2010) to 2012, and $100bn a year after 2020.

The “Accord” not cites carbon emissions as an issue, but also deforestation.

We recognize the crucial role of reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation and the need to enhance removals of greenhouse gas emission by forests and agree on the need to provide positive incentives to such actions through the immediate establishment of a mechanism including REDD-plus, to enable the mobilization of financial resources from developed countries.

Oddly, or maybe not, China (as the world’s largest source of carbon emissions and greenhouse gas) applauded the “Accord.” Maybe the “non-binding” nature of the “Accord” gave China some relief, or maybe China has simply accepted their role and responsibility in providing global leadership in reducing harmful toxins into our environment.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi of China believes the Copenhagen Summit produced “significant and positive” results. “Developing and developed countries are very different in their historical emissions responsibilities and current emissions levels, and in their basic national characteristics and development stages,” Yang said in a statement. “Therefore, they should shoulder different responsibilities and obligations in fighting climate change.” (Xinhua)

President Barack Obama stated “a meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough” was made in Copenhagen. “All major economies have come together to accept their responsibility to take action to confront the threat of climate change.” (from Press Conference in Copenhagen)

But there are skeptics

No event is perfect. When you get representatives from 192 nations in a room, teamwork is probably a fantasy none of us should harbor. A small island nation may wish to defend their island from rising oceans, where an oil-producing country may want to defend their industry.

Communist and socialist countries may have an agenda, religious leaders an agenda, democracies an agenda, and superpowers an agenda. So as expected, not everybody walked away from the conference with warm words for the “Accord.”

  • Venezuala – International thought leader Hugo Chavez stated “If it’s to go and waste time, it’s better I don’t go,” he said. “If everything is already cooked up by the big [nations], then forget it.”
  • Bolivia – Bolivian President Evo Morales called for the creation of an actual climate justice tribunal. The Global North, Morales said, should indemnify poor nations for the ravages of climate change.
  • Ethiopia – Director General of the Ethiopian Environment Protection Agency, Dr Tewolde Birhan Gebre-Egziabher
    beleives Africa is already suffering, and likely to suffer more from climate change, but contributes very little to climate change.
  • Nepal – Prime Minister Madhav Kumar highlighted his concern of the “seriousness of the problem of climate change” particularly for the least developed and vulnerable countries. He adds that Nepal urges special focus on the impact of global warming on the Himalayas, in Nepal and elsewhere.
  • UK – Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, said “If leading countries hold out against something like ‘legally binding’ or against the 2050 target of 50 per cent reductions in carbon emissions – which was held out against by countries like China – you are not going to get the agreement you want.” (COPS15 )

And so on.

The important thing to remember…

The important thing to remember is that we, as a planet, were able to get 192 nations together to agree on one important point – climate change is occurring, and human bei9ngs are part of the problem. If we do not get control over global warming, our planet will not be able to support life in the longer term.

Every media source in the world focused attention on the issue for the better part of two weeks. Even Fox News, acrimonious as they are, provided a lot of coverage. Regardless of polls stating the roller-coaster of public opinion on global warming vs. job loss, 90% or more of the global population will now at least look at a bus spewing black clouds of exhaust into the air, deforestation, and thousands of 2-stroke motor scooters crowding streets as something that is not healthy for the planet.

Regardless of which side of the debate you fall, the result is your position will now need defense – defense that it is not destructive to the planet, defense a Hummer/2 used to buy beer in a West Virginia country town is your inherent right as an American, or defense that every energy-related decision should include an environmental impact question.

Prior articles in this series:

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