I was part of a Forrester Team that recently completed a multi-country rollout tour with Emerson Network Power as they formally released their Trellis DCIM product, a comprehensive DCIM environment many years in the building. One of the key takeaways was both an affirmation of our fundamental assertions about DCIM, plus hints about its popularity and attraction for potential customers that in some ways expand on the original value proposition we envisioned. Our audiences were in total approximately 500 selected data center users, most current Emerson customers of some sort, plus various partners.
The audiences uniformly supported the fundamental thesis around DCIM – there exists a strong underlying demand for integrated DCIM products, with a strong proximal emphasis on optimizing power and cooling to save opex and avoid the major disruption and capex of new data center capacity. Additionally, the composition of the audiences supported our contention that these tools would have multiple stakeholders in the enterprise. As expected, the groups were heavy with core Infrastructure & Operations types – the people who have to plan, provision and operate the data center infrastructure to deliver the services needed for their company’s operations. What was heartening was the strong minority presence of facilities people, ranging from 10% to 30% of the attendees, along with a sprinkling of corporate finance and real-estate executives. Informal conversations with a number of these people gave us consistent input that they understood the need, and in some cases were formerly tasked by their executives, to work more closely with the I&O group. All expressed the desire for an integrated tool to help with this.
Data centers, like any other aspect of real estate, follow the age-old adage of “location, location, location,” and if you want to build one that is really efficient in terms of energy consumption as well as possessing all the basics of reliability, you have to be really picky about ambient temperatures, power availability and, if your business is hosting for others rather than just needing one for yourself, potential expansion. If you want to achieve a seeming impossibility – a zero carbon footprint to satisfy increasingly draconian regulatory pressures – you need to be even pickier. In the end, what you need is:
Low ambient temperature to reduce your power requirements for cooling.
Someplace where you can get cheap “green” energy, and lots of it.
A location with adequate network connectivity, both in terms of latency as well as bandwidth, for global business.
A cooperative regulatory environment in a politically stable venue.
There is still another quiet day or two on the fresh page of my calendar, before the new year really gets going. Schools are still playing Bowl games, and the tree is still up (if brown-ish), so it must still be the holiday season.
And I have three topics I want to discuss before the 2012 agenda kicks into gear. These aren't really on the mainline IT-for-sustainability topic, but rather observations on changes underway in the IT industry, which may have some implications for companies' or individuals' sustainability efforts downstream.
Have you heard of Kickstarter? This is social media meets venture capital meets (very) early-stage entrepreneurs, tech and otherwise. Pretty much accidentally, I was pinged by and ended up contributing to two different projects which I will mention below. But check out the overall story at Kickstarter; it looks to me like a revolution-in-the making in terms of how new ideas will get funding and build community (increasingly those are one in the same).
The first project that found its way to my inbox is called Twine. It's . . . how to describe it? It's a little box that connects things to the Internet. Along with some software rules, the Twine box links internal or external sensors (temperature, moisture, motion, open/close, and the like) to the Internet via an email, text, or tweet.
That was my thought as I sat down to a lovely banquet dinner to kick off the Low-Carbon Earth Summit (LCES) in Dalian China a couple of weeks ago. I was lucky enough to be on the keynote agenda at this conference and was sharing dinner with local dignitaries from Dalian and some sustainability luminaries from around the world.
My fellow keynoters hailed from Germany, Brazil, China, Switzerland, and the US. And one of the topics over dinner was the coming round of sustainability conferences, COP 17 in Durban, South Africa, next month; the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi in January; and Rio+20 in Brazil next June, all part of what the UN has dubbed its "Sustainable energy for all" initiative.
Which got me to thinking: Is it sustainable for all these experts to be flying around the world attending sustainability conferences? The "industry" of creating more sustainable business, home, and public environments should be a role model.
All of us involved in improving sustainability should take a look at our travel schedules and see if cutting one or more of those long-haul flights can be part of our "carbon diet" for the coming year.
And we should pay attention to technology-enabled alternatives, like the VERGE virtual conference run a few months ago by my friends at GreenBiz. Videoconferencing, webcasting, and other technologies can help habitual conference-goers like myself to separate participation in an event from travel to the event.
Last week, Forrester gathered its 1,200 worldwide employees together for an offsite meeting in Boston to kick off our agenda and plans for 2011 and beyond. It was the first time we had gotten the whole company together under one roof in 4 years; the company has grown by roughly 50 percent since the beginning of 2007.
Part of our offsite was devoted to research agenda planning around the big themes that we have identified for the technology industry in the coming year. And we have quite a strong research agenda in the sustainability arena, focusing on how large companies are using IT systems, software, and services to help meet their sustainability goals.
Our research agenda starts with our big-picture point of view on the state of the technology industry. And that is a good place to be! The global technology industry is at the beginning of a multi-year up-cycle of industry innovation and growth, during which investment in tech products and services will grow considerably faster than the overall economy. This was true in 2010 and will again hold true in 2011 and 2012 (see Figure 1).