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Mark Bramfitt
San Francisco
Utility and IT Industry Consultant
Recent Activity
I'm not a fan of any sort of outdoor advertising, but at least this bus stop piece in San Francisco promotes something I can get behind - desktop power management. Convincing users to enable the embedded power saving features of their IT equipment continues to be a challenge, and I've been unable to posit a role for utility programs for individual users that would make sense, other than education and outreach which is of course what the Department of Energy is doing here. I'm reminded of several great conversations I had with a start-up in the Bay Area five years... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
I came across this story in Quartz this morning, and found it a fascinating review of what is happening with cloud computing - starting with perhaps the best definition of what it is in the fourth paragraph: Generically, the cloud is just a vast mass of computers connected to the internet, on which people or companies can rent processing power or data storage as they need it. It’s used for everything from hosting websites to storing archives to running massive data-crunching operations. Besides the discussion of how Amazon has jumped the whole market, with Google in second and Microsoft a... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
In what has to be a first, Datacenter Dynamics reports that Apple is securing ownership of a small hydropower system near their new data center in Prineville Oregon. I wonder what the actual terms of the deal are - is Apple actually buying the facility (what sounds like a short canal and a three MW generation plant), or have they simply contracted to purchase the power. It does seem clear that an arrangement has been made for wheeling the supply, with Bonneville Power and a local cooperative in the mix. I'm afraid the article makes the common mistake of dealing... Continue reading
Posted Apr 15, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
One of my favorite examples of the positive impact that IT can have is to cite UPS, which uses an algorithim to optimize the routes of delivery trucks to minimize fuel use and maximize driver productivity. So first, I was pleased to come across some reporting on what UPS does, titled "Why UPS Trucks Don't Turn Left". But even better, I met two guys at an event in Atlanta the week before last, who have been responsible for the operations at UPS's data center. They told the story of examining the operations of the center years ago to find cost... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
Gary Cook and his colleagues at Greenpeace have reported for several years running on the environmental credentials of major data center industry players, focusing mainly on internet-based companies that many consumers would recognize. The point of the reports is to grade these companies on a slate of metrics from how much "green" power they use (nuclear doesn't count!) to how forthcoming they are about their practices. The latest report has gotten more attention than ever, perhaps because it seems some players have taken the grading to heart and moved way up in the rankings. Apple, Google, and Facebook are the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
And I'm not talking about the five days of rain we are grateful to get this week... The battle for hearts and minds and customers of cloud services is intensifying with news yesterday and today of price cuts and a big market entry. First up is Google, announcing big price cuts for cloud computing capacity as well as efforts to entice developers to design services using their platform at a conference here in San Francisco. Google has also intriguingly opined that cloud service costs should decline (or services increase) according to Moore's Law. I find that hard to get a... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
An announcement from Emerson Network Power hit my email box a week or two ago saying they were offering the first (and "only") data center infrastructure management financial evaluation tool, and I naturally was curious to see what they had come up with. If the tool had solid calculations predicting energy efficiency gains, it might be suitable to support utility energy efficiency incentive program applications. Sorry to say that I haven't yet gotten a good look at the tool, or been able to ask questions about the underpinnings of the program. (You have to contact Emerson to get an evaluation... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
Fuel cells and solar PV get all of the attention in the data center industry as alternatives to traditional electric utility service, though there are rumblings for combined heat and power (cogeneration) installs in the background. Part and parcel of any discussion of primary power sources (including utility service) is backup generation. Sometimes that discussion includes relying on utility service as the backup, but I imagine that the UPS and diesel generator combo has ninety-nine percent plus market share. Now a company called CommScope is proposing the use of fuel cells as backup, rather than primary power sources for data... Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
I'll be supporting the power and cooling track which is sponsored by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and moderating a panel discussion looking at meaningful metrics for computing efficiency. I recommend DCD conferences to utility clients as they are a great way to get a quick immersion in the industry with just a one day commitment, at a location likely pretty near you (Atlanta, Chicago, DC, San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix, and Dallas). If you're heading to New York, check out the track and the panel session! Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
Passing along a link to this piece in the New York Times regarding liquid immersion cooling, which to date is in use in high performance cooling applications but may eventually move down into the utility-scale data center market. Though immersion cooling causes shills down the spine of IT managers who didn't have the experience of running water-cooled mainframes from years ago (and there are plenty still out there, the mainframes, I mean!), serious gamers have been dunking their PCs in mineral oil baths for many years. Although the technology offers clear efficiency advantages (look ma, no fans, anywhere!), I expect... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
A bit of utility energy efficiency program managers insider baseball, so skip if not of interest! I collected a bit of useful data yesterday at the Technology Convergence Conference hosted by Teladata in Santa Clara yesterday in a presentation by Eaton, a big provider of power delivery and conditioning equipment for data centers. Eaton posted a short list of the expected useful life for four classes of equipment. That's obviously useful for data center facility managers who have to anticipate equipment replacements, and even for accountants who have to set depreciation schedules. (Well maybe not for the accountants as I... Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
Happy to note that I'll be prowling the sessions at Teladata's Technology Convergence Conference next week in Santa Clara, looking out for industry trends in general and anything that hits the utility and data center industry nexus. (No speaking or panel moderation duties this time around!) The TCC events are really a great way for me to catch up industry players, hear from vendors, and broaden my horizons a bit beyond just energy efficiency issues. I've learned a lot about other aspects of data center infrastructure - a perspective absent from most other events. It's a great credit to Teladata... Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
I'm not sure that I'll comment as extensively as I'm tempted to do by this article from Yevgenly Sverdlick in Datacenter Dynamics - my central complaint with the article is that it doesn't present a utility perspective on any of the issues covered. And I will say that with twenty-five years in the utility industry I am still defensive when issues like grid reliability come up. For example, I would change the opening sentence to "electrical utility grids are notoriously reliable.." The issues of service reliability, the carbon content of power, and the opportunities for self-generation that could lead to... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
Another notable report on the retail colo industry from Data Center Knowledge, where NTT has completed an eighty percent buyout of RagingWire, doubling it's United States portfolio to 650,000 square feet. RagingWire has a major data center in Sacramento, as well as Ashburn Virginia; NTT has existing colos in Silicon Valley and also in northern Virginia. We'll see if NTT grows it's US presence through further acquisitions, through development, or both. There is lots of room for consolidation in the retail colo market, as we have nothing like the "four companies holding a combined eighty percent market share" that most... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
According to Data Center Knowledge, wholesale colocation data center center company DuPont Fabros is dipping its toes into the retail market, with cabinet level leases available in New Jersey and northern Virginia. DFT joins Digital Realty Trust in exploring this market - Digital began offering smaller space increments, now under the moniker of Turn Key Flex, some time ago. Digital offers modular units that are a megawatt or more of IT power capacity, not rack scale units. DuPont's focus on New Jersey makes obvious sense to me, with reports of something of a tech boom in the New York City... Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
I was really intrigued to see this report from Data Center Dynamics of an announcement by Facebook at the Open Compute Summit earlier this week regarding another data storage innovation. Facebook has designed an optical data storage array using Blu-ray disk technology, delivering high data density, very low power use, and long storage life. I remember talking to optical storage industry people back in 2005, when they were considering whether to try and get into the data center storage market (using DVDs). The upshot was that the industry focused solely on consumer products, and of course hashing out the next... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
I can name a half-dozen utilities that continue to struggle with data center market assessments. That's a broad term, but one key element is determining the existing load that data centers represent in a given utility service area. There is no question that making a qualified estimate can be done if a utility is willing to accept some reasonable uncertainty, and I will describe how I'd go about it in broad terms later. But one key element is to find the "known knowns" of the market - the large, stand-alone facilities that utilities can cull straight from an analysis of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 14, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
Of particular interest to utilities seeking to attract data center development in their service areas... I've noted announcements from several of the largest utility-scale data center operators (like Microsoft and Apple) indicating that their build-out strategy is increasingly aimed at expanding existing sites rather than seeking new locations. That's not great news for utilities looking to attract these facilities as part of their economic development activities. Now Data Center Dynamics reports that the outlook for the wholesale colocation market is decidedly mixed for the short term, with some apparent overcapacity. In something of an ironic twist, the report notes that... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
I'll be posting occasional "Tour" pieces that might be helpful for utility program managers and account reps who are interested in becoming more knowledgeable about the data center market. If you've been around the industry block for awhile, by all means ignore these! It's frankly pretty rare for data center operators to allow you to photograph their facilities, so I was really pleased to get these shots of a "cabinet colo" operator in California late last year. Although they didn't expressly prohibit me from naming them, let's leave them anonymous for now. (However, if you're looking for cabinet level colocation... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
Every quarter the Economist runs a special technology section that never fails to enchant, and the latest version in the November 30th, 2013 edition) didn't disappoint. A story entitled "Magnetic tape to the rescue" caught my eye, and if the purported trend to revive tape storage in the era of "big data" holds true, it may have some interesting impacts on data center energy use. First the article notes that the growth in stored data is marching at a much faster pace than the need for compute resources, doubling every two years. Compute growth has evidently slowed from a rate... Continue reading
Posted Jan 7, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
A bit of leftover news from last month, but this report in Data Center Dynamics reinforces the observation that some utility-scale data center developers are expanding existing sites rather than seeking new locations. In this case it is Microsoft announcing an expansion to their facility in Quincy WA, following an announced expansion in West Des Moines IA. The Quincy expansion is notable to me for two reasons. First, I had the impression that the available cheap power in Quincy (just over three cents per kWh) had been spoken for, because there hasn't been any data center development announcements for the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2014 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
I recently participated in an effort sponsored by the Bonneville Power Administration to identify leading energy efficiency program measures suitable for delivery to the server room and small data center market in the Pacific Northwest. The overall project umbrella is named the Energy Efficiency Emerging Technologies, or E3 program. The collaborative project was lead by the Wahington State University Extension Energy Program, pulling together a pretty heady roster of utility and industry participants. The process included an initial identification of around fifty energy efficiency measures, which were whittled down to ten or so. After presentations on each of the technologies,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2013 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
I love slogging through the weekly The Economist, even though I rarely make it through one before another arrives. You simply can't beat it for world affairs coverage, and the business and finance sections are awesome. So too is the science and technology coverage, though this report claiming that the USB cable will lead to the wholesale conversion of our building electrical systems to direct current is rather over the top. Of course in every report on DC power systems (certainly in the ones that appear from time to time about DC distribution in data centers) we have to refer... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2013 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
In my work with utilities who are trying to attract utility-scale data center development to their service area, I make it clear that power price is the ultimate differentiator, with availability/time to serve and options for clean power secondary criteria. The economic development representatives I've met with seem to grasp the concept pretty well, but when you test them for their power price "story", the tale is usually pretty hazy! Let's start with the answer to this question: "What is your power price for a multi-MW data center?". Most utilities I've worked with answer that question with "X.X cents per... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2013 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT
Bloom Energy gets the lions share of press coverage for fuel cell installations at data centers, but ClearEdge Power has moved from their traditional residential market base into DCs with new, larger units. ClearEdge noted the data center opportunity several years ago, but their fuel cell unit was perhaps too small to attract attention. At 5 kW in a package about the size of a rack, many units would need to be deployed to reach a scale worthy of consideration for a data center. Now ClearEdge has a 200 and 400 kW stack, and has installed the latter at First... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2013 at Mark Bramfitt - Utilities & IT