Friday, January 31, 2014

A Soccer Field on the Data Center, Chickens in the Parking Lot - in Northern Virginia





Following the initial planning and construction phases, the presence and benefits of operating Data Centers in Northern Virginia seem currently limited, or perhaps simply not well-known, in terms of local, positive community visibility and impact (beyond direct revenue via commercial taxes and the indirect boost to community bond ratings and real estate values).

Are Data Centers good neighbors, active and involved in the business and social fabric of the region – or can they be? What's the indirect, community ROI for these massive boxes without windows along the Greenway – the kind of ROI that both benefits and relies on the entire community?

Questions are being raised more frequently – and starting to be addressed – here and around the world like the following:

1. Will the Centers continue growing (due to data processing demands), or will they shrink (due to new technologies that drive data center infrastructure consolidation and performance optimization and smarter or more distributed data use)?

2. What if a Center is underutilized, goes out of business, or demand for this area simply dries up in favor of much cheaper investment prospects – are there other uses for this kind of facility?

3. Are Data Centers good neighbors, how noisy or wasteful are they really, and do they really hire locally?

4. How are the Data Centers connected to our growing need for STEM initiatives, do they offer Internships?

5. What benefit is there for Data Center IT services, for local businesses – why not host my IT in Texas?

6. What kind of local goods and services can a Data Center continue to use, or generate demand for (after construction)?

7. Does this concentration of sensitive, valuable information pose a physical, critical infrastructure security threat to my community?

8. Can we put a soccer field (with heated turf) on top of a Data Center?

9. Where exactly is “DC's Technology Corridor"?



The presence of Data Centers in this area is no doubt an extremely beneficial element of the entire region's economic development and sustainability progress – particularly as they continue to be built. And, it's very good to be in the Data Center business right now. This is backed by the increasing tax revenues, land values, and increasing visibility and presence of this region on the world stage (further compounded by the proximity to Dulles Airport, and the Metro Silver Line under construction). The increase of assessed value of the county improves the bonding capacity of the county for local school projects. The technologically-advanced planning and construction have driven significant downstream projects to upgrade the electricity distribution, generation and water infrastructure, which we all benefit from, and become catalysts for additional telecommunication investments. They assist in the advancement of new industry initiatives, for the region, maintaining or increasing the local competitiveness and attractiveness of the region, to the benefit of all businesses.



They become (and currently are) an attractant for other data centers, service providers and a well-educated workforce, a magnet, the "cool factor", a "symbol of transformation", generating tons of political capital and psychological benefit – which tends to be very desirable and valuable in this area near Washington DC.

Every community needs a Data Center, it seems.

Are the benefits truly sustainable though, or more fleeting? How can the industry segment as a whole leverage their assets to drive or create additional local business opportunities and spending? How can these physical IT clusters compound potential economic growth?

In researching this article, it seems that calculations of indirect benefits & revenue impacts, economic multiplier effects, recycling of local spending statistics, ancillary business growth trends, economic activity metrics – the available examples and reports are all mostly model-based, without granular, experiential traceability to specific, physical community locations or segments. In other words, the direct and indirect benefits of a Data Center (beyond the various tax revenues), current and forecasted, for the communities immediately proximate to it – are not well and publicly documented, if at all.

Why should this be important, to both the Data Center community and those around it? Why should we be discussing this at all, now? Would this heresy not be construed as "biting the hand that feeds it"?

Improving and extending this important and valuable presence over the long haul is an enabler of dual business objectives, for the Data Centers – (A) to mitigate long-term business risks, and (B) to identify and exploit business opportunities. A significant increase in public, online, localized dialogue and information-sharing by the Data Centers, leveraging their information assets and community relationships, would be a very positive and productive investment in the local community that also supports these business objectives. (Note that this argument applies to any community with significant Data Center facilities investment – though Northern Virginia is a particularly large, influential and quickly-growing example.)

How exactly would additional direct and indirect benefits be generated by the presence and activities of a local Data Center?

The presence of a large data center business (DC) in a local or regional community (like Ashburn, or more broadly, Northern Virginia) includes a complex set of identities to manage and steward.

Why must these identities be properly managed?

1. Risk - To manage business, geo-political and environmental risks
2. Growth - To grow the business within its local communities
3. Sustainment - To sustain the business within its local communities

What "identities" are we addressing?

Generally Well-known Identities – these are the aspects of most Northern Virginia Data Centers that local industry and public communities typically see and interact with, i.e. the Data Center as:

1. A local employer
2. A source of local, public or industry segment resources – primarily tax revenue, or in-kind, directed contributions/donations (i.e. non-profit hosting services)
3. A user/purchaser of local resources, from facility supplies, energy and materials to IT equipment and services
4. A producer of physical community impact, from waste and pollution to space and frontage aesthetics
5. A participant in local government planning and operations – from energy and land use policy to economic development and homeland security
6. A physically-visible/accessible business/storefront/group of employees, customers & vendor partners (i.e. events, in-person groups, speakers, etc.)
7. A hidden/secure/protected business/group of employees, customers & vendor partners

Generally Unknown Identities – these are the aspect of most Northern Virginia Data Centers that are not usually well-known to the local industry and public communities, i.e. the Data Center as:
8. A local workforce development, education and training resource
9. A virtually present, accessible and locally-tagged business/storefront/group of employees, customers & vendor partners (i.e. online presence, groups, events, communities, advertising)
10. A local container of rapidly-depreciated physical assets
11. A container of protected and/or reusable information assets with local relevance, usefulness

As an opinion, most corporate members of the local Northern Virginia data center community can and should more comprehensively, locally and aggressively manage their full profile of identities, particularly the "Generally Unknown Identities", to maximize their business benefits, their community ROI. Some are already doing so.

How can they do this, what ideas are out there?

Here and there around the world, some examples are evolving of direct and indirect benefits that Data Centers generate for their immediate and virtual communities - most are more effectively instituted where the Data Center is in an urban or suburban area (like Northern Virginia).

Here are some more local ideas for this particular community of Data Centers to consider, some fairly quixotic, some not so much:
  1. Offer regular tours, tech day overviews - not only for industry groups, but schools and Universities – physical and virtual
  2. Internships, and perhaps guest lectures & tech transfer initiatives (regarding things like energy management, networking optimization, data security), aligned with local STEM or technology certification initiatives (or create one!)
  3. Offer opportunities for local product and service companies, perhaps set-asides for smaller or locale-identified disadvantaged businesses
  4. Parking Lot Farmer's Market
  5. Ways to reuse excess heat - perhaps distribute hot water close by - to things like car washes, swimming pools, greenhouses, chicken incubators? (See Farmer's Market, above)
  6. Build a soccer field(s) on the roof - with an external pedestrian access bridge, and heated turf (grass requiring water and roots don't seem appropriate over loads of electrical equipment).
  7. Excess, underutilized or recovered computing & storage resources, perhaps also software licensing, set-aside and managed free or very low cost for local businesses, nonprofits and startups - the community data center, free "cold" or "warm" backup for local data.
  8. Contribution of marketing and advertising assets (i.e. their websites, channels, ad buys) to the local economic development and/or nonprofits to help promote more of the social and business fabric of the area
  9. Anonymize, privatize, redact as necessary - but surface datasets and raw metadata concerning the Data Center's computing operations, software utilization, storage and HVAC trends - for use by local business or government interests - particularly those that might develop more effective, better-performing solutions for the Data Centers to use or adopt.
  10. More inside space set aside for local public use, business incubation, school projects or clubs, etc., perhaps also co-located tech users, like call centers.
  11. Competition or "leagues" among the datacenters, their staff, stakeholders and supporters - and not only softball or community service activities, but online virtual gaming, fund-raising, segmented research or problem-solving (addressing community needs).
  12. Host a community-centric competition or forum (all together, perhaps moderated by an organization such as the NVTC , to solicit ideas for community collaboration and benefit.
What other ideas exist, or can be proposed, for ways in which our local Data Center investments and facilities can generate truly sustained community value? It's time now for this discussion, these ideas. Here's a good discussion forum for Northern Virginia Data Centers.

By

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Day in the Life of an SEO'd Blog Article, from the Local Washington DC SEO Provider's Perspective

Hmmm...I think Blogs are good for SEO...

A.    The SEO customer SAYS: "I'll write a Blog article, you SEO it, and we'll post it as part of our online marketing!"

B.    The SEO customer THINKS: "I'll quickly write a fun, helpful blog entry (or get a Guest Blogger!), and my SEO person will highlight it and tag it with some keywords – and the SEO will be done!  This sounds pretty quick and easy, actually, so maybe I'll just get an Intern or check out "SEO 101" for next time…."



C.    The SEO Provider SAYS: "No problem, let's agree on the topic, you put together some initial ideas about the content, and we'll get it all SEO'd!"

D.    The SEO Provider THINKS:

"As part of our SEO agreement, we'll walk through the standard process with one of our experts, and our customer will get the very best results from their investment with us….this is what we'll do, and what we'll communicate with the customer, in a professional way they can readily understand and value...

The DC SEO Process: 
(at least from KME Internet Marketing's perspective!)

1.    Plan (Manager + Specialist): Evaluate the requirement, customer relationship/status and stage/scope/budget of the marketing campaign.

2.    Prepare (Manager + Specialist): Align and assign the right SEO resource (with access and tools) to deliver the requirements within estimated schedule & budget - sufficiently skilled in the applicable facets of an SEO delivery, the Provider's proprietary data/process/software assets, as well as the customer business, technical and Washington DC geo-political media domain (online AND offline).

3.    Deliver (Specialist): Execute a cycle of "SEO Content Marketing", leveraging interactive marketing experience, content production & SEO skill, and campaign knowledge – coordinating and communicating with others on the campaign team (customer and KME) as appropriate.

The general lifecycle elements usually include some degree of:

a.    Research Domain, Topic, Locality, and Competitor Keywords/Semantics
b.    Access and Configure Content Management/Analytics platform
c.    Collect, Aggregate, Curate Reusable or Attributable Content (text, links, media, meta)
d.    Rewrite/Edit Content Draft (copywriting, design, placement, references, visuals - evaluate "Guest Blogger" content for true SEO value/authority)
e.    SEO Content (visible, hidden or "meta", and supporting or "corollary" content, SW code or Blog/Website design updates)
f.    Review, Test, Update Content (as necessary)
g.    Plan, Stage, Gain Approval for On and Offsite Content Publishing, Distribution & Amplification
h.    Publish Content (on Blog)
i.    Distribute, Share, Promote, Amplify Content, Extracts, Derivations (as necessary)
4.    Recover (Manager + Specialist): Review and report on Content Publishing success; Analyze and Report Impact; Reset or Continue Content Marketing lifecycle as necessary (i.e. with new content, related/associated content, or follow-up messaging)."

E.    The SEO customer THINKS: (After the process is started) "OK, there's obviously a lot more to this SEO exercise, so long as it really works(though it does sound more complex than it needs to be) – I'll probably need to let the professionals do what they do, or "let the doctor operate"… so to speak".

F.     The SEO customer (hopefully) SAYS: "OK, let's get on with it, see the results, and post another Blog article as soon as possible.  And talk more about all the other online marketing activities we should be coordinating, like our mobile presence."

Friday, January 17, 2014

Northern Virginia Enterprise Architects - NVTC.org B&EA Committee - EA and Startups in Northern Virginia & Loudoun County

(Reposted from the NVTC B&EA LinkedIn Group for Members)

Thanks so much to the attendees of the recent NVTC.org Business and Enterprise Architecture Committee meeting, with guest star Filippo Morelli (of the 9Starts Loudoun Tech Startup group, plus Chris, Ted and Tom from the Loudoun County Startup Community) discussing the intersection of Enterprise Architecture and the Northern Virginia startup community.

We're making progress also with our new  and improved "Committee Marketing Value Enablers" - i.e.:

  • Committee Hashtag #NVTCBEA for dialogue/searchability across Facebook, G+ and Twitter.
  • Live Tweeting (from @Loudoun/#NVTCBEA) for dialogue exposure and sharing - TweetReach reporting over 40,000 "impressions" of these tweets!
  • Search Engine Optimized (SEO'd) event notice and follow-up for topic sharing and findability, as well as committee member link-juice and online impression benefit.
  • Continuing Online Dialogue and Information Sharing about Northern Virgina Business & Enterprise Architecture topics, via this LinkedIn Group (and email!) - plus amplification of the content into non-member public channels to help build and inform the broader community of interest.
  • Event Notification via multiple NVTC and other committee member SoMe channels.

The point is, this is THE Northern Virginia Enterprise Technology Community to join, with the highest ROI, to network and engage in online and in-person professional dialogue about the critical IT Investment, Strategic Architecture, and Enterprise Technology concerns facing you, your employer, your business, customers and partners.

This committee is for CIOs, CTOs, Chief Engeineers/Architects, Technology Strategists, Enterprise/System/Solution Architects - essentially those making or seeking critical decisions regarding investing in technology for business or mission value.  Or learning how to make these decisions, how to find the right answers. Plus, exchange online contact info, not just pretty (and sometimes really small) business cards!

This community is not only for large businesses and governments - as we discussed in this past meeting, it's clear that small businesses and startups absolutely benefit from application of EA methods and experience in their technology leadership.  Here are some of the messages, tweeted (and retweeted/favorited!) via @loudoun #NVTCBEA:

  1. RT @loudoun: http://NVTC.org members - check out tomorrow's Enterprise Arch for Startups: 7:30-9AM at CIT w/B&EA committee - follow …
  2. RT @loudoun: #NVTCBEA EAs, to engage w/startup community - don't sell the "EA" title, own and solve an IT capability problem, decision-maki…
  3. today's #NVTCBEA - “@loudoun:EA experience, background is essential for Startups selling into large organizations, enterprise capabilities”
  4. Great meeting at the #nvtcbea today
  5. #NVTCBEA EAs too often solve the "technology" problem, instead of the "business relevancy" problem - which is key to startup sales/success
  6. #NVTCBEA Most product companies don't have vertical arch. segments, but simply "Sr. Technologists" - Never seen "EA" job desc. in startup
  7. #NVTCBEA 20-somethings - They don't know what doesn't work yet, especially with large IT challenges, platforms - EA experience inc. failures
  8. #NVTCBEA "tour of duty" as EA/Solution Architect is invaluable for Startups selling INTO large enterprises - exp. w/risk, org., IT investing
  9. #NVTCBEA EAs shouldn't write checks others have to cash, should eat their own dogfood, should produce output not only on paper
  10. #NVTCBEA EA experience, background is essential for Startups selling into large organizations, enterprise capabilities
  11. #NVTCBEA per Filiippo - EA is "Enterprise Warfare" - moving ideas forward, avoiding selling a vision no one wants to buy #EA #NVTC
  12. #NVTC #NVTCBEA committee meeting underway, discussing IT Strategy/EA for the startup/small biz community
  13. RT @loudoun: http://NVTC.org members - check out tomorrow's Enterprise Arch for Startups: 7:30-9AM at CIT w/B&EA committee - follow …

Thanks particularly to our most enthusiastic, engaged Northern Virginia Biz & EA committee members and guests - contact these folks and this committee for counsel and assistance with your EA profession questions and strategic IT challenges for Northern Virginia enterprises or startups: