Examining Sustainability Practices in Data Centers with Schneider Electric’s John Tuccillo

August 16, 2013

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so excited to have on with us right now John Tuccillo. He’s the Vice President of Global Industry in Government Alliances at Schneider Electric and also the Chairman of the Board of the Green Grid. Welcome to Green is Good, John Tuccillo. JOHN TUCCILLO: Hey! Thanks, John. I’m really happy to be here. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Oh, we are so honored to have you back on. We’ve had Schneider on before, but now you’re going to come and speak on Schneider’s behalf, but you’re also going to do something special — speak about also the Green Grid, which we’ve never had on the show before, so it’s such a great day to have Schneider represented and the Green Grid but before we get to those great organizations that you represent, you’ve got one of the most interesting journeys and biographies to share because any other human being, any other mortal would just wear one hat. Being Vice President at Schneider’s is no small potatoes, and being a Green Grid is no small potatoes either. How did you even get here? Talk a little bit for our listeners. What led up to this wonderful journey you’re on and how did you end up in these two great positions? JOHN TUCCILLO: Sure, a little bit anyway so I’ve always been in the IT industry, about 30 years of being in IT, everything from components and what we used to call the popcorn chip to services, manufacturing, systems, pretty much the whole gamut, and I joined Schneider Electric about 2006 here at the IT business unit at Schneider Electric with the purpose of really establishing a global functional office around how do we work best collaboratively with industry organizations around the world, standards bodies around the world, government, since they’re increasingly focused and looking for support around energy management issues, so it’s really a very collaborative function where we get to work with some really just amazing people around the world, so our interest here was to provide as much support around these activities as we can. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow, that is just great. So, you know, talk a little bit about I know in both of the hats you wear, the issue is around data centers and energy and the status of data centers because this is a hot topic now. Talk a little bit about what’s going on and educate our listeners a little bit about what this all means. JOHN TUCCILLO: Sure, glad to do it. That is also fundamentally why the Green Grid was created back in 2007. When you look at the rapid acceleration of the digital economy, data centers are really that heart, if you will. They’re the engine that powers the digital economy and it does so across all of the economies around the world, whether you are what they call the mature economies, where you’re looking to increase productivity, are you a developing economy where you’re looking to extend the reach and serviceability to your population? It really has become that enabler, which has accelerated economies across, jeepers, every industry sector, every government around the world, and it really has become that digital economy hub, if you will. JOHN SHEGERIAN: If it was a car, it would be the engine of the car? JOHN TUCCILLO: That’s a good way to look at it. If the digital economy is the car, the data center is the engine. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, are we, the U.S., leading the way on this, or is it another country leading the way? Talk a little bit about data centers in our country versus other countries. JOHN TUCCILLO: Sure. I don’t think I can point to any one country as leading the way per se. I think what’s happening, and it’s really happening on a global level, is that every economy is recognizing that by increasing its service models, increasing its productivity, it becomes reliant upon that data center, so in the United States, for example, which you can categorize as one of your mature economies, data centers are being employed to dramatically increase productivity and I can go through any host of industry sectors where this is happening. This is also happening in some of the material economies in the EU, in Asia, but also, when you look at some of the more developing economies, the developing economies are looking at the data center as a way to essentially leapfrog their service models that they can provide their populations, whether it be for connectivity, for health and human services, is it in terms of connectivity and accessibility to information, social networking, sharing ideas. Data centers are also the hub for what you could kind of call the promise of the smart grid, right? To be able to increase the manageability or establish a new community, it’s really how is it that data is going to help accelerate that increased serviceability to the people there? JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s so fascinating. So now, are data centers stuff that’s sort of behind the scenes? Are they these huge windowless buildings that we never get to see or are they becoming part of our fabric of general business now? Because you’re in the middle of it. I’m not. I just don’t ever get to see them. Talk a little bit about geographly; where are they and are they unseen or to be seen? JOHN TUCCILLO: You’re reminding me a little bit of that famous quote from The Wizard of Oz: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” but you’re right. It’s both. It’s a part of the fabric of pretty much every economy, every business. They are typically very large. Well, actually, it depends. They’re buildings that typically wouldn’t have windows, to use your analogy, but essentially, here’s what happens in a data center: Data centers are essentially facilities, whether it be a dedicated data center, a large building, is it a smaller data center, which could be a dedicated room in a multipurpose building but essentially what happens there is this is where all of the IT connects and is processed so let me give you an example. If you were to use your smart phone and an application on your smart phone to be able to do pretty much anything from email to sharing pictures to texting or maybe you’re using it to transmit a new presentation, maybe a document which is the script for your next radio broadcast, all of this stuff is being sent through a network, whether it be wireless or wired, to a data center where that information is processed on a server or a bank of servers, computers, that is then back-ended and stored in a storage repository for access. Say, John, you needed to get to that file again later, and then sent on to whomever you sent it to so that creates this engine, if you will, that makes the digital economy happen, whether it’s in a personal application such as the one I used just now for your smart phone. Is it in a local business? Imagine your small local mom and pop or dentist’s office. Why don’t you use that as an example? Your small dentist office, how many dentist offices now are using digital X-ray equipment as opposed to the old traditional bite the batwing and here’s your film process? JOHN SHEGERIAN: You’re right. JOHN TUCCILLO: Or, look at your local clinic or hospital. Most hospitals today have moved on to digital medical records or they’re exchanging in live fashion, consulting with other peers in their profession from around the world on a particular clinical treatment of a singular patient. All that happens in a data center. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Interesting. Okay, so that makes sense so when I had guests on from big companies like Yahoo and other big companies that are making their companies now more sustainable, when they’ve mentioned their data centers, they’re talking about to us, they’re talking about to our listeners energy efficiency. Bring in now what you do at Green Grid with this whole issue of energy efficiency and data centers. Explain to us how this now has all accelerated and the interaction and what you’re doing at Green Grid with regards to energy efficiency, IT and data centers across the world. JOHN TUCCILLO: Sure thing. Actually, you kind of named some of our members just now so I’ll give you an example. Really, the function of the Green Grid is to become a global authority on resource efficient IT and data centers. We do that working very collaboratively, very transparently around the globe on providing metrics; how do you quantify, methods; what is a reasonable approach to quantifying, tools and best practices; online tools, educational forums. It’s really the entire IT ecosystem has come together under the Green Grid globally to be able to work together in methods and I use the expression to essentially leapfrog ourselves as an industry. How is it that we can be stronger and more innovative together than apart and that’s really what the Green Grid was founded to do. Today, the membership of the Green Grid is more than 200 companies around the world, more than 4,000 people who are actively participating and what they do is they come together to not only challenge each other on ideas, but then collaborate on how to accelerate the ideas that really can have the greatest impact for the industry on a global basis, build it out, advocate for it so by the time you see something coming out of the Green Grid, you can be really confident that you have an industry’s consensus around this is the best idea for X; whatever that particular body of work is, and that we support it. This is over 300 bodies of work and produced by the Green Grid since it was launched and it’s tens of thousands of downloads and people using the information to make improvements in their own data centers today. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, for our listeners out there, I just want to mention we’re so excited. We’ve got John Tuccillo on. He’s talking about the Green Grid and all the issues that surround IT and data centers and energy efficiency and I’ve been on the site, TheGreenGrid.org. It’s a great website. It’s a great resource. Please go to it and see more of the great work John’s doing. John, so basically — JOHN TUCCILLO: It’s not just me, John. There’s a lot of people working on this. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s what I’m saying. This is like an amazing think tank of the best and the brightest of data centers across the world. JOHN TUCCILLO: Well, it’s not just the data centers and that’s an important distinction. So, The Green Grid today isn’t just purely made up of the people who design, build and use data centers. It’s really become a much more broader community, or as I like to call it, that community of collaboration so we certainly do have the IT vendors in there so we’ve got folks that come from the biggest IT hardware vendors in the world, all names and brands you’d know. Facility vendors are there. Government bodies are there, Utilities are there. Academia is there and individual people who have a passion and an interest to help accelerate the values of resource efficiency are there. Today, more than 37% of the membership are people who use data center services, so it really is a healthy cross-section of like-minded individuals. Again, more than 200 companies, more than 4,000 people who are working in a very visible transparent process to accelerate these resource efficiencies. JOHN SHEGERIAN: John, we’re down to, unfortunately, about three minutes or so. A couple questions: How does the cloud interact with the future of The Green Grid? JOHN TUCCILLO: Well, it’s an interesting question, right? You hear all the time that folks are saying well, the great solution is the cloud. Well, maybe and maybe not. If you look at what The Green Grid advocates for, what the things are we push, you’ve probably heard of some of the metrics like PUE or WUE or CUE and these are all ways to start to quantify. You’ve probably also heard of the Data Center Maturity Model, which is the online resource to be able to quantify your relative maturity and then compare yourself to peers around the world, but for all of these great resources and tools, if it’s an underutilized resource, you’re still not really taking advantage of those opportunities, so think of the cloud for a moment. If you’re in the cloud, what is the cloud? The cloud is essentially a way to be able to offload your IT services to another data center some place. It’s just not in your back yard. If that cloud data center or that cloud deployment is underutilized, you really haven’t done much to increase your IT enabled productivity or improved your overall environmental sustainability or the impact environmentally on your productivity, so a good friend of mine from Microsoft likes to use the phrase, “If you are not fully utilizing your IT infrastructure even in a virtualized application, you could have underutilized VMs as much as you probably had previously underutilized physical servers,” and what that means is that if your cloud-deployed data center is underutilized, you’re probably not achieving even the benefits you could have there so the cornerstone is how is it that we could have increased utilization of all of our assets, thereby increasing their productivity, reducing the impact on the environment, and then creating greater values for society on those increased services that we can enable? JOHN SHEGERIAN: Gotcha. Give our listeners the benefits of joining The Green Grid before we have to walk out. We’re about a minute-and-a-half out here. Benefits of joining The Green Grid and for our listeners out there, TheGreenGrid.org. How do we join and why should we join? JOHN TUCCILLO: Contact The Green Grid through the website to join. What’s the value of it. There’s values for the person. There’s values for the company. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Thank you, John. TheGreenGrid.org. John Tuccillo, you’re a wonderful sustainability leader and truly living proof that green is good. JOHN TUCCILLO: Thanks, John. Good to speak with you again.