Sunset from Burbank CaliforniaAnother day of failed electrical equipment, diesel generators not starting, overheating in data centers, and water leaks.  All problems overcome, now it is time to take a break and recharge your mind for the challenges queuing up for tomorrow.

A drive down the ‘5 from Los Angeles, and 20 minutes later back in Burbank.  Burbank, home of half the world’s entertainment community, a regional airport, several major highways, and of course the Verdugu Mountains.

Of Course the Verdugu Mountains?

Los Angeles is unique.  Not a single city, but a hundred cities all clustered together in a social eco-system that provides cultural diversity unlike any other area in the world.  Each city has a different personality, each city has features making it attractive to whatever ethnic or cultural background you may come from.  From Long Beach, to Malibu, to Arcadia, and of course Burbank.

Of all the features Los Angeles offers, perhaps the most compelling for those with a high stress lifestyle is the ability to get out of the city, from virtually anyplace within the city.  You are never far away from the ocean, mountains, large parks, or the high desert.  In the case of Burbank, we have the Verdugu Mountains, with a web of several dozen miles of trails crossing a mountain range between Burbank City and the 210 Freeway.

The easiest way to get into the mountains is through trail gateways, either via Stough Park, or Wildwood Canyon.  Wildwood Canyon also has numerous picnic areas, in addition to hiking path entries directing hikers though a variety of ridges and valleys.  From the top of each ridge you will see a panoramic view of both the San Fernando Valley, as well as the skyline of downtown Los Angeles.

There is nothing quite like a sunrise or sunset from atop of any ridge peaks the Verdugus have to offer.  After a long day at the office, it is impossible to carry a grudge, frustration, or anger once you hit the top, and start to see the horizon rushing to meet the sun.

Fire Trails or Jogging Trails

wildwood canyonOf course Southern California is also known for epic wildfires.  To help the fire fighters limit damage to communities during fire season, most urban mountain areas also have fire roads carved into the hillsides.  Indeed, this tears up the landscape a bit, but it also provides miles of jogging and hiking trails in a protected environment.  No cars, trucks, motorcycles, or skateboards to annoy runners after a rough day at work.  Your only companions are deer, rabbits, coyote, red tail hawks, lizards, and an occasional snake.

Hikers are always welcome, and it is also a fact your human encounters are always friendly.  A couple words about the coyotes seen further up the trail, a word or two about the beauty of chaparral, or the sunset.  Of course the early bird runners can easily make the same statements on sunrises over the Los Angeles basin, but sunset is the best time of day in the Verdugus.  Peaceful, calm, and far away from the stresses of life.

But not too far, as the trails are near enough for runners starting from anyplace from anyplace east of the ‘5, and for drivers there is ample parking in the area for those coming from further out in the city.

Back Down the Hill

Another perfect run, another coyote sighting, a small snake, lots of rabbits, and I have forgotten everything thing I know about diesel generators, UPSs, automatic transfer switches, and computer room air conditioning.

Back home, and a message on Mr. Android.  “A customer is complaining his cabinet is over heating.  He has done everything right, including adding 2 inch spaces between all servers and alternating them intake/exhaust through the cabinet to ensure proper airflow and cooling.  What should we do?”

Sigh…

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2009 was a horrible year for job seekers, and even those holding on to existing jobs. No bonuses, no promotions, layoffs, and nobody hiring. And SoCal successfully beat most of the United States in unemployment claims, by several percentage points, attaching painful and empirical fact to the grim situation.

But that does appear to be changing. Slowly changing, but it is looking better for job seekers in the region. A recent scrape of job openings for Los Angeles and Orange Counties yielded some pretty strong job titles:

  • Director of Engineering – Marina Del Rey
  • Chief Integration Engineer – El Segundo
  • Director, information technology – San Clemente
  • VP Global Services – Los Angeles
  • Customer Services Director – El Segundo
  • Lead Systems Engineer – Los Angeles
  • Senior Industrial Director – Irvine
  • Smart GRID Architect – Rosemead
  • HL7 Integrator – Los Angeles
  • Disaster Recovery Manager – Irvine
  • Manager, Operations Systems – Van Nuys, CA
  • Systems Architecture Engineer – Huntington Beach, CA

And the list goes on… About 350 good positions listed in my 25 January search.

Tech Jobs are Out There in SoCalOne additional exciting trend in the job stack is the high number of positions in manufacturing industries. While the services market is great, manufacturing spawns input into the supply chain, which adds a lot of downstream value to those companies increasing or expanding their business operations.

Dust Off that Resume

The time is near, and technology-savvy job seekers will reap rewards if they are prepared for the next boom in business expansion. Cloud computing, unified messaging, IT operations, data center consolidation, process automation, green technologies – corporate jargon to some, but areas with increasing demand for qualified candidates.

Cloud computing and data center consolidation are quite interesting, admittedly because they are new and exciting trends in the IT community.

The Dot.Com era taught us painful lessons on the value of investment money. The venture community sat back after 2002 and made a decision to actually perform a bit of due-diligence prior to throwing money at PowerPoint companies and paper ideas. At least those which were not using private equity with large investments in real estate.

The Dot.OMG era is now just about at an end, and some of the lessons learned are focused on the execution of business plans and intelligent use of capital and operational expenses – while building business.

IT has gone from being a “darling” of the internet age, to a very powerful means of adding tremendous business value through globalization of markets, and real-time transaction processing to support the global economy and marketplace. The only problem was to support that IT engine, technical managers tried to solve their processing challenges by throwing more disk, processors, and bandwidth at their requirements.

The next age will be one where companies refocus their energy on developing their business, and begin to expect processing and IT to be more of a utility than an exceptional part of their business. Welcome to data center outsourcing, virtualization, cloud computing, and Software as a Service/SaaS. Recover the costs of expensive and inefficient data centers.

So those engineers and sales staff still hanging out in the Communicator’s Bar, get ready to get sized for your next retro-logo polo shirt. The time is now for those who can put their fantasy of re-entering the telecom community to deal in bilateral telephone minutes aside and get ready to support thought leadership strategies to bring customers into commercial data center outsourcing models – or go sell them on consolidating their in-house operations into enterprise clouds.

Look at the tech job listings again. Companies are begging for IT and tech visionary managers to solve their growth and development pain. Begging.

2010 is going to be a great year in SoCal, so let’s get out there and make sure it does not pass us by, and does not require our companies to go elsewhere to attract talent. We’ve got the talent right here, and we need to put it back to work.

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

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The headlines say it all… “Further commitment needed to break negotiation deadlock.” The rich nations vs. the poor nations. Industrialists vs. environmentalists. And at the end A Very Polluted Planetof the day, looking out over the Pacific Ocean towards Catalina Island from Long Beach, the dense brown sludge of polluted air is a constant reminder we are dumping horrifying amounts of human waste into the oceans and air.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says “world policymakers do not have to choose between a clean environment and economic growth.” Schwarzenegger believes people worried about climate change should pay more attention to companies, universities and “ordinary folks” and not put so much emphasis on a multinational consensus. (AP)

If you listen to the entrepreneurs and innovators in Silicon Valley, they would tend to agree with Governor Schwarzenegger. Green tech is becoming a big business, and, at least in California, you cannot discuss any new technology or construction project without at least some acknowledgement of environmental impact. Damn the politics, the investment community and innovator community is laying some serious right brain on developing environmentally friendly products and technology.

If you listen to the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leadership podcast series about half the speakers in the series focus on environmental opportunities and responsibilities. And the politics of green rarely find their way into the discussion. People inherently want to be responsible global citizens, developing a future that is both profitable, as well as friendly to the future of our planet.

The Politics of Copenhagen

As of Tuesday, United Nations negotiators have failed to agree on the financial aid that the US, Japan and other developed nations will give to the developing world to cope with climate change, Bloomberg reports, referring to a draft document. “The Copenhagen climate conference is in the grip of a serious deadlock,” the Guardian concludes in a feature.(COPS15)

Developing Nations Want Wealthy nations to Pay the Global Cleanup BillThe developing world believes wealthier nations are responsible and accountable for bearing the cost of reducing carbon emissions. In fact, the African delegation to COPS 15 walked out for a brief period to protest the reluctance of wealthier nations to accept financial burdens to assist African nations.

They may have a point. Africa generates a fraction of the carbon emissions spewed into the atmosphere by the United States, Europe, Russia, India, and China. If you do believe in the global warming and other environmental impacts of carbon emissions, then Africa may indeed be on a climate “death row” created by the wealthy nations. The UK publication “The Mirror” provided a couple interesting statistics just related to the Copenhagen Conference:

The Copenhagen climate talks will generate carbon emissions equivalent to the annual output of 660,000 Ethiopians or 2,300 Americans, Denmark revealed yesterday. Despite efforts to limit the impact of the conference , delegates, journalists, activists from almost 200 countries have gathered creating 46,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The climate has stimulated considerable debate on both the merits and demerits of climate change theory. One publication might offer the fact Vikings farmed in Greenland in ancient times, reinforcing global warming is a natural cycle the planet goes through every couple hundred years. Al Gore will argue the polar ice cap will be gone within a decade. Sarah Palin mocks the entire discussion, advising us that we should concentrate on drilling for more oil off the coast of California.

At the end of the day, it is becoming very clear the ultimate agenda of climate change discussion comes back to money. Money to advance economies, money to pay for building an environmentally friendly world, money to go towards more immediate problems – such as clean water, HIV, and malaria.

Most Scientists Agree the Planet is in Trouble

It is hard to ignore the fact glaciers are shrinking, water levels are rising, storms in the pacific and other locations are becoming more violent, and desertification is encroaching The Industrial World Creates Carbonfurther into the grasslands and forested areas than ever before. Politicians and industrialists may argue that a rise of one or two degrees (cel) in ocean temperatures is not a big problem. “Who cares,… it’s just a couple degrees.”

Scientists are concerned with the short, mid, and long term impacts of global warming. Less water in the continental interiors means less food. Less food means more competition for food and other life sustaining resources.

Like the Internet, Innovation will Occur, in Spite of the Politicians

During the late 1980s and early 1990s the Internet grew fast. Like Facebook and Twitter, it is hard to keep a good idea suppressed for too long. While the government supported initial development of Internet technologies, it was ultimately the universities and innovators who built the world’s network-of-networks – in spite of governments spending most of their time worrying about telephone and cable deregulation. When they woke up from the hangover of the national monopoly telecom carrier meltdown, the Internet was already making the old telephony network irrelevant.

So let the politicians debate. It is good, because if nothing else, it does add visibility and awareness to the topic. Regardless of the pros or cons of the debate, over the past couple years every American has been exposed to the topic of energy and environmental awareness. We are all forming opinions, and we all have some level of basis for discussion. And we all know it is better to use good discipline in our energy consumption. All baby steps, but good baby steps towards individual accountability in protecting our environment (and saving money!).

Copenhagen will conclude their summit on Friday. The debate will continue. Innovators will keep their sleeves rolled up, and with luck will continue to develop better ideas and visions of a greener future.

“The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Internet Inventions, Bob is a true Silicon Valley entrepreneur, raconteur and original. Bob has combined his technical ingenuity, entrepreneurial ability and team building skills to found successful companies time and again over the past 20 years.” (Silicon Valley Business Television)

Bob Evans always has ideas. Ideas to make his work, and the work of others, more useful and efficient, as well as easier. We first met Bob when he asked if it was “OK” he develop a route server for our young Internet Exchange Point (Any2 Exchange), which would allow the small to medium Internet access and content provider community to find Internet peering easier, and help with introductions within the community that would make Internet interconnections a utility – rather than a high priced value-added service. That little utility now drives one of the largest Internet Exchange Points in the world.

We met Bob this week as he was giving a data center tour and professional advice to a delegation from Ramallah, which came to Bob for mentoring based on his extensive background in all things network and Internet.

For the entire audio interview – click HERE

Pacific-Tier: Bob, please tell us a little about yourself, your background, and how you got into this business.

Bob Evans: Well, it was a long time ago, when there was no world wide web. I ran one of the first Veronica Gopher servers. I was teaching grandmothers how to do email, so they could email their kids in college.

At that time colleges had the first ARP connections, TCP/IP started working right, and that was way back when… That’s how I got started.

I’ve got a high school education, dropped out of college, so generally every time I start a business and build it up, sell it to somebody with lots of money and VCs, they (eventually) ask me to leave because I don’t have a degree. Then they usually do quite well. I’ve been doing this a long time.

But when I started the Fiber Internet Center, what happened was, people kind of thought I was crazy, because I had just had a very successful, one of the first cable modem companies in the US, and by starting the Fiber Internet Center/FIC at a time when the “Dot Bomb” occurred everybody thought, you know, “how are you going to make a living doing that?”

The real key was making the deals. Because all of the (network) providers, and the people with fiber and stuff like that, didn’t really have a lot of customers. So, they were willing to listen to me and cut me some deals. So that’s how I got started with the Fiber Internet Center.

Pacific-Tier: Tell us a little about the FIC. What is the vision, or what is the mission of FIC?

Bob Evans: Well. Its primarily,… like you find colo (colocation) facilities that are “carrier neutral,…” I like to look at us as a network company that is carrier neutral. Although we do sell circuits and services like IP transit (Internet network access), it is kind of a necessary evil, because we only have about 8 or 9 other ISPs (Internet Service Providers) currently serving our market.

So they use our network in the market place to service their customers. So we’ll build a network within our network to service other companies.

Pacific-Tier: So the FIC is present in Northern California, the San Francisco, San Jose, the bay area, as well as Los Angeles. What value does the FIC, or a company like the FIC bring to a market like California that is not available through another carrier like Level 3, an XO Communications, an AT&T, or that scale of carrier?

Bob Evans: Well, most of those companies will go ahead and install their circuit in the basement of a building, or in the MPOE (main point of entry), and then only allow you to use their IP (Internet network access).

For example, Level 3 isn’t about to go ahead and market the fact that I could have VLANs in that building like I would have and connect them to ISPs. That’s the real advantage. A customer could buy a circuit from us, then they can buy Internet transit from us too, then they’ll turn around and say “gee, you are over at the PAIX (Palo Alto Internet Exchange), over at places like Market Post Tower, One Wilshire and everything,…”

Then they’ll say “there’s this other company we’re working with, and we’d like a connection direct to their office. They’re using Cogent bandwidth (or something like that), could you make that come in here on another port?”

And we’ll do it. Most (other) companies will say “no.” But that’s actually part of our business strategy.

Pacific-Tier: Well, that’s a great utility, for both the enterprises and other carriers within your area. Where does the FIC go from here? What is in the future of FIC?

Bob Evans: Lately it’s become one of the discovery that most of these business now feel a critical need to not have their mail server, or other types of critical databases remain on their campus. Or they want to have a backup of it someplace else. So we’re now creating a service in other data centers where you get a circuit from us, then we’ll give you another port that gives you a layer 2 connection back to your rack or your server in those facilities, or one of our facilities.

This gives you the added benefit of having your own private network to the back side of your server, then it gives you the advantage of maybe having your server connected to other Internet providers in one of those other colo facilities, or maybe you could even carry that Internet back to your place and have two Internet providers.

So I think the advantage is, if you get a circuit from us you get the flexibility.

Pacific-Tier: Well that’s great. I think it is a great utility for the community. The final question is, you’re an entrepreneur, in tough economic times, with lots of graduates hitting the street, what advice do you have for people who are considering starting their own companies, or emerging entrepreneurs?

Bob Evans: Well, that’s a very good question.

During bad economic time I always find that not to discourage me, and I wouldn’t let anybody discourage them either. The reason is because in the midst of chaos, there’s usually always opportunity. And as soon as you explain that opportunity to somebody else who’s got money or can help you, or needs a service that you have, it’s actually easier to make business deals.

Pacific-Tier: That’s great advice.

Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to visit the FIC again, and thanks for your time.

Bob Evans: You’re welcome – thank you

“If everyone purchasing a room air conditioner in 2009 chooses an ENERGY STAR qualified model, it would save 390 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. That would prevent more than 600 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year—equivalent to taking more than 50,000 cars off the road—and save consumers over $43 million each year in energy bills.” (Pickens Plan Fact of the Day, 8 Oct 09)

California has always prided itself as being a leader in alternative energy innovation. Driving through the hills around Livermore, Palm Springs, or between San Diego and Yuma bring skylines full of wind turbines. The California Energy Commission claims that wind Solar Panels for Californiaturbines generated 6,802 gigawatt-hours of electricity – about 2.3 percent of the state’s gross system power. By the end of 2009 California actually expects to hit nearly 5% energy production from renewable sources.

While the wind turbine program has slowed down a bit due to animal rights groups objecting to bird casualties due to propeller strikes, California has not slowed down at all in the state’s aggressive goals for green energy production. While it is probably a bit too aggressive, California’s Energy Commission has set a goal of hitting 20% by the end of 2010 (Senate Bill 107), and 33% by the end of 2020 (Executive Order S-14-08).

The US Congress is shooting for 20% renewable energy production nationwide by 2010 – a far lower threshold than desired in California.

Energy Programs and Incentives in California

Each state has some level of renewable energy initiative supporting energy efficient homes. California’s program falls under the “The California Energy Commission’s New Solar Homes Partnership” (NSHP). This is a great resource not only for existing home owners in California, but also those persons planning to build new structures. The objectives of NSHP’s program include:

In the Home

A solar home with high energy-efficiency features offers homeowners:

  • Clean, renewable energy
  • Utility bill savings
  • Predictable utility costs
  • Protection against future rising electricity costs

California is also offering financial incentives to homebuilders to design energy efficiency and the potential of renewable energy planning into the new home. Solar energy “is one of the most significant personal actions one can take to cut air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, while helping to conserve precious energy resources for future generations. Plus, it reduces the need for costly new power plants” according to the NSHP.

All California homeowners implementing solar panels in their homes also qualify for the federal tax credits up to $2000.

An unscientific jog around the Sunset Canyon Drive area of Burbank on 17 Oct 2009 tallied around 1 of every 5 homes observed supporting some level of solar panel on the property, visible from street level. Using guidelines from the National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL) you will see the average family in the Los Angeles area will save nearly $714 a year with solar panels supplementing their electrical supply.

For us apartment and condo-dwellers, that could almost pay 100% of our energy requirement during normal conditions, if we have a means of storing energy during evening hours and period of bad weather.

Don’t forget our earlier discussions on other simple things such as painting your rooftop white, or using solar reflective material on your roof to reduce the amount of heat in your home during the summer. By the way… you also get a one-time energy credit for that simple task.

“More than 50% of the energy used in a typical American home is for space heating and cooling. Much of that conditioned air escapes through poorly sealed, under-insulated attics. Only 20% of homes built before 1980 are well insulated.  Properly sealing and insulating your attic can save you up to 10% annually on energy bills.” (Pickens Plan Fact of the Day7 Oct 2009)

In Commercial Sites

Companies such as the Bank of America (in Riverside, California) have built their facility with solar covering the entire rooftop of the building. Not only do they enjoy a tremendous savings in energy costs, but with a commercial property the BoA will receive a 30% federal construction tax credit, accelerated equipment depreciation, and additional financing support to help defray the cost of installing renewable energy resources.

California will tack on an additional incentive of $1.90 per watt up to a 1Megawatt solar panel system.

All focused on getting us to that 20% milestone in 2010, and the world-leading 33% renewable energy target for 2020.

Some Resources to Look at During Energy Awareness Month (October)

The State of California, California’s energy utilities, and the US Department of Energy have great resources to guide us in meeting our energy awareness and energy planning goals. Here is a partial list, but a great start. The Internet and Google searches will help lead you further.

  • The California Energy Commission Home
  • California Renewable Energy Handbook
  • Go Solar California Home
  • California Solar Initiative
  • SoCal Edison solar initiative website
  • PG&E solar initiative website
  • State of California CSI rebate calculator
  • US Department of Energy Solar Initiatives
  • The Pickens Plan

What Are You Doing?

Share your energy stories with us. What has worked for you? What has failed? Are you an alternative and reneable energy skeptic like Texas’ Governor Rick Perry? Are you an energy leader? Let us know.

John Savageau, Long Beach