Datacenterknowledge.com, datacenters are the future of the Internet

On HostingTalk.it often we talk about datacenters, in recent years these "carriers" of the web are been able to earn their own space in the information technology, modern datacenters are the future of the network, and the technologies used in them are crucial because they can overcome all the challenges of a continuing growth in terms of numbers. Today on pages of HostingTalk.it we are pleased to welcome Rich Miller , IT journalist, which after a long career of twenty years in newspapers, a few years ago has launched Datacenterknowledge, one of the most important and influential site (his is actually a site/blog) in the world for information related to datacenters and hosting/housing services .

On HostingTalk.it often we talk about datacenters, in recent years these “carriers” of the web are been able to earn their own space in the information technology, modern datacenters are the future of the network, and the technologies used in them are crucial because they can overcome all the challenges of a continuing growth in terms of numbers.

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Today on pages of HostingTalk.it we are pleased to welcome Rich Miller , IT journalist, which after a long career of twenty years in newspapers, a few years ago has launched Datacenterknowledge, one of the most important and influential site (his is actually a site/blog) in the world for information related to datacenters and hosting/housing services . Rich has a long experience in this field, not only as a journalist, in the past it has opened its own webhosting company, good reason for us to talk with him about this adventure.

We talked about datacenter, and I asked to Rich how the changes will affect the bids webhosting propose that the market in the coming years. I thank Rich Miller for this interview and i suggest to you a visit to his blog, www.datacenterknowledge.com.

Italian version of this interview is available here.

HostingTalk.it:

Hi Rich, can you tell to HostingTalk.it users what is Datacenterknowledge.com please?

Rich Miller:

Data Center Knowledge is a blog where we provide daily news about the facilities where the Internet lives – the data centers that house the web servers and data storage that run your favorite web sites. These are specialized facilities built for the needs of IT equipment, especially the need to be online all the time – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

We track the industries that are major users of data center space, and so we write quite a bit about the web hosting business.

Rich, something about you and your job, and why a blog about datacenters?

rich.jpgMy background is in journalism. I was a newspaper reporter and editor here in New Jersey for about 20 years, covering a wide range of topics including sports, business and religion. My wife and I started a small web hosting service in 1996 as a side project to our “day jobs,” which is how I developed an expertise in hosting and data centers. I came to believe that the future of media was on the web, so in 2000 I left my newspaper job to launch a web site covering telecom facilities.

I also blogged about the hosting industry and did research reports for Netcraft, which is based in the UK and well known for its Web Server Survey. In 2005 I saw that the data center industry was poised for a major rebound, and launched Data Center Knowledge, which has since developed into a leading source of news for the industry.

For all their importance to the Internet economy, data centers are not well understood outside of a small community of professionals that run them, or well covered in the major media. That’s where my site comes in – our daily news helps data center professionals track the trends that influence their

everyday operations, and plan for the future in a rapidly changing environment.

Datacenterknowledge is the most important blog about datacenter, how many users do you have monthly and what is the secret of this success?(i see over 3000 feed readers in you home!)

We have about 70,000 readers and 140,000 page views this month, and the audience has been growing steadily. It’s a niche site, but advertisers really like the demographics of our audience, many of whom are

decision-makers in their company’s IT or data center operations. I think Data Center Knowledge has succeeded because we’ve really focused on applying high journalistic standards to our daily news coverage. We use a blog format, but our reporting is similar to the way I approached business stories when I was working at newspapers.

Our readers have been great, and have provided excellent feedback in helping me identify trends and stories in the data center business. I also attend major conferences and trade shows to stay current on relevant issues in the field. Quality content is really the key to success in online publishing, and that will continue to be our focus at Data Center Knowledge.

Why datacenters today are so importants for IT and for our economy?

Many Internet users never think about the facilities that make the network run, but these buildings provide the backbone of the Internet. If they fail, web sites go offline. The Internet has become such a vital part of everyday business that these facilities are critical to the economy and the success of the many businesses, small and large, that relay upon the Web to transact business or communicate with customers. That’s become clear in recent months when data center power outages at several US providers knocked major web services offline.

With the emergence of “cloud computing” and the massive computing platforms run by Google and Microsoft, the data center has become even more central to the future of the Internet. This is an important issue for the hosting sector, where providers are looking for the best way to position themselves to compete in this changing environment. We’ve seen the emergence of specialized Web 2.0 services for hosting images and videos, cluster-based hosting services and free hosting and blogging services from Microsoft and Google. The traditional shared-VPS-dedicated hosting models are under pressure, and new players are emerging.

Another major issue we’ve been tracking is the amount of energy used by data centers. There’s a growing focus on energy efficiency in the technology sector, and data center operators are on the front lines on this issue as they deal with the challenges of blade servers and high-density computing environments. Saving on power costs is a business imperative for data centers, but the solutions are not easy or cheap. This will be a huge issue for several years to come.

So do you think that products like vps/dedicated and shared hosting have no future? Or only a small place?

Shared, dedicated and VPS hosting will be an important part of the web hosting industry for years to come. They’re not in danger of extinction anytime soon. But the hosting landscape is becoming increasingly fragmented, as traditional host are challenged by “functional” hosting services customized around images, videos and blogging.

The market is beginning to be divided between hosting products defined by resources and technical specs and those defined by what the users do with the service. Users are focused less on what they get and more on what they can do with it. Between the growth of functional hosting offerings and the emerging cloud-based services, I think the traditional shared and dedicated accounts will see their market share diminish slowly over time.

An example of video-tours posted on Datacenterknowledge.com, this is the DRFortress Data Center Tour

All video-tours are available here.

Do you have opportunities to visit some datacenters to write your news and articles? If yes, which have you visited?

I’ve had the opportunity to visit data centers operated by Equinix, Digital Realty Trust, Terremark, Savvis, MCI/WorldCom. AboveNet and many others. It’s really important to get out and see these facilities, to help

understand the latest trends and how technologies are being implemented. Our readers love data center tours, so I try to post videos of tours whenever they are available online.

You say that energy problems are a big challenge for this industry, do you think that virtualization can help for this? In general, what is your opinion about virtualization?

Virtualization is being widely used by companies to consolidate servers and save space in their data centers. Many data center operators will be able to use virtualization to extend the life of their existing facilities, but there are limits to this trend.

This goes back to the energy problem, as virtualized infrastructure typically uses more powerful servers with better capacity utilization – which in turn use more power than the low density servers they replaced. What we’re seeing is that the primary limiting factor for most data centers is not space, but cooling capacity. Virtualization can address the space problems for a short period of time, but it doesn’t fix the the long-term cooling capacity issues. Many companies will use virtualization to buy time so they can build a new data center (which often takes 18-24 months). Having said that, it’s clear that virtualization has the potential to revolutionize the way data centers and IT departments are managed.

Well Rich, talking about something of webhosting market, on HostingTalk.it we discuss about webhosting startups, in your experience, what are the points to consider to start a webhosting service? I explain better, to provider a standard service (not lowcost) what is the initial investment?

I think it’s critical that anyone interested in starting a hosting service take time to really study the market and honestly evaluate the opportunities and risks. It’s essential to find a niche where customers are willing to pay for quality service and your profits won’t get squeezed by pricing pressures. I think many entrepreneurs are, by their nature, optimistic about the prospects for success. In web hosting there is a history of business models getting squeezed by competition, but there are also many providers who’ve established solid niches by providing value to their customers.

I wouldn’t speculate on startup costs, because that’s hard enough to sort out here in the U.S. (much less Europe) and could vary widely depending upon the niche you choose. But it’s essential that you study the market, identify customers who really value their web sites and are willing to invest in them, and develop the skills to deliver exceptional service.

Do you know something about italian market of webhosting?

I am familiar with Aruba, Tiscali and Telecom Italia from my time with Netcraft, where I tracked developments in the European Web hosting market. With Data Center Knowledge, my primary focus has been the US market, but in the last 12 months we have seen a great deal of interest and growth in the

European market for data centers.

Most of the action is focused in the major Internet hubs like London, Dublin, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris. US companies are either buying European providers (as with Equinix-IXEurope) or patnering with them, as Switch & Data just did with Interxion.

What do you think about overselling webhosting, like Hostgator or Dreamhost, why are so preferred by customers?

Overselling is a difficult issue. Here in the U.S., Yahoo just began offering unlimited web hosting accounts, which offer all the disk space and bandwidth you can use for $12 a month. Yahoo has the resources to back up its commitment, but I think we’ll also see unlimited plans from many other US hosting companies who may not have the same kind of resources.

I personally believe it’s wrong to offer services that you’re not prepared to provide. But I’m convinced that the customer who is swayed by all-you-can-eat plans is probably not the right customer for most profit-focused hosting companies.

Last question Rich, what kind of differences there are in approaches to building datacenter between Yahoo and Microsoft? There are elements that reflect their business models?

Microsoft is optimized for the Windows platform, while Yahoo has built its infrastructure on open source technologies like FreeBSD and PHP. If this deal happens, it will be interesting to see how they deal with this challenge.

Interview designed and conducted by Stefano Bellasio for HostingTalk.it