Data center facilities pro

Jan 9 2009   9:41PM GMT

Data Center Pulse uses online tools to build User Group 2.0

Matt Stansberry Matt Stansberry Profile: Matt Stansberry

Data Center Pulse, a DIY data center user group that started in November 2008, is poised to become one of the most influential organizations in IT. Founded by Dean Nelson, Senior Director of Global Lab & Data center Design Services at Sun Microsystems and Mark Thiele, Director Business Operations R&D at VMware, the organization has grown to nearly 500 members in just a few months. The organization is made up of 70% IT workers and 30% data center facilities managers, and spans from CIOs to CRAC unit technicians.

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The group got its start on LinkedIn, a career-based social networking site and has expanded to its own Data Center Pulse blog, YouTube Channel, and starting next month, face-to-face interaction with a meeting in the auditorium at Sun’s Santa Clara campus, February 17-18 2009.

Data Center Pulse’s tough love for vendors

The data center user group landscape is a pretty crowded field, with AFCOM, The Uptime Institute, 7×24 Exchange, and others, but Nelson and Thiele were frustrated with traditional user groups’ inability to push vendors to change and improve their products.

“7×24 or AFCOM, both of those groups are highly influenced by the vendors,” Thiele said. “Good information is shared, but it isn’t used to influence the vendor community.”

Instead of conferences packed with marketing and business development staff from vendors, Thiele and Nelson sought to create an exclusive group of data center owners and operators only. Nelson and Thiele use LinkedIn’s career information to screen every candidate, rejecting applicants that don’t meet their end-user criteria (including me when I applied last month).

“I don’t want to bash the 7×24, AFCOM, or Uptime, but there seem to be less and less users at those conferences,” Nelson said. “We wanted to get a group together to talk about what we care about, and to influence the industry from the end user’s point of view.”

You’re probably thinking, “Non-vendor data center user group, created by two guys that work for large data center vendors?” But Nelson and Thiele, both data center managers themselves, say the group is not a platform for Sun or VMware at all. I can’t verify that at this point, since I haven’t figured out a way to breach the Data Center Pulse inner-sanctum, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

At the upcoming summit, Data Center Pulse plans to hash out and publish its top ten demands of the data center industry, and Nelson expects it to be a controversial manifesto. “Vendor marketing is driving the end user, instead of giving the end users what they’re asking for. The end users have information that isn’t getting back to vendors.”

Web 2.0 brings the data center community closer together

In these days of slashed corporate travel budgets and eco-awareness, it’s getting harder for companies to justify putting the data center team on a flight to Orlando or Vegas every few months. Instead, Data Center Pulse is using social networking, blogging and other online tools to create an interactive online community.

“With LinkedIn, everybody can touch everybody. You can publish a discussion that reaches 452 people that have jobs similar to yours in real-time,” Nelson said. “LinkedIn is how I stay in contact with everybody.

Nelson also plans to use Google Apps to be able to handle email, calendars, collaboration tools for the group, as well as Webex and Skype video conferencing. “Utilizing that technology to allow us to collaborate is very important. We’re using all the resources we can,” Nelson said.

These social network tools have enabled Data Center Pulse to reach so many so quickly.

“Response from the community so far has been really positive,” Nelson said. “There are no hidden agendas in this — it’s all about trying to drive the industry.”

For more on the evolution and importance of data center user groups, check out our Data Center Advisory Panel discussion.

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