Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/05/05/google_sun_rackable/

Google's country-fried data center

Rack's lack of a ponytail of transparency

By Ashlee Vance

Posted in Servers, 5th May 2007 01:30 GMT

Google confirmed the deaths of more penguins this week by admitting to a mega data center in Oklahoma.

The ad broker will build a $600m server plant at MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, Oklahoma. A grand total of 200 workers will enjoy the Okie version of the Google lifestyle and earn $48,000 on average. So, when Google comes to town, you don't get a lot of jobs, but you do earn a huge energy drain and boost server component deliveries.

MidAmerica Industrial Park might not sound attractive. The site, however, does have some perks. "Within a 30-40 minute commute, Tulsa offers all the benefits of a cosmopolitan city with its cultural, shopping and recreational opportunities," we're told. "Within a 30 minute drive, there are seven lakes which all have housing developments along their vast waterfronts. Within a 20 minute commute, opportunities abound for the outdoorsman. Homes overlooking ponds or lakes offer fishing and hunting on small to large tracts of land."

'Within' was Pryor's word of the year.

MidAmerica administrator Sanders Mitchell couldn't be happier about Google's arrival.

"They searched, they found, and now they are coming. Years from now, that's how this moment will be remembered," Mitchell said. "But, right now, I want everyone to know that a lot of hard work by a lot of very talented people is responsible for Google coming to Oklahoma. We have been working on this project since the spring of last year when someone called Cathy, one of the Google team members, first contacted us about a project. At that time, it became known as 'Project Cathy' to maintain absolute confidentiality for Google and for us.

"What Google was looking for was all right here at MidAmerica, including available land, water, and electricity and a rich and reliable telecommunications infrastructure. Our talent pool of potential employees was also attractive to the company."

Oh yeah, that sweet legislation didn't hurt either.

What do you think? Bunch of hot air?

The Ponytail of Transparency

Thomas Friedman has the mustache of understanding. Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz has the "ponytail of transparency."

Schwartz today issued perhaps his best blog post to date - one packed full of helpful content and one that backs up Sun's transparency claims.

The CEO walked readers through Sun's last quarter. In a very upfront fashion, he noted the good spots - high-end server sales, gross margins, software, services and tape - and confessed to the iffy places - midrange boxes, shipments and disk-based storage.

Even more telling was Schwartz's admission that Sun's 25th anniversary sale pissed off a lot of partners.

"We blew it on the 25th Anniversary Sale - we did a poor job of making it 'channel friendly' from the start, communicating with our partners," he wrote. "We were hazy on details around lead dissemination, credits and offer qualifications, and although we've been investing to grow our channel relationship, this didn't come off that way. It felt like a slap. For which I apologize - our channel is an incredibly valuable asset, and like I said, we blew it here for the channel (although the customers I've spoken to love the promotion). And we're going to make it up."

Whoa, man, did this sale ever ignite the channel fury. One friend described it as an abortion performed on a Segway while in Sadville. But, you know, the big cheese seems aware of the issues.

We tend to see very little value in these executive blogs and think the mainstream media spends far too much time glorifying every brass beaver that figured out how to use Wordpress.

Schwartz's Q3 dissection blunts some of our criticism in that it's a useful service. Few customers have the time or inclination to sit through Sun's earnings call. At least now, you could turn to Schwartz's blog for the three-minute recap. Is he biased? Well, obviously. But the post reads pretty fair.

Lastly, Schwartz mentioned something called "Project Indiana." You know how to reach me.

Is RACK on CRACK

Speaking of CEOs, how could Rackable do away with Tom Barton?

Sure, Barton had a couple years to go after a more diverse customer base. The company depended way too much on sales to Yahoo, Microsoft and Amazon.com. Everybody, including Barton, knew it. We're not convinced that another CEO would have done much better though.

Barton had a nice mix of engineering savvy and business sense. He refused to shovel BS at us, preferring to talk facts. That goes a long way in this game.

You can, however, imagine a company such as HP or Dell making a bid for Rackable back when its share price soared. Maybe Barton turned that down. Maybe HP or Dell exacted some revenge by going after one of the big three accounts. Maybe Rackable's board, seeing the share price now near $11, thought Barton's stubbornness cost them serious cash.

Barton has been pretty upfront on earnings calls about not giving in to the pressure of rivals. Declaring that to the whole word can make life tough on a young company, so can all the jabs at your competitors.

Still, we can't see what the board possibly expects from new CEO Mark Barrenechea that will be all that different from Barton's plan of action.

Notably, Rackable avoided Barton altogether in its canned quotation-laced news statement, announcing Barrenechea as CEO. No "thanks for the hard work" or "we wish him luck in future endeavors." Ouch. ®