Brant Bernet: Baseball Stadiums and Your Data Center

Brant Bernet

“It can’t be done,” my less-adventuresome friend told me as I mapped out my plan. By the end of the trip we will have driven 1,989 miles and for one, glorious, 24-hour period, we would watch baseball in three of the greatest stadiums ever built. The starting point was Dallas and the finish line was in Five Islands, Maine. The trip was meticulously planned and the car was perfectly packed.

I had decided several weeks before the trip that I would not make any hotel reservations or buy any game tickets ahead of time; I was confident in my driving ability, but so many things can happen during a 2,000 mile drive, I decided to let fate handle the details. At 5 a.m. CST, I boarded the suburban with my two boys, our two dogs, lots of chips and sour cream ranch dip, and headed east. In order to make our first game, I needed to crank out around 13 hours that first day and hoped to make Knoxville, Tenn., by nightfall.

Our only planned stop on the first day was for lunch at Charlie Vergos’ legendary Rendezvous BBQ restaurant in Memphis. Now, my boys can eat (real chips off the old block). In 20 minutes, we had destroyed four slabs of the greatest ribs in the world, beans, slaw, bread and buttermilk pie. I literally fell asleep as I was driving out of the parking lot. My bumper did very little damage to the city trash can, though, and we hightailed it out of Memphis in a cloud of dust … this was going to be a great trip.

We made it to Knoxville, found a room, and crashed. By 6 a.m. the next morning, we were back on the road and headed to our first game at the great Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

I fell in love with Camden Yards in the mid 1990s, after an impromptu tour of the facility. The new stadium was finished in 1992 and is (like EVERY great stadium in the country) in the heart of the city’s bustling central business district. The food was great and everything about the stadium and the game was as I hoped it would be. The Orioles won (we couldn’t have cared less) and we went to bed—but not before I debriefed the boys on the next day’s activities.

The Yankees played at 1 p.m. the next day, and we had to make the four-hour drive, find a cool place to park, walk the dogs, scalp the tickets, get a hotdog from a street vendor, and take in the glory of batting practice before the game. When we walked up to The House that Ruth Built, I was struck by an incredible sense of history. It was smaller than I thought it would be, but that is only because my expectations were way out of proportion.

It smelled like baseball. Not like a baseball, but like the game itself, or what it should smell like. Popcorn, pizza slices, beer, roasted peanuts, hotdogs, infield dirt, freshly cut grass, and more beer, all rolled together into something that was more like an emotion than a smell. It was heaven. They tore down the old stadium shortly after our visit. I was glad that my boys were able to experience it before they did.

We scalped tickets—what I mean is, we got scalped. I paid a fortune for tickets that were as far from the field as you could possibly get, way out in right field, behind a big stadium light stand. It didn’t matter, though; we were at Yankee Stadium.
We left at the bottom of the 7th inning so we could make the last few innings of our final game in 24 hours—a night game at the iconic Fenway Park in (once again) downtown Boston.

I remember jogging all the way to the car, boys in tow. We let the dogs do their business then made a bee-line for Boston. I was in such a hurry, I didn’t realize I had run over the ticket scalper until we were well out of the city—not really, but I thought about it.

It was now around 4 p.m. EST. The Sox game started at 7:05 p.m., and we were 238 miles away. I figured we would be looking for a parking spot at around 8:15 and would be at the front gate by 8:30, but it would have to be a flawless drive. We had strategically filled the gas tank before we parked at Yankee Stadium so we could go door to door without stopping.

The boys and dogs slept while I pushed thru the polish sausage-induced fatigue. At one point I screamed the words to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” just to remind myself that we were having fun. As the sun was setting, I could see the Boston lights in the distance, just as the warning light was reminding me that we had less an eighth of a tank of gas. If you have never driven in the vicinity of Fenway during a game, you have not lived. Now try it with two boys who are acting like they have been trapped on Alcatraz for five years, two yapping dogs that just contracted some sort of werewolf disease, a car that is running on fumes, and no game tickets to a stadium that has had more consecutive sellouts than any other stadium for any sport—ever.

I started thinking I would just stop the car in the middle of the road, let the dogs go free, give the boys a twenty-spot and a pat on the head, and catch a cab, alone, to the stadium. Adrenaline was dripping out of my nose (no, that was a nosebleed caused by turning my head at precisely the same time as one of the dogs made a break for the front seat).

The data center business has been on quite a journey lately. Despite the feeling that we have been driving for days, I assure you we aren’t “there yet.”
Something as seemingly simple as where should we put our data center continues to morph.

For years we have warned our clients about the various natural disaster hot-spots around the country—hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and the like. But it wasn’t until fast moving forest fires encroached on the sleepy Colorado Springs community this summer that we added that threat to our watch list. And I just read that Seattle shut down city services for a weekend due to a needed bus-bar repair. Although emergency services remained intact, residents weren’t able to pay online bills or apply for various licenses. A similar outage affected the people of Calgary just last month, curtailing or canceling hundreds of necessary surgeries at local hospitals. It seems like preventive maintenance doesn’t happen until it’s too late. We will learn from these lessons and our industry will get better.

Rich Miller, a writer for Data Center Knowledge, tells us that the state of Nevada points to data centers when explaining its recent economic rebound. Companies like Apple, Switch, NJVC, ViaWest, and Cobalt have played a major role in turning the state around. And Jack Pouchet of Emerson Electric wrote an interesting article about Facebook’s Prineville, Ore., data center. Not only does Facebook monitor its Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), which is at an incredible 1.07-1.08, but they are also making strides in how water is used in their data center (WUE). Mr. Pouchet says that they hope to “gain a better understanding of the global impact data centers are placing on our water supplies.”

We are evolving, we are improving.

The boys and I did make it to Fenway’s front gate at about 8:45 p.m., but they were sold out and the scalpers had all gone home. The Park has a rule that makes it hard (impossible) to use an exiting patrons’ ticket for another’s entry. So there we stood, down but not out. We were hungry and tired and a little dejected. But then we spotted the greatest little Irish pub, right across the street from the Park. The beer was cold, the cheeseburger was the best I can remember, and the big screen TVs made us feel like we were inside the stadium.

We stayed until the game was over and everyone had gone home. I can remember feeling a huge sense of accomplishment. We didn’t change the world, but my two boys and I gathered memories that I will lean on the rest of my life.

Will data centers change the world? They might. But for now I am satisfied watching them take tiny steps along the way to improve the way cities run, the way economies perform, and the way we use our valuable natural resources.

How about you?


  • Brendon

    Brant, great article. I had no idea that Facebook was tinkering with their data centers and putting so much thought into these types of things. Maybe that company is more than just a social networking site but a pool of intelligent individuals hell bent on bettering… everything.

    Possibly in your next article you can write about how the average investor (that’d be me) can participate in the boom of data center technology and development?


  • rick

    Always love your blog. Hard to imagine a 1.7 PUE. Next time, take the western route and hit the Cardinals, the Indians and the Twins. Those are great too!