Like many data center managers, Jeff Lowenberg's path to his position was a circuitous one. And yet by relentlessly educating himself and aligning with groups like the Uptime Institute, the vice president of facilities at the Planet, a Houston-based Web hosting company, is SearchDataCenter.com's Data Center Manager of the Year.
Lowenberg oversees six data centers in the Houston and Dallas areas, which include a total of 155,000 square feet of raised-floor space and almost 60,000 servers. Over the past couple years, Lowenberg has adopted some energy efficiency practices that could save his company a million dollars this year. He directed the construction of 42-inch-high hoods to be installed on top of his Liebert computer room air conditioning, or CRAC units to extend the return-air plenums and capture the hot air that rises. He also sent his facilities crew out with caulking guns, sealing up every little hole in the raised floor or using grommets to fill them up.
He installed temperature strips from Upsite Technologies Inc. to monitor heat and raised the set point for the IT equipment intake to a range of 72 degrees to 77 degrees as per the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standard. For more information, check out this video tour of Lowenberg's data center in Houston.
For projects like this, Lowenberg has to work well with everyone, not just his own facilities crew. William Charnock, the hosting company's vice president of technology, said Lowenberg does just that.
"His team lays the wiring and handles the physical layer, and my guys handle everything above that," he said. "We tend to work a lot together. We have to. I don't want my guys waiting for a cable to be run, so we're very closely aligned. The teams have a good working relationship."
Lowenberg isn't the type to rest on his haunches. He is part of the Site Uptime Network, a group of data center managers who communicate with one another and look to the Uptime Institute for ideas on facility improvements. Lowenberg said the things he has learned from Uptime have been invaluable.
Next up: Lowenberg wants to isolate hot aisles from cold aisles even further by extending the return-air plenum into the ceiling duct work. He has also visited a data center in the Netherlands to look at how air-side economizers can reduce power and cooling costs.
A circuitous journey
The 44-year-old Lowenberg began his journey many years ago at Texas A&M University, where he studied computer science. From there, his career took a different turn, taking him away from IT but circling back to data centers.
It was there that Lowenberg became the vice president of operations, heading all customer-facing departments of the company's business such as sales, customer service and technical support. At the time, EV1 colocated its servers elsewhere, but then the company acquired a data center.
"As far as education goes, I don't have any formal education specific to data centers," he said. "We acquired a data center and the CEO of the company said, 'Here you go.' I basically had to learn on the job."
More than three years ago, EV1 merged with the Planet, and Lowenberg took over all the data center facilities operations. He manages a staff of about 17 people that includes a director of facilities that handles data center real estate operations, a facilities engineering manager, and all the engineers and technicians on the floor who move floor tiles around and attach nuts and bolts.
Facilities Director John Armstrong said that he likes working with Lowenberg because he gets a high level of independence. That work style lends to a strong sense of responsibility throughout facilities staff members, who know that Lowenberg trusts them to get the work done and make good decisions.
"I like the autonomy of knowing that I have the ability to make calls," he said.