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Google's new North Carolina data center manager talks shop

Tom Jacobik was hired to run the $600 million data center that Google is building in Lenoir, N.C. In this interview, he talks about his career and new position.

The $600 million data center facility Google Inc. is building in Lenoir, N.C., will be up and running by March 2008. To get the data center online, Google has appointed Tom Jacobik as site manager.

Before he signed on with Google, Jacobik was the director of tactical operations for Oracle Corp. in Austin, Texas. Throughout his career, he has served in IT leadership positions and also served as an active member of the U.S. Air Force. He continues to serve in the Reserves today. caught up with Jacobik via email to find out about his new job with Google.

How did you get into the field of running data centers?
Tom Jacobik: I have been working in data center environments for more than 15 years. I started as a network engineer for Exodus Communications, where I worked in multiple data centers and learned the technologies. Eventually, I worked my way to managing the building and operations of large-scale data centers.

What does your new role at Google entail exactly?
I will be responsible for monitoring and supporting the build-out of the Lenoir facility. Once the facility goes live, I will manage the teams that ensure the availability of the services and underlying IT infrastructure that the facility has installed. My teams will also work with the corporate technologists to determine additional services and capabilities to be delivered from Lenoir as well as manage the interdependencies of our facility with other Google locations.

In a press release, Google refers to you as someone who "created a name for himself as an IT problem solver and leader." Are there any major dilemmas you recall being in, and getting out of, that you can share with other data center leaders?
Anyone who works in mission-critical data centers has found themselves in major crisis. In my previous positions, I have been responsible for delivering services to major sports Web sites during the NCAA basketball tournaments as well as for a leading greeting card company during their major holidays. In both situations, services were impacted or not available.

In these situations, I realized the importance of ensuring that every member of the team was intimately familiar with the systems they supported. By having the confidence in my team to maintain and troubleshoot their areas of support, I was able to keep the team focused on solving the problems while working with the customer in a calm manner to ensure they understood where the issues were and what was being done to solve them.

Do you have an estimate of how many servers you will have to manage, and are you prepared for that?
As for the first part of the question, I won't know the number of servers going into our facility in Lenoir until we are ready to receive them. The process of building and certifying a data center takes many months. During this time, the services offered by Google as well as the technologies supporting these services are most likely to change. These changes will result in different footprints and support requirements to be factored into the solution we will support. Suffice to say that the number will be significant.

One of Google's most significant environmental accomplishments is in making its computers and data centers  energy efficient.
Tom Jacobik,
Google Inc.

As for the second part, I am confident that the challenges of maintaining and optimizing services supported by many servers are within my capabilities.

What is a typical day at Google's data center like for you?
One thing I have already learned about Google is that there is nothing typical about it. My days will initially be spent working with the build-out teams to ensure that I fully understand the capabilities and challenges of the facilities as well as ensuring that we remain on schedule to meet our corporate commitments.

I will also be working with the engineering teams to understand the technologies associated with the services we will be offering. At the same time, I will continue to meet with the community that we are joining. Once the initial ramp-up is completed, I will be working with the local teams to improve performance and maintain systems and also looking at ways to increase efficiencies in service management and service delivery.

Google has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2008. How do you expect to implement this plan? Do you have any experience operating an environmentally friendly data center?
In basic terms, we plan to increase energy efficiency; to use, develop and encourage others to develop more renewable energy and to offset the remaining impact. It is this second part -- maximizing energy efficiency -- where I'll play a part. One of Google's most significant environmental accomplishments is in making its computers and data centers energy efficient. I look forward to making sure we're maximizing these efficiencies and exploring ways we may be able to push them even further.

In addition, we have already taken significant steps in building environmentally friendly data centers. In site preparations, we look at ways to recycle everything we can while clearing and building out the site. This includes crushing excavated rock for use in making materials to build the site, using recycled products such as shredded newspaper for insulating materials, and planning the build to ensure minimal impact to existing creeks and watersheds.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Bridget Botelho, News Writer.

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