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Data center manager of the year weathers hurricane, merger

Chevron's Michael Greeney won AFCOM's Data Center Manager of the Year award for his leadership during a disruptive merger and a devastating hurricane.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Thanks largely to a devastating hurricane and a disruptive merger, it has been a busy two years for Michael Greeney, data center facilities team leader at Chevron Products. But he's managed to keep chugging along.

In 2008, Greeney and his data center team weathered Hurricane Ike at Chevron's Houston data center. Last year he oversaw a reorganization prompted by Chevron's purchase of Texaco in 2001. That buyout meant he was running two data centers -- in Houston and San Ramon, Calif. His leadership throughout these organizational changes is a major reason for his team's dedication: He never asks his staff to do a task that he isn't willing to do himself.

On Wednesday, Greeney won the Data Center Manager of the Year Award at the AFCOM Data Center World conference here.

"Most guys like us only get recognized when something goes wrong," Greeney said after receiving his award. "So thank you for the avenue to be recognized like this."

Data Center Manager of the Year Award field crowded
Greeney won out of a field of more than 40 nominations. There were two other finalists: Joseph Perillo, the vice president of technology operations at MetLife Inc.; and Tom Roberts, the manager of data center facilities at Trinity Information Services.

Greeney oversees a 50,000-square-foot facility in Houston with 2.2 megawatts of load, and a 30,000-square-foot building in San Ramon with 1.4 megawatts of load. Back in 2008 when Hurricane Ike hit, Greeney led a data center team to shut down nonessential equipment in the Houston facility. Then they hunkered down in the downtown building.

"It was like a bomb went off," Greeney remembered. Some 200 windows in the building blew out, but amazingly, the data center never lost power. At his home, he went without power for a week, using his barbecue grill to cook anything and everything while still manning the fort at the Houston data center.

Last year during a reorganization, Greeney took over the San Ramon data center as well, shuttling between there and Houston to manage staff at both locations. And he's not done. The San Ramon data center has some capacity growth issues, so he's implemented some virtualization, which he called "low-hanging fruit" because it's one of the easier ways to get more compute power from existing systems.

"We'll be going back with a second wave to go more virtual," he said.

Greeney also oversaw tighter data center airflow control, including homegrown aisle containment design using plastic sheeting. Hot-aisle/cold-aisle containment has become a popular way for data centers to get more cooling efficiency from their facility.

Mark Fontecchio can be reached at

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