I thought I would simply write you a letter and tell you about my visit to San Francisco for CapRate Events’ (CRE) Northern California Data Center Summit this past April.

Another data center conference?! Is that a whining that I hear? Yes, it could be said that it’s the same set of suits talking to the same set of suits about the same things in a different city. Brian Klebash who heads up CAPRATE’s Data Center Summit Series can be charged with good packaging. Andrew Gold of Fortune Data Centers noted that his wife was impressed he wasn’t just going to another conference. He’s important. He was invited to a Summit!

This is the third year for Brian and CRE’s data center series. They’ve studied and evaluated a few different iterations and have enough precedent demographics to suggest a regional, one day, national series where the significant majority of attendees are commuters has produced the best user experience. They really have this down to a science. They start at 8 a.m. sharp and front load the blockbuster panels. They don’t break until 1 p.m. for lunch and they conclude by 3:30 p.m., just in time to have a couple beers. Smart really when you consider the human factors. Keep the attention in the morning while the attention is there. Local CEOs aren’t going to stay all day. The rest of the local crowd makes the significant other happy by getting home on time on a work day.

This was the second of six in the 2014 Data Center Summit Series. I’m sorry to say I missed the first at the end of February in NYC. The third will be in Chicago. The second half of the year will be held in Dallas, Washington DC, and Los Angeles.

I never expected the cabbie education I received en route to the St Francis Yacht Club, in the Marina District. A little known fact is the Marina District is built on a landfill. This is the area of town that was on fire during the 1999 earthquakes. The instability of the trucked in earth resulted in fires due to liquefaction, a phenomenon by which water-saturated sediment temporarily loses strength and acts as a fluid, like when you wiggle your toes in the wet sand near the water at the beach. Reassuring.

The Summit was filled with smart guys conveyed logic that says “No” to N CA data center development but it’s still happening. Why? Because it’s beautiful there. People and capital are smart and courageous. The natural resources are vast and impressive. Point in case that The St Francis Yacht Club was a terrific venue that, with Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge as bookends for sailboats and windsurfers, simply can’t be compared to any other venue we’ve attended. It was refreshing, stylish, and relaxed. It felt concise without being packed. At one point I was thinking, who let us in here?!

Impactful due to the level of talent Brian was able to recruit. Significant persons in the data center business who are immersed and credible. Informative due to the credibility of the talent. Best in class reflections of those responsible for the design, construction, financing, operations, and management of the data center market. Connections - a great size of conference and venue

A couple of observations

While Brian does a great job in recruiting a lot of high level people, he might have too many people on each panel. A little deeper vs. wider would be more credible both for the audience engagement and for the presenters who are investing their valuable time to be there and perhaps only getting in a couple of paragraphs. Each of these executives has so much knowledge to share and impart. The lengths of the questions are key. Big long involved questions are difficult to answer in a valuable manner.

The topic of maturity of the market came up in a few different panels, measured in innings. I happen to side with Chris Downie @ TELX on his estimate that we are in the 2nd inning which contrasted drastically with Townsend Devereux of GI Partners statement of being in the 5th or 6th. I think Townsend, as an investor / owner

I have a few best of show award

Best Answer – “NO” shared by Chris Crosby @ Compass Data Centers & Rudy Bergthold, SVP & CTO @ Cupertino Electric on different panels but essentially to the same question – “Given a choice would you build your next data center in N CA?”

Rudy Bergholdt pointed out that Nebraska’s Economic Development Group was the Breakfast and Keynote sponsor for the N CA Data Center Summit. Nowhere on the Nascar esque logo orgy front page of the program was a representative of Northern California’s economy much less an expression of interest to help ease the development.

Best Facilitator – Sean Farney. This is an easy award because even if he actually wasn’t more conversational and engaging than most, there are only the 12 or so people in his audience who can attest to the contrary. Honorable mention goes to Joel Stone, but his audience had beer so no one handed in the evaluation 

Best Social Psychologist – Ehvert for coercing the St Francis Yacht Club Staff to get beer delivered to the last session of the day.

In summary N CA is an anomaly but also reflects the general nature of living in N CA. The power costs are high, the state’s tax burden is unfriendly, and there’s a lot of competition, but that all endurable because it’s beautiful, it’s on the ocean, the world’s top innovation capital lives there, and it just keeps growing. It has a bit of an elitist flair to it, because it can.