Foo Camp 2008

I just got back from O’Reilly’s Foo Camp. Foo is an interesting conference format in that there is no set agenda. It’s basically self organized as a open space-type event but that’s not what makes it special. What makes Foo a very cool conference is the people. Lots of conferences invite good people but few invite such a diverse a set of attendees. It was a lot of fun.

Here’s a picture from Saturday night of (right to left) Jesse Robbins (Seattle entrepreneur and co-chair of O’Reilly’s Velocity conference), Pat Helland (Microsoft Developer Division Architect) and myself.


Foo is an invitational event loosely organized around folks O’Reilly find interesting or want to get to know better. Tim O’Reilly describes the invite process in this blog comment: .

The conference starts around 5pm on Friday with drinks followed by dinner. After dinner, the sign-up boards for Saturday and Sunday talk sessions are put up. When Tim O’Reilly announced the sign-up boards were up, attendees rose from their tables and casually started ambling towards the sign-up boards as though there really was no rush. We’ll just be doing some signing up over the course of the evening. We might do it now or perhaps we’ll do it later. No big rush. And then some folks break into a slight trot towards but still not really an overt run Suddenly, it’s a full raging stampede. We became a single flow than as a discrete set of individuals. The flow accelerated and then crashed up against the sign-up boards spilling to both sides with folks madly negotiating for pens, better locations, sharing sessions, a shift of 6” to one side or the other, or requesting to join two sessions together. Welcome to foo camp. It didn’t slow down much from that point for the next 44 hours.

Sessions are 1 hour long but it’s good form to share a session if you don’t need the full hour. Speakers use their judgment to sign up for a small, medium or large room. Some rooms have AV equipment and some don’t.

I shared a 1 hour ssession with Jeff Hammerbacher who leads the Facebook data team. Earlier last week Jeff announced that he will be leaving Facebok in September: Jeff and I got a medium sized room in a tent beside the main building without A/V.

The title for my session was Where Does the Power go in Data Centers and How to get it Back? I didn’t show slides but much of what we covered is posted at: In the session, we talked through how contemporary large data centers work first looking at power distribution. We tracked the power from the feed to the substation at 115,000 volts through numerous conversions before arriving at the CPU at 1.2 volts. We then talked about power saving server design techniques. And then the mechanical systems used to get the heat back out. In each section we discussed what could be done to improve the design and how much could be saved.

Our conclusion from the session was that power savings of nearly 4x where both possible and affordable using only current technology. For those participated in the session, thanks for your contribution and for your help. It was fun.


James Hamilton, Data Center Futures
Bldg 99/2428, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington, 98052
W:+1(425)703-9972 | C:+1(206)910-4692 | H:+1(206)201-1859 | | | blog:

One comment on “Foo Camp 2008
  1. great slides james. i wonder how long some of the things that have been incubating in the data center space will take to be adopted elsewhere (e.g. anywhere large amounts of devices are deployed). there are great opportunities all over the place for us to become more efficient consumers of power, and it’s great to see that there’s really promising and earnest movement in that direction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.