Texas Data Center Summit Preview: Hugh Miller Looking Forward to Learning about Managing Cloud Transitions & Discussing Tech Issues Unique to Texas
by Josh Anderson
DALLAS, TX — Hugh Miller currently runs a CIO and Broadband consulting company and is serving as the CIO for Visit San Antonio (VSA), San Antonio Museum of Art, and Eva Longoria’s non-profit organization Eva’s Heroes. Hugh is also helping a few startups in the San Antonio area with his leadership and technical skills and has been consulting for communication and broadband providers. Hugh served as the CIO & CTO for the City of San Antonio from 2004 through 2016 and was responsible for technology leadership, innovation, transformation, and technology support throughout San Antonio. Hugh has also been honored as a Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader for 2008, IT Leader of the Year in 2013, and SA Business Journals 2015 Tech Titan as Top Tech Executive. Tomorrow, Hugh will be a featured speaker at CapRE’s Texas Data Center Summit in Dallas, TX. In anticipation of the event, we spoke with Hugh about his career, his perspective on the state of Texas, and his thoughts on the latest developments in the data center arena.
CapRE: Thanks for chatting with us and thanks for speaking at our Texas Data Center Summit tomorrow. Please, share with our readers a bit about yourself.
Miller: Well, I’ve been in tech my whole life. I started writing software in 1981. I progressively worked that into the focus of my college education, and then in my career. I began to work in the tech industry in the early 90s. Somewhere around 2000, I spent some time at priceline.com where I was on the network team. We were building networks and data centers that were cutting edge at that time – optical networks to connect three data centers. That was in Connecticut. I then had a chance to revamp the IT at the San Antonio Water System. I spent two years there, rebuilding everything. During that window of time, the city, who technically own the energy and water utilities, came to me and asked if I would move over to them.
CapRE: Wow. Upward bound, eh?
Miller: So I started working with the city, overseeing their infrastructure initially. And within 9 months, the guy who hired me decided to retire, and they asked me to be the CIO, overseeing all of operations, which included two large data centers, as well as all other operations for the city. We oversaw the technical services for every department. I had to strip everything down and rebuild it – redundancy, fiber networks, storage arrays, blocks of servers, lots of networks, lots of computers, etc. I stayed there for about 13 years. I never anticipated staying that long but there was so much stuff to do. Then last November I thought, I I had done more than what I was asked to do. And I had no time to consult, though people were always asking me to do. So I decided to leave the city, and now I do consulting work where I transition and update people’s technology throughout the city. I also work for a few start-ups led by good friends of mine. That’s kept me pretty busy for the last 12 months.
CapRE: So you’ll be a representing multiple delegations at our summit – is that right?
Miller: Yes. One of my clients is Visit San Antonio, which used to be led by the city. Last year they decided to separate from the city though, to function independently. That’s what we’re doing now. So I’m helping them untangle all of these integrated departments, which includes everything they have within city data centers. Their VOIP, call centers, financial systems, everything. Over the last 10 months or so, it’s basically just been about peeling all of that stuff off and loading all of their stuff into Cloud servers.
CapRE: Interesting. And what are you looking most forward to about the Texas Data Center Summit?
Miller: I’ve spoken a lot about the Cloud and some of the transitional requirements and warning and various things like that. Progressively, that arena has matured overtime. I’m looking forward to hearing how people have gotten through that transition. Some organizations I’ve worked with are completely in the Cloud. It doesn’t make sense for them to run servers out of the Cloud. But it’s very complex. One of the things I’m dealing with now is that in Azure, there is a replication server they recently added in, which builds high availability inside their servers. But it doesn’t support Server 2016. So as soon as you start building, it’s like – This is great. This makes sense. Then you get to a point where something doesn’t work. They say “Oh, we don’t support that – it’s coming. It’s down the road.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into that. So I’m looking forward to hear about how people manage these transitions, how to ensure that contracts are the best decisions for your organizations, making sure your future is in tact, making sure that the people you route these things to, you can rely on them the same way you would in house. How are they budgeting their money towards what they’re doing? And how are they making sure that, progressively, year after year, they can continue to do so?
CapRE: Please tell me a bit about how this relates to Texas specifically.
Miller: Well, here in San Antonio we have a larger Cloud company called Rack Space. They’ve begun to talk about how they’re transitioning into a cloud management company rather than a cloud hosting company. That’s very interesting. Because they’re one of the top 5 companies in the world that hosts. And they’re realizing that their money is better invested in helping other people — managing the Cloud for them. So it’ll be an interesting next 5 years to see what happens.
CapRe: Can you share with us some other things that unique and interesting to the Texas data center arena?
Miller: Sure. There are a few major things with Texas that can change your decision-making. I look at this from a government and private sector perspective. Texas is the only state that has its own energy grid. So with that you open up different opportunities for how you run things and where you put them. From a disaster management perspective, for example. The other thing is that the cost of living is extremely low. So, for example, when I was in San Antonio, our decision to maintain our own data centers was not the same as if I was somewhere else. Like out in California or Michigan or the East Coast. We have a very different dynamic that should bring a very different perspective to a data center summit. Energy and land and buildings are affordable for our city. It’s affordable to build data centers. And we have 1.5 million citizens with a very large tech community. And really, up the street in Austin too. So that gives us an affordable way to support these things.
Another thing. Our retirement systems are well-funded, so we don’t have issues with hiring people. CA for example has a hard time recruiting people because their retirement system is so costly.
On a different note, there’s the scalability of virtual servers, which can still be managed with a small team because everything we’re doing is redundant – it’ the same on the storage side, for example. We cross train with these skills to have good knowledge of each other’s responsibilities. And it makes sense because in the virtual world so many things are converging – you have to know about more than one thing. So in Texas these things are unique as compared to the rest of the country.
For more from Miller, stay tuned to CapRE’s Insider Reports this week. We will post a follow-up Q&A in which Hugh will continue the Dallas data center conversation, with particular attention to what he is most excited and concerned about in the data center arena…