Category: Fun

120 Uses for Your Empty Data Center

It is big. It is cold. It is secure. And now it is empty, because you have gone all-in to the AWS Cloud. So, what do you do with your data center? Once the pride and joy of your IT staff, it is now a stark, expensive reminder that the world has changed.

Many AWS customers are migrating from their existing on-premises data centers to AWS. Here are just a few of their stories (links go to case studies, blog posts, and videos from re:Invent):

  • Delaware North – This peanut and popcorn vendor reduced their server footprint by more than 90% and expects to save over $3.5 million in IT acquisition and maintenance costs over five years by using AWS.
  • Seaco – This global sea-container leasing company implemented the SAP Business Suite on AWS and reduced latency by more than 90%.
  • Kaplan – This education and test prep company moved a set of development, test, staging, and production environments that once spanned 12 separate data centers to AWS, eliminating 8 of the 12 in the process.
  • Talen Energy – As part of a divestiture, this nuclear power company decided to move to AWS and found that they were able to focus more of their energy on their core business.
  • Condé Nast – This well-known publisher migrated over 500 servers and 1 petabyte of storage to AWS and went all-in.
  • Hearst Corporation – This diversified communications company migrated 10 of their 29 data centers to AWS.
  • University of Notre Dame – This university has already migrated its web site to AWS and plans to move 80% of the remaining workloads in the next three years.
  • Capital One – This finance company has made AWS a central part of its technology strategy.
  • General Electric – This diversified company is migrating more than 9,000 workloads to AWS, while closing 30 out of 34 data centers.

If you are curious, here’s what happens when a data center closes down:

Now What?
You may be wondering what you are supposed to do with all of that cold, empty space after your migration!

With generous contributions from my colleagues (they did 85% of the work), I have compiled a list of 120 possible uses for your data center. For your reading pleasure, I have arranged them by category. As you can see, my colleagues are incredibly imaginative! There is some overlap here, but I didn’t want to play favorites. So, here you go…

Sports and Recreation

  1. Ice hockey rink.
  2. Whirlyball arena.
  3. Go-kart track.
  4. Snowshoe practice area.
  5. Laser tag.
  6. Paintball arena.
  7. Sweat lodge.
  8. Hot yoga studio.
  9. Immersive VR gaming arena.
  10. Largest paper football game. Ever.
  11. Portal arena.
  12. Paint walls black. Turn off lights. Dress in black. Water balloon fight with fluorescent paint.
  13. Extreme weather survival training.
  14. Giant domino rally.
  15. Venue for world’s longest paper airplane flight.
  16. live video game championship arenas.
  17. Bubble football arena.
  18. World’s largest ball pit.
  19. Ultimate LAN party room.
  20. Indoor lazy river.
  21. Indoor ski resort.
  22. Shooting range.
  23. All weather theme park – “Datacenter Land.”
  24. Segway racing track.
  25. Indoor surf park.
  26. Massive spinning studio.
  27. Create the World Trampoline Wallyball League (WTWL).
  28. Ultimate Boda Borg quest challenge.
  29. Indoor hang gliding wind tunnel.
  30. 48 state of the art gyms.
  31. Indoor dog park.
  32. Zamboni driver training facility.

Food and Beverages

  1. A large, cold area is perfect for growing and preserving food.
  2. Meat locker / meat packing facility.
  3. Popsicle factory.
  4. Wine cellar.
  5. Penguin sanctuary.
  6. Mushroom farm.
  7. Cheese grotto.
  8. Practice area for growing potatoes on Mars.
  9. World’s largest Easy Bake Oven.

Eminently Practical

  1. Classroom.
  2. Electric car charging station.
  3. Storm shelter.
  4. Drone zone.
  5. Giant pencil case.
  6. Bomb shelter.
  7. Car wash.
  8. Community theater.
  9. Art gallery.
  10. Secure storage for all the money saved by using AWS.
  11. Cloud University.
  12. Solar power generation plant.
  13. 48 really large Airbnb opportunities.
  14. Maker‘s den.

Space, the Final Frontier

  1. Blimp Hanger with “Moffett Field, You Got Nothing on Me!” painted on the side.
  2. UFO storage.
  3. Fill with water and use as a NASA zero-gravity training facility.
  4. Time portal for the Restaurant at the end of the Internet.
  5. Blue Origin space terminal with interplanetary duty free zone.
  6. Use racks as studio apartments in San Francisco. Rent at $5000/month.

Dead or Alive

  1. Homeless shelter.
  2. Orphanage / charity home.
  3. Morgue.
  4. Cryogenic human storage.
  5. Zombie apocalypse refuge.
  6. Cold therapy spa.
  7. Rehabilitation center.
  8. Snowman preservation facility.

Just Plain Weird

  1. Unicorn farm.
  2. Mattress testing facility.
  3. Biohazard isolation area.
  4. Stress-relief shattering emporium.
  5. Grow operation (where permitted by law).
  6. Military parade ground.
  7. Venue for all 2016 US presidential debates.
  8. Super ball testing facility.
  9. Corporate meditation center.
  10. Duck echo testing facility.
  11. Automated paper making factory for paper towels and toilet paper.
  12. Tour facility for worlds largest ball of Ethernet or fiber optic cable.
  13. Robot cat toy factory for Ethernet / fiber cable yarn balls.
  14. Storage for recently unearthed E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial game cartridges.
  15. Giant sensory deprivation tank.
  16. Biosphere 3.
  17. “Can you hear me now?” test facility.

TV and Movies

  1. Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good.
  2. Battle of Hoth reenactment.
  3. Trash compactor where we can put people who reveal Star Wars spoilers.
  4. American Gladiator or American Ninja Warrior arena.
  5. Hangar for Death Star.
  6. Fill it with water. Re-enact Finding Nemo.
  7. Take old printers and re-enact scene from Office Space. Call it a Silent Meditation Retreat.
  8. Erect transparent aluminum walls, fill with water, store whales for when aliens come to contact them.
  9. Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse.
  10. Training center for the Knights of Ren.
  11. Mythbusters science lab.
  12. Top Gear secret race track.
  13. Mad Max: Server Room Rampage.
  14. High security storage facility for broken down Daleks.
  15. Tardis repair center for all things wibley wobley or timey wimey.

Uniquely Amazonian

  1. Venue for next re:Play party.
  2. Amazon fulfillment center.
  3. Alternate venue for re:Invent 2017.
  4. AWS Snowball processing facility.
  5. Amazon Fresh greeenhouse.
  6. Brewery for the Amazon Simple Beer Service.
  7. Amazon Locker site.
  8. Actual cloud storage (leave the A/C on and pipe in some steam).

It’s Dead, Jim

  1. Electronics shredding center.
  2. Warehouse used to refurbish decommissioned corporate computers/servers to deploy to underprivileged schools world wide for education.
  3. Venue to host auction for empty data centers.
  4. Server to host the auction website for empty data centers.
  5. Museum of data center history.
  6. “Co-location Data Center” – National Trust for Historic Preservation.
  7. Outreach centers for all those IT Admins that claimed they would never go all-in in the cloud.
  8. Retro-style storage for paper files.
  9. Data center resort with gardens grown on servers.
  10. Buggy whip factory.
  11. Museum of technology history.



PS – Please feel free to leave suggestions for additional uses in the comments.

Plat_Forms Contest in Germany – Not Your Typical Hackathon

Were excited to work with the Plat_Forms programming contest, an effort organized in Berlin, at Freie Universitt this spring.



Focus on Scalability & Cloud Architectures
The Plat_Forms contest has been around in Germany since 2007. Its hallmark is celebrating the diversity and strength of various development languages (Java EE, .NET, PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby, etc.). This year, the focus of the contest is entirely on cloud computing and scalability. Ulrich Strk, the program organizer, explained AWS is technology agnostic, thus allowing for a fair comparison of the individual platforms. Apart from that, AWS is the market leader in IaaS services, thus making a perfect choice for us since we can expect that a lot of developers have either used AWS already or are interested in trying it now.

The Coding Challenge
Unlike the typical hackathons or programming contests where developers can enter with radically different apps, Plat_Forms is all about giving everyone the same coding challenge. The organizers have established a set of requirements for the contest task and plan on evaluating all entries holistically, including against principles such as application usability and robustness.

Some of the considerations required on the submission include:

  • It will be a web-based application, with a simple RESTful web service interface.
  • It will have challenging Service Level Agreement (SLA) requirements such as number of concurrent users it needs to support, guaranteed response times, fault tolerance, etc.
  • It will be some kind of messaging service, where users can send each other messages.
  • It will require persistent storage of data.
  • It may require integration with external systems or data sources, but using simple and standard kinds of mechanisms only (such as HTTP/REST).
  • It will require scaling by operation on multiple nodes (computers), which must use a stateless operation mode (i.e. if a single node fails the system overall, the application must not fail and must not lose data).
  • It must run completely on the Amazon Web Services infrastructure.

For Germany-based programmers entering the contest, there is an extra bonus prize of $1,000 in AWS credits to the winning teams, in addition to the prestige and prizes provided by the contest itself. The deadline for entering has just been extended to March 16, 2012 and the actual coding challenge will take place in April.

To learn more (guidelines, judging criteria, process etc.), please visit the Plat_Forms website and let us know if you enter! :)


DCI – The Dog Computer Interface

Rufus_1 One of the great perks of working at Amazon is that you get to work with a bunch of great people and also with their dogs!

As previously noted in our blog, Rufus is a valued part of our Developer Relations team. He’s a Rhodesian Ridgeback owned by Martin Buhr. Martin works on business development for Amazon EC2 and as such he’s been pretty busy lately.

Rufus joined our team two years ago when he was just a puppy and he’s grown considerably since then. Or, in the local vernacular, he’s scaled up!

A couple of weeks ago Martin and I arrived at the office at about the same time. He was trying to get Rufus to settle down. Rufus wasn’t cooperating and Martin told me that Rufus was a bit bored. Jokingly I suggested that we could probably train Rufus to do some Mechanical Turk HITS. We both laughed it off and that was that.


Converterguts_1A few days later I mentioned this idea to Mike (once again in jest) but as we discussed the idea the conversation quickly went from silly to serious. Unsure of the level of cognitive skills that we could expect, we figured that Rufus and his kin could probably handle simple HITS which required him to discriminate between two alternatives, such as a dog bone vs. a soda bottle or a bird vs. a cat.

At this point we were still at the hypothetical stage but in our rarefied little world it was starting to seem like we could actually pull this off. Mike has tackled some pretty cool electrical and electronics projects in the past (including the nifty digital to analog converter pictured at right) and it was good to have his expertise available.


Rufushat Mike and I batted around a few ideas for the DCI (Dog-Computer-Interface), starting with some sort of brainwave sensor feeding into the converter. We prototyped this and tried it out on Rufus. He was surprisingly patient. We fitted the sensors into a tin-foil hat which we molded to fit Rufus’ head.

We uploaded the raw data into a 10 node cluster of EC2 instances in an attempt to make heads or tails of it but our analytic skills were not up to the task and we had to abandon this aspect of the experiment and head back to the drawing board.


Yesno Jinesh suggested a more direct Yes/No interface and volunteered to build it for us. Starting with a pair of Staples Easy buttons, he wired up a clean and straightforward input system that would accommodate Rufus’ paws. This seemed like a much better solution and we were pretty optimistic about it.

Martin had been humoring us in the background but he was starting to think that it might work. We started to give some consideration to types of HITS that Rufus could do. Martin said that Rufus was pretty good at identifying bears, so that seemed like a good start, even if it was of somewhat limited value. This was a proof of concept, after all.


Setup We hooked the buttons up to a spare laptop and propped it up on a box so that Rufus could reach it without too much trouble.


Isthisabear Jinesh created some “Is This a Bear?” HITS and we were just about ready to go.

Martin used up almost half of a box of dog biscuits in the process of training Rufus to look at the screen. He’s a smart dog, but there were all sorts of distractions and it was tough to get him to focus on the task at hand.


Gorufus Believe it or not, he actually got pretty good at hitting the proper button before too long. As you can see from the picture at right, the Easy buttons were just right for his gigantic paws.

Once he got going, Rufus was pretty good at identifying the bears in the picture, with an accuracy rate in excess of 80%. Admittedly, the task itself was of limited utility but that wasn’t the point.

Rufus has yet to notice that we’ve recycled the HITS and he now spends an hour or so each day happily sorting out the bears from the non-bears.


Rufusandjin This was a really fun project and we learned a lot by doing it. As you can see from the picture at right, Jinesh and Rufus certainly became good friends.

We’ve actually got a number of great job openings one the Amazon Web Services team right now; if you like to work hard and play hard, and hang out with great people and their dogs, you should check out the Amazon Jobs site today.


We had a lot of fun putting this little experiment together and we’d like to thank Martin and Rufus for all of their help. You can only pull off something like this once a year, and today was definitely the day to do it.

— Jeff, Mike, and Jinesh

Vote For Your Favorite AWS-Powered Sites

Webware_2008 Voting for the 2008 Webware awards is now underway. Please consider voting for your favorite AWS-powered sites including these. Click Site to visit the site or Vote to begin the voting process.

If your site has been nominated and you are not on the list, leave a comment, include a link to the voting page and I will update this post!

— Jeff;

Happy Holidays

Within our Developer Relations team at Amazon, any public picture of a team member is considered fair game for use in parodies. Look what just showed up in my Inbox:


Mike, Jinesh and I, would like to wish you some Happy Holidays and offer our thanks for reading (and responding to) our blog posts. We love to hear back from our readers.

— Jeff;

PS – I should point out that this is a really fun place to work and that we do have some great job openings.

Tracking AWS Releases

We were sitting around the office the other day, munching on some M&Ms and lamenting the fact that we had to actually go and check the various AWS Forums each day in order to stay abreast of the newest releases of each product. We knew that each forum had its own RSS feed, but the idea of having to check 10 feeds each day for announcements certainly seemed sub-optimal.

Minutes later, Jinesh had put together a Yahoo Pipes application to do the heavy lifting. His application pulls in the requisite feeds, finds the announcements, and combines them into a single result feed for easy reading. Just pop that feed into your newsreader and you’ll always know what’s happening.

If you want to use RSS to do something similar, take a look at Brian and Craig’s article, Generating RSS Feeds with the Amazon E-Commerce Service.

Nice work, Jin!

— Jeff;

Monday Links

Here are some interesting Monday morning links:

  • Smugmug‘s Don MacAskill has posted the slides from his recent ETech talk. Per the slides, they now have 192TB of photos stored in Amazon S3! Don’s deck also documents cost avoidance of $692K to date. After reviewing several different approaches to combining local storage with S3, Don discusses performance and reliability, and also talks about his plans to use Amazon EC2 to handle image processing for 500,000 to 1 million photos per day.
  • The newest release of TeamDirection stores project information in S3. Check out the podtech video to learn more, then go for the free trial download.
  • SmartSheet is another cool and functional application built on top of S3 and EC2. There’s another podtech video (how does Scoble do it?). SmartSheet also won the Best in Show award at the recent Under the Radar conference.


— Jeff;

Links, Links, and More Links

I’m attacking my inbox with a shovel; here are just a few of the things I found within:

  • First off, Rich Lafferty enumerates the most expensive things at Amazon. Fortunately, the $40,000 Super Bowl XL Opus MVP Edition is available for free shipping. There are 3 in stock as I write this, so be sure to order soon!
  • WeoGeo’s WeoCeo product simplifies the management of Amazon EC2 instances. As the configuration file notes, “Utilizing a statistical reporting daemon on the WeoCEO clients, the WeoCEO server can calculate statistics on the overall system load. WeoCEO is designed to work in a homogenous networking environment, where each image launched is responsible for largely the same tasks.”
  • David Berlind asks, “Is it time to throw away your servers?” You will have to watch the video to see what conclusions he reaches. Entertaining and informative, not to mention colorful!
  • is an innovative task, project, and process tracker that just happens to use Amazon S3 for storage and Amazon EC2 for processing. They are also using the Amazon Mechanical Turk to solicit suggestions for new types of project templates. You can find the HIT here.
  • Blake Schwendiman wrote to tell me about his Instant Amazon gadget for the Google desktop and the Google Desktop/Sidebar.
  • I’m not sure how to describe! Justin is wearing a video camera and recording every minute of his life, and posting the videos to this EC2-powered site.

— Jeff;

Blah Blah Blah — IT Conversations Podcast

While I was in Utah last month, Professor Phil Windley interviewed Doug Kaye and I for his Technometria podcast. You can listen to the podcast here.

We covered Amazon S3 and EC2, and then moved on to Doug’s new podcast processing architecture, which uses EC2, S3, and also SQS to support the entire Gigavox Lite system.

This podcast closed a pretty interesting loop for me. Way back in 2003, I was one of Doug’s first interview subjects. At that time the word I believe that podcast had yet to be invented, and people raised a skeptical eyebrow when he talked about recording and distributing interviews as MP3 files. Today, this is a very common use case and it is clear that Doug was way ahead of his time.

— Jeff;

Snowbooks – Second Life Bookstore

Last week I received an invitation to check out the Snowbooks store in Second Life.

I spent some time wandering around earlier today and liked what I saw. Here’s a full report. Snowbooks is a UK-based publisher and also an Amazon Associate. Their Second Life stores provides access to their own titles and to titles from . As far as I know they don’t use any Amazon Web Services yet; this is the Second Life equivalent of an Associates site with static pages featuring products chosen by hand.

True to its name, the Snowbooks store is located in one of the colder parts of the Second Life world, with year-round snow:


Just like a physical bookstore, they have featured a particular book, and they also note that they are affiliated with Amazon:


The winter theme is maintained in the chalet-like design of the store:


Inside, there’s a good selection of books, all set up for casual, comfortable browsing:



There’s even a meeting room upstairs:


Because Snowbooks is also a publisher, they need to meet with authors and other related parties from time to time. Conveniently enough, they have an Editor’s Office with regular office hours:


You can visit the Snowbooks store in Second Life by clicking here. You can read more about the store at the Snowbooks site. You might also want to track down PK Rimbaud, the Snowbooks representative in-world.

This is all pretty impressive, and to me it shows off some of the interesting ways that a real-life brand can be brought into a virtual world.

If you are doing something interesting in Second Life with our services, please do feel free to track me down. I am Jeffronius Batra.

— Jeff;