Friday, January 9, 2009

Day 2 in Salt Lake City - a Visit to TGN - Part 1

This was a busy day in the heart of snow country. Seven of us were in a van headed to The Generations Network's offices for a Blogger's Day - to meet TGN management and receive an overview of their operations and plans for the future.


Our first stop was the Ancestry Data Center south of Salt Lake City. We were joined by two other bloggers, greeted by Andrew Wait (Sr. VP - General Manger Family History) and his staff. After a brief executive summary of TGN's operations, we were treated to a walk through of the server farm housed in the building - they currently have over 5,300 servers in over 180 cabinets in about 6,500 square feet of floor space. More statistics to impress you (they did me!):

* $150 million business in USA
* 900,000 subscribers
* 620 employees
* 2.5 petabytes (pb) of storage - 1 pb is 1 million gigabytes (gb).
* 94% of storage is used by Ancestry.com
* Bandwidth usage is 560 mbps per month
* Space, power and bandwidth costs are $300,000 per month.

After this tour, we were driven to Provo to the TGN headquarters there. The program there included:

* A presentation on Content Acquisition and Strategy by Gary Gibb, VP, US Content
* Lunch with Tim Sullivan, CEO, and Andrew Wait
* A presentation on Document Preservation by Laryn Brown, Sr. Director - Document Preservation Services
* A tour of the Digital Preservation Services (including imaging and indexing)
* A presentation of Ancestry Family Trees by Kenny Freestone, Sr. Product Manager
* A presentation of Content Digitization Technology by Mike Wolfgramm, Sr. VP, Development
* A presentation on Ancestry.com Search by Anne Mitchell, Sr. Product Manager
* A presentation on Non-Subscription Applications, Services and Features by Scott Sorensen, VP, Emerging Businesses

We then traveled to the Market Street Grill in West Jordan for a nice dinner with TGN people. We were back to the hotel at 9 p.m.

That's the basic description of the day - I will post more information about some of the presentations tomorrow.

Before today, none of us were sure how much we would be shown or how much we could write/speak about what we heard and saw. The TGN folks encouraged us to write about the meetings and presentations, and were very open about their company, their current work and their future plans. There were meaningful discussions about public relations, Ancestry.com content and searches, and some emerging technology. We weren't allowed to record or take pictures of the facilities except in designated areas for privacy and security reasons.

All in all, it was a very full day, but exhilarating and informative for me. I have a much better appreciation for their operations and a better understanding of this genealogy business.

4 comments:

M. Diane Rogers said...

Looking forward to hearding more, Randy, perhaps especially about TGN's future plans (and a search engine change?).

Russ said...

Randy,

I also am looking forward to additional posts on your Visit. Thank you.

tagazio said...

Randy,

Wow...You're running with the big dogs now! This sounds like a great trip you are on and look forward to the next part.

Tim

James said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences with your audience, allowing us to enjoy them vicariously.

A couple of technical points: a petabyte is 1024 terabytes, and a terabyte is 1024 gigabytes (sometimes a rounded 1000 multiplier is used instead, such as by most hard drive manufacturers). Although larger hard drives are available, the largest hard drives commonly sold today for home use are between 500 gigabytes and 1 terabyte. So TGN has a hard-drive capacity of about one- to two-thousand times larger than the average home PC sold today.

Also, I suspect the bandwidth usage figure is off-target, as mbps (typically meaning "megabits per second") is a measure of throughput at a given point in time, whereas a monthly bandwidth figure would typically be given in megabytes, gigabytes, or terabytes.