August 2, 2010

Put it all on 38?

Marc Comtois

States, including Rhode Island, are smart to market themselves and offer incentives to businesses. The deal with 38 Studios is coming in for praise and criticism, to be sure. Gamers have their opinions, with the optimism based on the all-star cast of gameworld creators--R.A. Salvatore, Todd McFarlane and Ken Rolston--while the pessimists basically think the game will be just one more World of Warcraft "me too" that is destined to fall by the wayside (though some think that an MMO of a different flavor--ie; not "fantasy"--is might work.

The business community is split, too, with skeptics pointing out that the funds would have been better used if spread out or at least not spent on one seemingly risky venture. Others make the point that the splash made by the deal has already caused increased business interest in RI and that there are protections to mitigate risk.

Part of the confusion probably lay in the nature of the business in question. I wonder if there would be as much reservation if this was a business that was selling or producing a tangible product? The truth is we just don't know what exactly to expect from a video game company. It's a relatively new industry and, let's face it, most of the business media and non-related business leaders around here just don't really know much about video games. So, until 38 Studios actually produces a product and the prospect of other video game companies coming to RI goes from potential to reality, we're not going to know if the deal pays off, either directly or indirectly. Until then, it's simply a gamble.

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While we are offering money to 38 Studios to come to RI, the studio in Hasbro in Pawtucket is moving to Hudson MA and has not been offered 1 penny. They are relocating because they can't attract the skilled workers needed to fill the positions. I wonder if 38 will be able to find the same people that Hasbro couldn't.
I think someone should call Hummel.

Posted by: Swazool at August 2, 2010 3:47 PM

Amen, Swazool. Aaaaaaamen!

Posted by: George at August 2, 2010 4:05 PM

And I hear that Brown University is looking to build a modern datacenter to replace their aging one, this is high technology at its best with dozens of employees and tens of millions of dollars of equipment.

Too bad it's planned for Springfield, MA.

If I was involved with the EDC, I would be spawning a non-profit private company to build the shell of a datacenter over near the Port of Providence, and then undercut the internal price of RI Hospital, Brown, URI, etc.. Let the schools and hospitals 'outsource' some of their IT infrastructure needs to a lightweight Rhode Island operation.

Hint: The two biggest costs of a datacenter are electricity and cooling... Sourcing power directly from the Manchester station (next to the port), and using the bay water as a heat sink (4x as efficient as air-to-air cooling) would offer a huge competitive advantage. Being closest to the seat of government, the hospitals, schools, and the 'knowledge district' would also help adoption.

Posted by: mangeek at August 2, 2010 4:25 PM


That’s in a flood zone! Do you really want to put all that customer data and your equipment at risk?

Posted by: Ken at August 2, 2010 10:38 PM

According to the Providence Journal RI has gambled and lost on loan guarantees before.

In 1974, the state sold $4.2 million in bonds for two businessmen to buy the Fairmount Foundry in Cranston and create jobs. They closed the foundry and defaulted on the bonds.

In the mid-1990s, the state sold $3.6 million in bonds to help CytoTherapeutics to build a plant in Lincoln and create jobs. In 1999, CytoTherapeutics suffered setbacks and moved to California.

In 1999, Alpha-Beta Technology, closed and defaulted on $29 million in state bonds. The bonds were issued to help build a new plant in Smithfield for biotechnology firm and create jobs.

The RIEDC and Rhode Island Port Authority has issued loan guarantee bonds over 8 times and out of $110 million in loans, businesses have defaulted on $33 million leaving State of RI on the hook for the payback of the bond money.

Gee maybe that’s why taxes are so high!

RI has been down this high technology road before and it didn’t pan out due to lack of technical workforce.

I think you can add another $75 million to that $33 million!

Posted by: Ken at August 2, 2010 11:12 PM

"That’s in a flood zone! Do you really want to put all that customer data and your equipment at risk?"

I was thinking on the inside of the hurricane barrier. Maybe in Dynamo House, which hasn't seen any work in about two years now and is totally exposed to the elements. That building was there before the hurricane barrier and withstood several hurricanes. Now we have the barrier. Placing the computers on the second floor, it should be totally safe. It might even have more reliable power (being so close to power infrastructure and generation) than other areas in a storm. Water cooling means that you'll want to put most of the cooling equipment below the computers anyway.

Posted by: mangeek at August 3, 2010 11:31 AM


The Dynamo House (old South Station) is supposed to be converted into the Heritage Harbor Museum, 181 room hotel, restaurant and remainder is commercial retail space unless Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse have completely pull out of the project.

With the old Narragansett Power Plant taken over by National Grid which does not produce electrical power but purchases it off the grid and redistributes it to RI there is no guarantee you will be getting clean constant power to the location.

Even with the hurricane dam in close proximity the location is still in a major flood zone so insurance will be high adding to the cost of doing business.

As for the water cooling system, you need deep water for the cooling. The water is way too shallow and warm in Providence and Narragansett Bay for effective cooling use.

Sea water air conditioning (SWAC) system (also called district cooling) can be a cost-effective use of a renewable energy source to offset the conventional air conditioning that consumes four to 12 times more electricity.

Forty-five degree water is pumped 5 miles from offshore up from 1,800 ft below the water surface to an onshore cooling station where cold sea water transfers coldness to circulating close-loop fresh water pipes which take the cold water to the building air-conditioning systems.

Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning is constructing the nation’s largest SWAC planning to cover 17 city blocks in downtown Honolulu including the following buildings; the 30-story First Hawaiian Center, the tallest building in Hawaii, the federal courthouse, state government offices and the four-story headquarters of Hawaiian Electric Company saving each building about 75% of current electrical costs for air-conditioning cooling.

This system is a proven technology already in use at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii Island. The University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine in Honolulu (Kakaako) uses cold well-water to reduce its air conditioning costs.

If is successful in downtown, it could later be extended to tourist-filled Waikiki hotels and even the University of Hawaii campus in Manoa.

Other examples of SWAC are: Toronto, Canada is developing a district cooling system using cold water from Lake Ontario. Cornell University in New York is cooled with water from Lake Cayuga. Sweden is a world leader in SWAC development.

Posted by: Ken at August 3, 2010 6:01 PM

I work near Dynamo House... Not a single hour of work has been done on it since late 2008 or so. SBER has effectively abandoned it. There's been no roof and the foundation has been flooded (by rainwater) for over a year. SBER took the tax credit and skipped town, as far as I can tell, leaving unpaid invoices to contractors in their wake.

As far as SWAC, you don't need lots of cold, deep seawater to do it. I'm not suggesting the 'coldness' of the seawater to do the actual cooling, I'm suggesting using the immense heat capacity of water as a heat sink for the condensers. It's a subtle difference, but still much more effective than air-to-air conditioning.

The Manchester Street station seems like they're producing power... I have a friend who works there. They're certainly not running at or near capacity. Regardless, that's a point where power infrastructure is easily available, there's even a huge, active, transformer station on the Dynamo House grounds, it hums at 60hz as loud as all hell when you're next to it. I can't imagine a place in the state that is better situated for reliable power.

Posted by: mangeek at August 4, 2010 8:27 AM


I also use to work near the Dynamo House on Richmond St. (plus being affiliated with the Providence Children’s Museum) and obviously Struever Bros. has jumped ship but I think Eccles & Rouse, the Starwood Hotel Corporation and Heritage Harbor Museum. Org (affiliated with Smithsonian in Washington, DC) are still in it for the long run.

For a heat exchanger you need cold to absorb hot. Computer servers and mini-mainframes throw off an awful lot of heat plus you got working space natural air temperature. The 45 degree water Hawaii SWAC is using is based on standards developed in Sweden and proven correct with the operational models at the University Of Hawaii John A. Burns School Of Medicine and the National Energy Laboratory of Hawaiian Authority.

Narragansett Bay up to Providence cannot provide you the cooling capabilities even if you reverse engineer the heat exchanger because you would be defeating the purpose of introducing not consistently cold enough corrosive ocean salt water into the system.

You have to cool the system water to chill the heat exchanger water which must be non-salt water to cool the return air and remove humidity.

You are still located in a National Weather Service NOAA designated flood zone which means during a potential flooding your electricity supply will be cut off for as long as it takes to drain out; get back to normal and you will be paying higher than normal insurance rates.

Posted by: Ken at August 5, 2010 3:14 AM
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