Wired Up

Rosendin Electric senior vice president Bill Mazzetti on data centers, a career in electrical engineering, and his favorite projects

It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Bill Mazzetti a data-center guru. His experience with such facilities dates back to the early 1980s, when designers relied on manual-mount tape and water-cooled, 415-Hz mainframes, and over the past 30 years, he’s had a front-row seat to the evolution of how data is housed, used, transferred, and consumed. After growing up in the industry under mentors such as his father, Bill Mazzetti Sr., and Charles Kreiger, Mazzetti left Mazzetti & Associates in 2004 to join Rosendin Electric, Inc., where he now leads an engineering department capable of design, planning, testing, building-information modeling, and construction work. The California-based electrical-contracting firm has more than 5,000 employees and does $1.2 billion worth of business worldwide. Here’s a look at how Bill Mazzetti got to the company and how he helps it build data centers and other facilities.


What’s your main goal with data centers?
I’ve worked hard to change the concept of the data center from a mysterious building to something that’s common and easily understood by all the stakeholders on the project.

As a subcontractor in the wind-power sector, Rosendin has wired and linked a number of the nation’s larger farms.
As a subcontractor in the wind-power sector, Rosendin has wired and linked a number of the nation’s larger farms.

What’s most important when building an effective data center?
You have to know what you want to achieve. One of the challenges with data centers today is that one size does not fit all. It fits most, at best. There’s not a lot of time to fix things, and everything moves very fast because of the speed-to-market nature of a data center. You need clean and fast design, good purchasing, and good integration. You have to have very clear expectations and goals where the facility is a dead match to the technology it will house.

What about when it comes to working with a client?
The most important thing there is communication. You can’t understate this. Clients have bought servers and then used them differently to a point where the facility just hasn’t worked correctly. Since the data center is a factory that makes information, you have to know how the tools in the factory work in the end-to-end process.

Do you promote modular, colocation, or custom spaces?
It’s yes to all. I’ve seen the same thing play out repeatedly over 30 years in this industry. A client’s mission-critical facility solution is unique to a client’s business. You can insource, outsource, or mix your facility and technology approaches. With SaaS and other pay-as-you-go services, the physical infrastructure may not be in the client’s control; only their data might be.

Rosendin and Mazetti also do work in the field of solar energy, installing and connecting major paneling systems.

In today’s market, there is a richness of options that weren’t available 5 or 10 years ago. In the past, small companies would start with a server and have to figure something out. Their first move would be to retail [a colocation center], then wholesale colo, and then it becomes build-to-suit. The only option for clients was this serial march forward with larger portfolios of commited capital as you move along.

Today, the rise of web-based services has allowed everyone to change how clients consume capacity, with a specific note that the industry is far more diverse, easy to use, technologically open, and nimble. Modular is merely the scope of infrastructure investment you make at any one time and how you deploy and consume data and facility infrastructure. There are many ways to achieve modular. The specific recipe to achieve one solution that works for one company won’t always work for the next. So, there’s no right or wrong answer. Every business is unique, and the data center simply has to be resilient and flexible.


The BladeRoom Group

What’s happening with BladeRoom is one of the most exciting opportunities in my career. After landing our first large commission in late 2014, we’re off and running in what I see as an important step for the industry. We can take a manufactured product, adapt it easily for any client, and deliver it faster than ever before through a less expensive model. It’s a complete surrogate for a traditionally built data center and offers our clients an option previously missing in their mission-critical development opportunities. The concept, perfected by BladeRoom in the UK, is a factory-built bespoke building. In the US, we are able to handle everything for major clients, from facilities solutions to electric infrastructure, so we’re dealing with them on a more complete solution and much higher level. It’s a great fit, especially for clients that are land-rich but may lack a more modern data-center environment. We take just 36 weeks for completed delivery, and that changes the whole dynamic of the marketplace.

Rosendin was responsible for hooking up the control system for the California Academy of Sciences’ many shades and windows.
Rosendin was responsible for hooking up the control system for the California Academy of Sciences’ many shades and windows.

Project Spotlight: The California Academy of Sciences

From 2006 to 2008, Mazzetti and Rosendin provided all electrical construction services for the complete rehab of the massive natural history museum at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, which remains one of the greenest buildings in the world. The 400,000-square-foot structure and its site posed many challenges. First, Rosendin employees had to dig into a sandy foundation, and later they were asked to conceal 57 miles of conduit in walls and slabs. They coordinated the connection of hundreds of custom-built light fixtures, and the entire electrical installation required tolerances of one quarter of an inch or better throughout the building.

The project even included work on a beachside saltwater plant that pumps in water from the ocean two miles away. Inside the building, scientists now perform research, and visitors interact with ocean animals and modern displays. Rosendin was tasked with creating the structure’s advanced, integrated lighting controls, shades, and windows, which operate based on exterior and interior air temperature and humidity. The building also has automated ventilation systems, radiant floor heating, 60,000 photovoltaic solar cells that generate 213,000 kWh annually, and a living roof that helps cool public spaces inside.

The company also helped connect the building’s 60,000 photovoltaic cells, which generate roughly 213,000 kWh of energy annually. (Photo: Steve Proehl)
The company also helped connect the building’s 60,000 photovoltaic cells, which generate roughly 213,000 kWh of energy annually. (Photo: Steve Proehl)

Bill Mazzetti’s Career Milestones

1984: Mazzetti graduates from Santa Clara University with a degree in electrical engineering and enlists in the US Army, starting what becomes a 12-year military career in infantry and special operations

1987: After working on a host of domestic and international projects, Mazzetti officially joins his father’s firm, Mazzetti & Associates, where he learns under Mazzetti Sr. and his key associates; over the next 17 years, Mazzetti helps build the family-owned shop into a national company covering multiple disciplines, and he becomes instrumental in adding national mission-critical and health-care services

1994: Kaiser San Francisco Medical Center retains Mazzetti & Associates for a major expansion, cementing the firm’s place as a first-tier health-care consultant

1996: A big break in data-center business comes when Mazzetti uses CAD to design in 3-D for Bank of America in San Francisco

1999: Mazzetti & Associates partners with Visa, its first multisite and overseas data-center client

2000: Mazzetti designs a ground-up data center for MasterCard

2005: While looking for a new challenge, Mazzetti’s passion for construction takes him into contracting, and he becomes Rosendin Electric’s vice president of engineering, responsible for all department activities

2007: Rosendin provides mission-critical services to Facebook

2010: Mazzetti becomes senior vice president of the company, working to unite building and design and helping grow Rosendin’s revenue from $187 million to $1.2 billion; he also helps the firm reach east of the Mississippi and adds mission-critical services, and his department gradually expands from 12 people to, currently, more than 60 staff members and 16 registered engineers in 39 states

2011: As part of a six-member team, Mazzetti finishes penning the ANSI/BICSI Data Standard 002, a 500-page master work on best practices in data planning and design that took more than 11 years to complete

2013–present: Mazzetti serves on the board of directors of BladeRoom USA, a joint venture with BladeRoom UK that brings the company’s innovative modular data centers to the United States