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Big Blue pushes green computing project

IBM is pushing green data center initiatives with energy efficiency management software, cooling technologies and consolidation planning

Taking the reins on green computing initiatives, IBM announced a number of offerings and a plan to redirect $1 billion of its earnings per year to dramatically increase energy efficiency in data centers.

The plan, announced at a conference in New York City last week, includes new cooling technologies, energy assessment tools and a free, online Energy Efficiency Incentive Finder.

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Called "Project Big Green," IBM's initiative targets corporate data centers where energy constraints and costs can limit their ability to grow. The initiative includes a new global "green team" of more than 850 energy efficiency architects from across IBM.

The recent interest in data center energy efficiency can be traced to statistics showing significant cost increases for power. For every dollar spent on hardware in the data center, 50 cents is spent on energy, and that cost will rise 54% over the next three years, according to IDC statistics.

"Data center power demands are growing at an unsustainable rate," said Bill Zeitler, senior vice president, IBM Systems and Technology Group. "The most important thing now is utilization of servers through technologies like virtualization."

Cutting down on power waste translates into significant savings. For an average 25,000-square foot data center, clients should be able to achieve 42% savings from energy conservation. Based on the energy mix in the U.S., this equates to 7,439 tons of carbon emissions saved per year, IBM reported.

IBM runs the world's largest commercial technology infrastructure, with more than 8 million-square feet of data centers in six continents to its name. By using the same energy efficiency initiatives it is offering clients, IBM expects to double the computing capacity of its data centers within the next three years without increasing power consumption or its carbon footprint. Compared to doubling the size of its data centers, IBM expects this will help save more than 5 billion kW hours of energy per year.

IBM details 'Project Big Green'

IBM's main thrust is to use energy-smart technology innovations to dramatically improve energy efficiency in data centers. The company outlined the following steps data center managers should take to reduce energy waste and save on power costs.

  • Evaluate existing facilities by performing energy assessments and thermal analytics
  • Plan, build or update data centers for efficiency
  • Virtualize IT infrastructures and use low-power processors
  • Manage power consumption with management software
  • Exploit liquid cooling solutions inside and out of the data center

Assessing your consumption

One struggle IT managers have in the pursuit of energy efficiency is obtaining accurate and detailed information on the efficiency of their data centers and pinpointing where improvements can be made, Zeitler said.

About 60% of the energy used in data centers is used for IT and the other 40% goes toward HVAC/UPS, IBM estimated.

IBM can now conduct an energy efficiency assessment that can reduce energy costs by up to 40%, depending on the data center. This service – the IBM Data Center Energy Efficiency Assessment – uses a new standard metric to rate the energy efficiency of the data center and presents a plan for clients to increase their efficiency based on those findings.

Also, Mobile Measurement Technology (MMT), a new technology from IBM Research, measures 3-D temperature distributions within data centers. The mobile measurement machine includes a position monitoring system with a network of up to 100 sensors that gathers thermal data.

MMT was implemented at Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s (PG&E) three data centers in California where it accurately visualized hot spots, air leakage and other inefficiencies across its 40,000-square feet of data center space in a few days, as opposed to a few weeks if it had been surveyed by hand, IBM reported.

Also, IBM's Thermal Analysis for High Density Computing service product identifies and resolves existing and potential heat-related issues that are likely to create outages in existing data centers and provides options for power savings.

Consolidate and manage servers

Today, many computer systems use only 5% to 12% of their capacity, IBM reported. Virtualization technologies to consolidate work onto fewer computers and increase utilization can significantly reduce energy and maintenance bills, and simplify infrastructure.

Provisioning software can reduce 80% of a server's power consumption by putting it on standby mode when not in use, IBM reported.

If this software was deployed in all the estimated U.S. data centers, the country could save 5.4 billion kW hours per year, enough electricity to heat 370,000 homes for a winter, IBM reports.

Green cooling

IDC estimates that in 2006, $29 billion was spent on powering and cooling IT systems. To remedy this, IBM introduced its "stored cooling" offering that dramatically increases the efficiency in end-to-end cooling systems.

The IBM Data Center Stored Cooling Solution product was reportedly implemented at an IBM data center in Quebec and achieved 45% savings, the company reported.

IBM will soon launch a free, online clearinghouse for energy efficiency incentives. The Energy Efficiency Incentive Finder will be one central Web site for details about energy efficiency incentives and programs that are available from local utility companies, governments and other participating agencies anywhere in the world.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Bridget Botelho, News Writer.

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