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PG&E working with IBM on green computing initiatives

PG&E and IBM have partnered on green computing initiatives to develop ways of lowering power consumption in data centers.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) is working with IBM to consolidate its servers and the two companies are working on a new way to measure and reduce heat in data centers.

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They announced this initiative at an IBM-sponsored conference in New York City where companies, like American Power Conversion Corp., Eaton Corp., General Electric Consumer & Industrial and others gathered to discuss green computing and power saving initiatives last week.

"Energy efficiency is the number one priority for PG&E as we work with our customers to meet our environmental goals," said Brad Whitcomb, vice president, customer products and services, PG&E. "We have a goal of having 20% of our energy come from renewable sources by 2010."

PG&E is working with IBM on its server consolidation plan to lower energy consumption in its 40,000-square foot data centers in San Francisco, Fairfield and Diablo Canyon, Calif., through virtualization.

PG&E will consolidate nearly 300 Unix servers onto six IBM System p5 servers to reduce 80% of its energy and facilities consumption, and will use IBM virtualization technologies to boost utilization of the systems from 10% capacity to over 80%. In addition, PG&E will deploy IBM Rear Door Heat eXchanger water cooling technology on the System p5 servers to reduce heat emissions from the back of the systems by up to 60%, the company reported.

Before embarking on its server consolidation efforts, PG&E teamed with IBM Research to develop a tool to measure the three-dimensional temperature distributions in its data centers.

IBM used its new Mobile Measurement Technology (MMT) to survey the relevant physical parameters of PG&E data centers and visualize via 3-D images hot spots, air leakage and other inefficiencies. The data was then used to build customized thermal and energy models to help mitigate hot spots and rectify imbalances within the data center.

IBM's mobile measurement machine includes a position monitoring system with a network of up to 100 sensors that gather thermal data. A 10,000-square foot data center can be completely surveyed within a few hours by the machine, compared to taking several weeks for several people to survey the data center by hand. Wireless thermal sensor technologies can also be deployed to measure long-term, transient temperature effects in the data center.

PG&E energy efficiency programs

IBM is also participating in PG&E's Energy Efficiency Incentive program. Select IBM systems from its BladeCenter, System p and System x product lines are eligible for PG&E's incentive program for server replacement projects. These models exceed efficiency benchmarks established by PG&E for Web serving and Java workloads. The program is strictly limited to replacement projects and IBM will be partnering with PG&E to extend the program for additional IT workload types.

The issue of reducing power consumption within data centers is gaining national attention. Data centers can use up to 100 times the energy per square foot of typical office space and account for an estimated 1% to 2% of the nation's electricity consumption, PG&E reported.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized data centers as an area for significant energy savings. "We (EPA) are very interested in data centers because we know they can be made about 50% more energy efficient," said Robert Sauchelli, national program manager, Energy Star Service and Product Provider program.

By next year, the EPA plans to introduce a metric, so data center managers can compare their performance to other data centers, Sauchelli said during the conference.

PG&E was the first company to offer incentives for power saving technologies, encouraging customers to get rid of underutilized computing and data storage equipment through virtualization.

In addition, the company recently spearheaded a coalition of utilities to discuss and coordinate energy efficiency programs for the high-tech sector, focusing on data centers.

IBM is working with qualified PG&E customers to secure financial incentives for IBM's storage virtualization solution, the SAN Volume Controller (SVC), which allows customers to more efficiently manage data storage and retire inefficient and underutilized equipment. IBM is working on a similar strategy for customers who virtualize IT workloads, resulting in consolidation using IBM's System x, blades, p, i, z servers.

PG&E clients should contact their IBM representative to find out how they qualify for these incentives.

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

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