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IBM to build 'green' data center

IBM is expanding its Boulder, Colo., data center and implementing so-called "green" technologies, such as wind energy, with the hope of eventually becoming LEED certified.

IBM has announced that it's building an eco-friendly data center in Boulder, Colo., and hopes it will eventually become LEED certified.

The $86 million project will add 80,000-square feet to its existing data center, bringing the total size up to about 300,000-square feet. Meanwhile, Big Blue is incorporating features that it calls green in the hope that it will meet U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) guidelines for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) certification, a national benchmark for the design, construction and operation of green buildings.

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Currently, only two data centers are LEED certified, although others are starting down that path. Another data center hosting company, 365 Main Inc., announced earlier this month that it will build all of its future data centers to LEED guidelines.

IBM said the site is being expanded to meet the requirements of one of its customers, which it declined to name. But Larry Longseth, an IBM vice president of server systems operations, said the customer would only consume between 10% and 20% of the new space. The remainder will be used by existing or future customers. He said construction has already started and the new space will be ready to roll for customers by April of 2008.

"We needed additional raised floor space for new clients," Longseth said, adding later that "this is one of our strategic locations for outsourcing."

Being green in IT has certainly become fashionable, and according to analysts, for good reason. It allows businesses to claim that they're environmentally friendly. More importantly, it can save them money.

"There are companies that are socially and environmentally conscious," said Charles King, analyst for Pund-IT. "But it's great to have an issue that touches the pragmatic folks. It's an interesting situation when you can get the environmental crowd on the same page as the businessmen."

Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics, agreed.

"Essentially this green movement is being driven more by economic considerations than good intentions," he said. "If you only have a half-million dollar IT budget, and if you have to spend 20% of that for energy and 50% for management and the rest for equipment and software, you don't have a lot left over to spend on new projects. And if your energy costs rise to 30%, you're screwed. So taking costs out in the energy arena can enable you to maintain a flat spend as costs rise, and/or it can help you save enough to open new projects."

Project Big Green

So how does IBM build a green data center? By using its own systems and technologies that it considers green, of course, as well as implementing energy efficiency in the data center facility infrastructure.

IBM's thinking on green data centers is exemplified by Project Big Green, a plan announced last month to redirect $1 billion a year toward making data centers more energy efficient. To that end, IBM will provide tools to help measure energy consumption, waste and identify possible energy savings. IBM is also promoting its IBM Rear Door Heat eXchanger and power management software.

Longseth said that IBM would adopt those technologies in its Boulder facility.

Specifically, IBM will use water-side economizers through the Rear Door Heat eXchangers, along with variable speed chillers to get better energy efficiency at higher loads. IBM will improve the insulation of the roof to keep temperatures in the facility stable and use efficient T8 fluorescent lighting to conserve more energy.

In addition, Longseth said that IBM is committed to using a certain amount of wind power from its utility provider, Xcel Energy, though he didn't say how much.

Consolidation, virtualization

Big Blue will also be using consolidation technologies in the new data center, according to Longseth. He said that consolidation and virtualization will likely happen first on IBM's mainframe and Unix machines, the Systems z and p, as well as its midrange platform, the System i. But even its x86 boxes could eventually be candidates for consolidation and virtualization.

"We really do intend to use the center as a virtualization site to drive utilization of the servers themselves," Longseth said.

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

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