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U.S. Bowling Congress moves data center, halves energy costs

The U.S. Bowling Congress halved its data center cooling costs using virtualization, power distribution units and energy management software.

When the United States Bowling Congress moved its data center from Wisconsin to Texas last year, it picked up 50% in cooling capacity, despite the drastic climate change.

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Those power and cooling improvements earned USBC an energy efficiency innovation award this week from Common, an IBM Power Systems user group.

The USBC is the national governing body for the sport of bowling as recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee. It holds information on 2.5 million bowlers and their achievements and runs major tournaments throughout the year (including the USBC Open, which has about 90,000 competitors). Last year the group decided to move its headquarters from Greendale, Wis., to Arlington, Texas, and the data center went with it.

"We quietly moved the data center," said Jim Oberholtzer, USBC's VP of technology. "For the most part, our membership and the public didn't even know we did it."

USBC was able to find power and cooling savings in two major ways: through virtualization and closely monitoring energy consumption.

Alongside a server refresh, virtualization garnered the first level of savings. The USBC consolidated its Wisconsin data center in Texas with two BladeCenters running Intel and Power chips as well as VMware ESX and PowerVM virtualization software. The main database server runs on DB2 in a System i environment on a single IBM JS12 blade server.

"That's where our single source of truth for bowlers is," Oberholtzer said.

Energy savings from virtualization went beyond running fewer servers, however. The group was also able to idle one of its two 10-ton air conditioners in the data center, which had previously been running full steam.

PDUs, power management software
Next, the USBC deployed power distribution units (PDUs) and implemented energy management software, that allowed Oberholtzer to turn the data center thermostat up a notch and put servers to sleep when they weren't needed.

The PDUs -- which are like power strips for servers -- that the USBC uses monitor temperature and humidity throughout USBC's data center. Though PDUs haven't traditionally gathered that much data, increasingly more PDU companies are selling products that do more environmental monitoring. By using these so-called intelligent PDUs, Oberholtzer and the data center staff realized that they could raise the temperature in the facility and still be within manufacturers' specifications. Now the exhaust air out the back of servers is 76 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 72 degrees.

The USBC also runs IBM Systems Director Active Energy Manager, which allows it to match up server power consumption with IT load.

"It allows you to monitor what the server is doing, and you can actively turn off processors, memory and disk drives when they're not needed," Oberholtzer said. He added that those components don't actually shut off, but go into slumber mode and can quickly wake up when needed again.

The final result: The USBC is seeing about a 50% reduction in cooling for the data center, which it estimates will eliminate about five tons of carbon emissions per year.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.

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