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Wood chips and methane power greener data centres

Cliff Saran

Cliff Saran

cliff.saran@rbi.co.uk

Innovative IT departments are turning to environmentally friendly technology such as wood chips and methane to power data centres.

BMW is two years into a three-year green IT programme which has so far helped it halve its data centre electricity costs. "We take into account any renewable energy resources we can use in our datacentres." said Bennie Vorster, vice-president of the BMW group.

In Munich, BMW is taking ground water from the city council to cool the datacentre. BMW pumps the warmed water back into the mains water system, heating up the mains water coming out of household taps in winter. In South Carolina, BMW is using gas from a waste dump to generate electricity to power its datacentre

Like many companies, BMW is using shared services datacentres rather than having each region running its own datacentre servers, to cut energy consumption.

Other companies are encouraging programmers to write more efficient software. This means less computational power, and fewer server resources which leads to lower electricity consumption.

In another innovative move, the IT department at investment bank Lehman Brothers has decided to charge business departments based on the power consumption of the applications they use.

"We cannot have a model of IT for infinite power consumption, said Michael Fahy, head of IT infrastructure Europe at Lehman Brothers, based in Canary Wharf, London.

The bank previously charged back applications based on the amount of datacentre floor space required to run them. "We have moved to a model where applications are charged based on the net power consumption of the storage and servers they require." he said.

Rackspace Hosting, a provider of IT hosting services, has built a green data centre in Slough, Berkshire,

The data centre will draw power from a combined heat and power plant located on the same trading estate, which burns wood chips, waste paper and fibre fuel to generate electricity, hot water and steam.The plant, run by Scottish and Southern Energy, is the UK's largest dedicated bio-mass energy plant.

Rackspace has begun installing servers in the data centre, which is due to go live in June

Dale Vile, managing director at analyst group Freeform Dynamics, said, "Lehman Brothers' chargeback mechanism looks like a very original approach." he said. "The more you can make sustainability partof the day-to-day processes of the business, the better."

"However, power is not the only cost and charging needs to take into account staff and the type of architecture, such as PC servers and mainframes," he said.

BMW makes green savings

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