Vendor report: IT Goes Green to Keep Companies Growing

Enterprise customers can dramatically reduce their cost base by using products designed to improve the energy efficiency of their datacentre environments

Energy has always been a finite resource but growing concerns about scarcity, cost, and environmental impact are driving even more public and private sector efforts to improve power efficiency. Aiming to be both more socially and fiscally responsible, businesses today seek out ways to cut energy consumption and lower their overall operating costs through better IT power efficiency.

But unfortunately, even as companies around the globe work to find ways to conserve energy and establish more "green" operating environments, businesses are bumping up against the harsh reality that as computing processing speeds continue to increase at an exponential rate, so does the power these systems require to run. Today the typical server consumes four times the amount of power that an average system used just five years ago.

With this surge in IT energy consumption, power costs are also soaring, increasing an average of 20 percent over the course of the last eight years. This makes energy now one of the most costly aspects of IT operations, second only to IT staffing expenses.

This IT energy cost crunch is pushing businesses to demand, and get, more power-efficient systems. A number of vendors are making strides in producing systems that deliver impressive processing power without being the energy drain their competitors are. But more efficient systems do not create a green IT environment by themselves. To accomplish this, businesses need a comprehensive approach that incorporates both the technology and the expertise to build a highly efficient datacentre that sacrifices nothing in performance for better power consumption.

IBM is taking a leadership role in this effort, investing $1 billion across its business units in programs and technology to help its enterprise customers dramatically reduce their cost base by providing them with the consulting expertise and the products to improve the energy efficiency of their datacentre environments. The aim of the IBM initiative, dubbed "Project Big Green," is to provide businesses with the expertise and technology solutions they need to eradicate the energy-related costs that can impede corporate expansion. The company, which has doubled the computing capacity of its own data centres while eliminating five billion kilowatt hours of energy use, is assigning 850 consultant members of IBM's appropriately named "green team" to provide customers with the assistance they need to radically improve the power efficiency of their own data centres.

Project Big Green applies a five-step approach to establishing more power-efficient and cost-effective corporate data centres:

•  Diagnose

•  Build

• Virtualise

•  Manage

•  Cool

This begins with the process of assessing a business' current situation with respect to its datacentre energy use, virtual three dimensional power management, and thermal analytics. Applying the information gathered from this evaluation, IBM can then design and construct a new data centre, or improve upon an existing one to establish an energy-efficient IT operating environment.

IT virtualisation, using both virtualisation software and special purpose processors as a means to optimise energy efficiency and advance overall datacentre effectiveness, is the third key element of the initiative. IBM is also working with corporate customers to deploy power management software designed to lower power usage without interfering with system operations. Finally, IBM is providing enterprise customers with the technology guidance they need to tap into the power of liquid cooling solutions throughout their IT infrastructure to cut the $29 billion that analyst IDC has estimated businesses spent on powering and cooling their technology equipment last year.

IBM is making significant inroads in building out greener data centres, working with companies such as California 's Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to improve their power utilisation, and help slash costs. PG&E enlisted IBM to help the utility consolidate just under 300 Unix servers onto six IBM System p servers, implement virtualisation, and add new water cooling technology in an effort to slash its energy consumption, shrink the physical footprint of its facilities, and increase processing utilisation.

The savings promise to be substantial, and not just in terms of pure economic cost. A U.S. business with an average 25,000 square foot datacentre facility, can expect more than a 40 percent reduction in energy costs. That same company will slash its carbon emissions by nearly 7,500 tons. In a world that is aiming to go green, this is simply good business. That same company will slash its carbon emissions by nearly 7,500 tons. In a world that is aiming to go green, this is simply good business.

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