Interview: Intel CIO discusses datacentre efficiency

John Johnson, vice-president and co-chief information officer at Intel, has an annual budget of $1.2bn and is responsible for 5,500 IT staff across more...

John Johnson, vice-president and co-chief information officer at Intel, has an annual budget of $1.2bn and is responsible for 5,500 IT staff across more than 50 countries.

Efficiency is one of Johnson's key drivers. Each year, the IT group publishes an annual report showing how well it is doing, and areas that need improvement. He says, "We use the annual performance report to allow the staff to see their performance for the year." The report shows that Intel's IT operation charges just over $12,000 per employee per year for IT services. This works out at approximately 3.12% of the company's revenue.

The Intel IT group has been publishing its annual report since 2000. The latest 2008 report shows an 5% improvement on energy efficiency since 2007, and an 18% reduction in the number of data centres Intel operates. The company has made overall savings of $95m, much of this is down to reducing the number of datacentres Intel operates. "We began consolidating servers and datacentres in 2007, when we had 130. We now have 75," says Johnson.

Intel runs its enterprise applications out of two datacentres and is increasingly using virtualisation and centralisation to improve the efficiency of IT services, but some parts of the business still require dedicated IT. Johnson says, "Manufacturing plants are self-contained and run their own datacentres. The chip design applications are run either in virtual cloud environments or using server farms located close to where the engineers work, to allow them to manipulate complex images." Line-of-business applications like ERP are run as centralised computing services, supporting multiple countries."

Along with reducing the number of datacentres, Johnson is focused on energy efficiency. Intel's state of the art Oregon datacentre uses ambient air for cooling. Rather than use air conditioning to cool servers, Intel uses what it calls air economisers, that expel hot air outside and draw in air into the building for cooling the servers. This site is built on a modular design to support expansion. "We have done a lot of work to enable us to add capacity. We want to be able to add infrastructure, power and rows of servers when we need more capacity," he says.

Efficiency will play a greater role in 2009 for Johnson, as the company looks towards IT to enable staff to work more efficiency during the recession. Johnson is a strong believer in tools like desktop video conferencing. He says, "Staff have been told not to travel so I am seeing more video conferencing, particularly PC-based conferencing." According to Johnson, it is not always necessary to use high-end telepresence suites.

Staff are increasingly using tools like Yammer, the corporate Twitter-like service, Facebook and are blogging. As such, collaboration and social media are high on Johnson's agenda for 2009.

Intel's IT group

The IT group at Intel is responsible for supporting and developing enterprise business applications, productivity software, engineering applications, manufacturing applications, voice and data networking, datacentre operations, and custom applications.

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