IBM Is Enjoying the Role of Green Giant
June 16, 2008 Dan Burger
If you believe there is an energy crisis in your data center, there’s a lot you can do about it. It makes no difference if you are Save the Planet green or Save the Bottom Line green. It’s clear that both are closely tied. For that reason, IBM is putting green-job-driven economics into practice. If it helps companies save money by reducing power consumption, Big Blue makes money by selling hardware, software, and services. And there will be plenty of green to go around.
When IBM announced in May 2007 that it was investing $1 billion in an energy efficiency initiative called Project Big Green, there were indicators that energy costs and data center power consumption were both on the rise and the redesigning of data centers would become a much bigger issue. The events that unfolded during the past 13 months were not completely unexpected. Still, when IBM attributes $300 million in new revenue during the fourth quarter of 2007 to “green client engagements,” and reports it has built more than 40 green data centers in the past year, the tendency is to claim success for Project Big Green. IBM has crowned the initiative as one of the most successful efforts in company history.
I suspect any of the numbers with a dollar sign in front of it are highly subjective. It’s impossible to know, but it appears to me that IBM has loaded Big Green with revenue derived from every corner of Big Blue that can be somehow related to energy savings or footprint reduction. Sorting out the sales attributable to customers attracted to greener technology is left to those boosting, or boasting about, the greenness of it all.
To build upon the year one success of Project Big Green, IBM late last week announced phase two of the project, a plan for providing modular data center designs that save power, save space, and ultimately save customers money.
According to IBM, roughly 60 percent of the capital costs and 50 percent of the operational costs of running a data center are related to energy (power and cooling) and the design and construction of an energy efficient data center has become “a business imperative.” This has led to three modular data centers described as being “miniature versions of IBM’s renowned data centers” and ready for “immediate deployment anywhere in the world.” These three are in addition to the scalable modular data centers announced in phase one of Project Big Green, which are the 40 data centers built in the past year and mentioned above. IBM supports any type of equipment in its data center designs. It can be floor-mounted equipment, rack-mounted equipment, and it can be a mixed environment such as a combination of Power Systems and System x servers plus racks of storage and networking gear. It could also include equipment from Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Sun Microsystems, and others IT suppliers.
Starting from the largest modular data center and progressing toward the smallest, IBM has the Enterprise Modular Data Center, the Portable Modular Data Center, and the Modular High Density Zone.
EMDC, by virtue of its standardized module approach, can be brought online three to six months quicker than a custom designed data center. It has the flexibility to match capital and operational costs to IT requirements and can be built out in 5,000 square foot modules to a maximum of 20,000 square feet. It could be built to 100 watts per square foot for starters. It can be built out later horizontally as in footprint, or vertically which is power density, to 200 watts or 300 watts per square foot–the latter being the upper limit of data center design today.
PMDC is the data center in a pod approach that Sun Microsystems launched two years ago and has reportedly enjoyed great success in the marketplace. It is transportable in its own shipping container and includes infrastructure for fire suppression, cooling systems, and remote monitoring, as well as protection from fire, smoke, humidity, condensation, and temperature changes. It’s used in remote, temporary, and mobile situations.
MHDZ is a 200-square-foot modular system combining power and cooling with high-density servers in retrofit situations. IBM says it can be deployed in less than three months and provide up to 35 percent cost savings compared to building the same capability in a new data center.
Brian Canney, executive for site and facilities services at IBM’s Global Services group, which has put together the new products, says his group is focused on designing and building data centers or retrofitting existing data centers with high-density computing or energy efficiency or both in mind. The 40 data centers built in the past year were completed under his watchful eye.
The scalable modular data center idea was used in the data centers built in the past year. Canney described it as a complete turnkey data center package that encompasses everything from the IT equipment racks to the cooling solutions, to UPS, batteries, monitoring, security, and cabling. These data centers were installed within working environments within a building and could be installed with or without raised flooring. As Canney sees it, this arrangement is perfect for smaller businesses or organizations that are installing their first real data centers, or for those moving out of service closets or that have IT equipment spread out around the office.
The modular system allows systems to be built faster (25 percent faster according to Canney) because the module is pre-designed to include the IT space, and the mechanical and the electrical space also. It can later be expanded, if need be, in a non-invasive way. It is also designed for a Level 3-plus operating environment, so it has high availability as well as high efficiency. Canney says the modules begin with a data center infrastructure efficiency of 66 percent, which is much higher than what is in most data centers today.
Regarding the revenue figures that IBM associates with Project Big Green, Canney says those come from the building of the data centers, but also include data center assessments, relocation and consolidation services, and other services. Other IBM organizational groups such as the Tivoli group, other IBM software, and the Systems and Technology Group for the hardware have revenue counted toward Big Green as well. A good majority of the revenue, Canney says, is attributable to Global Services where the designing and building of the data center, and the planning for technology, software, consolidation, and virtualization services is coordinated.