IBM Powers Up Software Development Lab With Rooftop Solar Array
November 7, 2011 Timothy Prickett Morgan
IBM has a Power Systems and System z software lab in Bangalore, India, appropriately enough called the India Software Lab. While there’s plenty of good IT talent in India and the Indian government likes for IBM to invest in the local economy to get the local business, Bangalore does have its problems. And a big one is that its electrical grid and power supply is not up to snuff.
This can wreak havoc on a software lab that needs to keep Power and mainframe iron up and running to do software development and testing. IBM installed a fleet of backup diesel generators to tied it over when the power goes down, but Bangalore is a sunny place and one of the physicists in the lab started monkeying around with creating an array of solar cells to juice up the data center.
IBM saw that it could be done, and funded the development of a 6,000 square foot array of solar panels that is capable of delivering 480-volt power directly into the data center and to keep the 50 kilowatts of computer equipment powered up for about 330 days a year for an average of five hours a day when Bangalore has trouble getting electricity to all of its customers. Presumably, IBM could install batteries to store juice and make the array larger and power the data center 24×7 if it has enough roof capacity.
The 480-volt power coming off the solar array hooks directly into the server racks, which have been modified to support DC power as machines used in the telecommunications business have been for years. The racks also include water jackets to remove heat, and the solar array power these, too, as well as the air conditioning units that dump the heat outside. Eliminating this AC-to-DC conversion and using 480-volt power to the rack is much more efficient than all of the stepping down and transforming that typically goes on in data centers.
All the cool data centers are doing it–pun intended.
IBM is going to package up what the lab techs have created and sell it to other companies in remote areas or emerging markets that want to do something other than pay for diesel and smell the smoke when things go wrong in the power grid.