September 02, 2008

Batman, Iron Man . . . Meet Green Data Center Man

by Will Runyon September 2, 2008 in Design, Energy Efficiency, Power & Cooling, Services, SysAdmins
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July 27, 2008

What is Cloud Computing, Anyway?

Irving Wladasky-Berger, chairman emeritus of IBM's Academy of Technology, recently posted a comprehensive overview on Cloud Computing titled "What is Cloud Computing, Anyway?" on his blog.  Irving also wrote about this subject in an earlier post, "The Promise and Reality of Cloud Computing."  Excerpts below:


"Cloud computing is the kind of wide-ranging initiative that different people can look at from their own point of view and come up with their own, somewhat different definitions.  This is not surprising in the early stages of such a comprehensive initiative.  When the Internet first broke into the wider world in the mid 1990s, you similarly heard lots of different opinions on what it was and what it would be good for. In reading through the assorted cloud definitions, five key themes keep coming up.

  1. Well designed consumer and business services
  2. The evolution of the Internet
  3. Massive Scalability
  4. Well engineered cloud delivery centers
  5. How relevant is cloud computing to most companies?"

Very worthwhile reading.

by Will Runyon July 27, 2008 in Design, Services, Who's Who
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July 02, 2008

Lessons Learned from IBM's Big Green Initiative

GreenerComputing's David Metcalfe has just published a "lessons learned" story on what IBM has learned since announcing its Project Big Green initiative in May 2007 and its Project Big Green 2.0 announcements last month.

The article reports . . . "After 12 months of customer dialogue IBM's Big Green initiative expanded from a focus on hardware energy efficiency in the data centre to a consulting-lead offering for corporate energy efficiency and carbon management. Through its customer outreach IBM learnt six lessons about the commercialization of Green IT:

1. Exploit IT's information management role.
2. Hitch Green IT to data centre refurbishment projects.
3. Tackle corporate energy efficiency and emissions.
4. Differentiate offerings by industry and country.
5. Plan for slow customer adoption.
6. Prepare for investment barriers to IT energy efficiency."

Read the whole story here.

by Will Runyon July 2, 2008 in Assessments, Design, Energy Efficiency, Power & Cooling, Services
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April 04, 2008

Build a Data Center, Heat the Town Pool

That's what a new data center in Zurich, Switzerland will do with its 2,800 megawatts of excess heat - keep swimmers warm by reusing about 90 percent of the electricity needed to run the data center by reclaiming the heat produced, and save 130 tons of CO2 emissions in the process.  This is one of the three latest green data center projects that IBM is building as part of its Project Big Green initiative.

The other two data centers are being built for kika/Leiner, a green furniture company in St. Polten, Austria; and Telecom Egypt in Cairo.

Green_data_center_2 kika/Leiner's data center is a free-standing cube with about 1,000 square feet of IT space that fulfills all state-of-the-art technical security requirements of a data center. It is locked, has no windows, is equipped with an automatic fire-extinguishing system, and is protected against flooding. The data center does not contain any working space and entrance is restricted. Free cooling will be used in cold months, meaning the air conditioning for the data center will come directly from the cold outside air. Only on warm days will the data center be automatically cooled.

The data center features racks with the newest IBM BladeCenter technology. IBM BladeCenter integrates servers, networks, storage and business applications in highly efficient one-inch systems that sit in a rack like books in a shelf.  Hot air is reduced to room temperature by water-cooled heat exchangers attached to the BladeCenter racks. The high density area covers about a third of the data center IT space and, if required, can be extended. Another third of the data center is space for conventional computing servers with low heat emissions. The last third will remain empty for future expansion.

With more than 10 million customers, Telecom Egypt is the country's largest telecom company.  According to Khaled Marmoush, it's CIO, "Telecom Egypt was convinced that IBM was the best choice because of IBM's standards and methodologies and the experience of the IBM team who worked as a trusted consultant.  IBM provided not only the information about data centers that Telecom Egypt was looking for, but also the technologies and services that are used in today's data centers."

by Will Runyon April 4, 2008 in Design, Energy Efficiency, Power & Cooling, Services, Who's Who
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March 25, 2008

Green your data center and get payback in two years or less

The March issue of Green Business magazine reports in an article title "Get Tech Smart" on the fast ROI from green IT. 

Green_business_cover Key excerpts . . .

In the drive to promote energy efficiency and to improve their own bottom lines through innovation and “green” marketing, IT companies are pushing a more environmentally friendly approach to computing, and they’re doing their best to walk the talk as well. The critical hot spot for all this activity is the data centre...“If this room was a data centre, you’d typically be using 10 to 30 times the amount of energy it’s using as an office,” notes Steve Sams, vice-president of global site and facilities services at IBM Corp...
    The statistics vary depending on who you talk to, but everyone agrees that data centres are energy hogs. The problem, according to Sams, is that many businesses are operating without the facts. “If companies consider their data centre as a car, they don’t actually know if their data centre is a Toyota Prius data centre or a Humvee data centre. They don’t know how many miles per gallon that data centre is getting.”...Sams agrees...most CIOs aren’t responsible for their energy bills. “They may only be paying for a tiny fraction of their energy use because they are charged the same amount per square foot as office space,” he says. “Few have looked at their energy bills either, so they lack the facts to make real business decisions.”
    Another challenge Sams points to is clients not understanding the payback. “These aren’t six, 12 or 20-year payback periods,” he stresses. “What we’re finding is that significant improvement is available in all data centres we looked at with payback periods of two years or less. And we typically find that customers are discovering savings in the 20-55 per cent range.”...IBM has done something similar, rationalizing its internal data centre infrastructure in the past decade from 155 host data centres and 31 networks down to one network and 7 data centres. This is saving them $1.5 billion a year in operating costs. The process itself proves a point for the companies’ customers...As Steve Sams notes, there are other tools coming to the market that could take data centre management to a new level by offering greater automation controls for energy use. “Start taking advantage of these so you can set a policy around service levels and energy management, and let the tools start saving you money by automating what it is capable of — moving workloads around, turning off servers that don’t need to be used as part of active energy management.”

by Will Runyon March 25, 2008 in Design, Energy Efficiency, Services, Who's Who
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March 20, 2008

New Cloud Computing Center in Dublin

NetworkWorld reports on the opening of a new IBM "cloud computing" data center in Dublin. 

One of the Dublin center's first offerings for clients, called IBM Idea Factory for Cloud Computing, is a new service delivered directly to clients over a cloud computing environment. Using Web 2.0 technology, it allows communities of business professionals to be assembled into social networks to facilitate the development of new business ideas. IBM Idea Factory for Cloud Computing captures business processes -- from their beginnings as ideas to commercialization -- speeding up brainstorming among employees, partners, software developers and other third party participants.

Cloud computing is an information technology (IT) infrastructure in which dynamically shared computing resources are virtualized and accessed as a service. Cloud computing replaces the traditional data center model in which companies own and manage their own stand alone hardware and software systems. Cloud computing is an attractive proposition for small to large-sized companies. It also is a green technology model that reduces energy consumption by improving IT resource utilization, therefore requiring fewer servers to handle equivalent workloads.

by Will Runyon March 20, 2008 in Design, Services, Who's Who
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November 02, 2007

World's First Energy Efficiency Certificate Program for Data Centers

In speaking with literally hundreds of customers worldwide, it's clear that there are three key motivators to improve the energy efficiency of IT.

The first is economic.  Data centers can consume 15 times more energy per square foot than a typical office building and, in some cases, can be 100 times more energy intensive.  This means there is a real incentive to improve IT efficiency to lower costs.

The second is operational concerns.  Many customers simply cannot get more power into their data center or dissipate the heat being generated by today's technologies.

The third is the rapid rise of environmental responsibility agendas within companies of all sizes in every geography.  CIOs and IT managers are now being asked to  contribute to the energy efficiency and carbon footprint reduction commitments being made at a corporate level. 

The challenge many companies face is monitoring and verifying their efficiency efforts in their data centers.  Now there's something new that can do this for you.

IBM's Energy Efficiency Certificates Program lets you earn certificates when you reduce the energy needed to run your data center.  The certificates, earned through IBM's partner Neuwing Energy Ventures,  provide third-party verification of progress toward a company's energy efficiency goals and can be traded for cash or other credit on the energy certificate market.  So you can save on costs and improve your company's environmental credentials. 

See this video on this new program

Will energy efficiency credits make a difference for your company?  Let's hear your thoughts.

Rich Lechner

by Will Runyon November 2, 2007 in Design, Energy Efficiency, Power & Cooling, Services
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October 08, 2007

Big Blue Going Green

ElectricityWhen you click on a link, a server in a datacenter somewhere gets the job of finding the web page or process you requested and delivering it to your browser over the Internet. One user on the Internet and one server at the other end serving one web page is quite trivial. With millions of users around the world visiting the web site at unpredictable times and making unpredictable requests for millions of documents, pictures, music, videos, processes and transactions, it can become a nightmare for the people who are managing the datacenter. In the last five years there has been a six-fold increase in computing capacity and a 160 fold increase in storage. Along with the increase in capacity comes a huge increase in complexity and in electrical power usage.

Imagine looking through a window into a corporate datacenter (even though many of them are underground and have no windows) and you would see thousands of steel boxes mounted in six-foot-high racks with cables everywhere. This part of the problem has been addressed by new technology called virtualization, pioneered by IBM decades ago but greatly refined in recent years. (See "Virtually Real or Really Virtual"). Imagine a virtual datacenter. When you peer through the window you see three boxes -- a server, a disk storage device, and a network card. There is a person at a large video console who is looking at what appears to be a dashboard. It shows a pictorial diagram of all the things going on in the datacenter. When one application area needs more server, storage, or network capacity the virtual datacenter automatically re-allocates capacity from another application area that currently has excess capacity. The virtual datacenter keeps resources balanced, and when a component fails, the virtual datacenter automatically allocates a spare or underutilized component to take over. Virtual environments allow a big reduction in complexity but the even bigger problem is the huge growth in electrical power. In many cases companies are not able to get the additional power they need either because the power company does not have the capacity or because the datacenter is not designed to accommodate the physical changes necessary. Even if the power was readily available there is a negative impact on the environment. Hence, Big Green.

IBM is redirecting $1 billion per year across its businesses, mobilizing the company’s resources to dramatically increase the level of energy efficiency in IT. The plan includes new products and services to enable IBM clients to sharply reduce data center energy consumption and make them more “green”. The problem is sizable. Big companies spend tons of money on power. In IBM's case it is a half billion dollars per year. The priority has been on getting the servers and storage that are needed to achieve various business results -- need another feature for the web site, throw in another server. Have growth in web visitors -- throw some more servers at it.

IBM is leading by example. One of their "green" projects is consolidating 3,900 servers onto 30 new top of the line mainframe servers. The result is not only more compute power but dramatically less use of electrical power and space. One of IBM's customers went from 300 servers to six. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center consolidated 1,000 servers onto 300 and saved $20m in costs while freeing up datacenter space for more hospital beds.

Datacenters have been popping up everywhere -- most of them built before 2001. The datacenters are very large rooms full of many different kinds of equipment -- designed in the same way they were decades ago -- like a kitchen where the stove puts out more heat so you turn on the air conditioning to cool down the entire room. The chef is comfortable and others in the room are freezing. IBM is designing datacenters for customers where cooling "zones" are specific to the type of equipment in each zone. Green datacenters not only save space and energy but also benefits the environment overall. In the past the electric bill has been allocated as overhead to all parts of the company. Redesigns are saving many millions of dollars. With the huge growth of energy for the IT infrastructure the CFO is reallocating energy expenditures from general overhead to the CIO so they can see what IT is really costing.

IBM has made a sizeable consulting business out of helping customers understand their energy usage and then designing and supervising the building of new Datacenters and cooling equipment. Having overseen the construction of thirty million square feet of advanced space, IBM has learned a lot. The virtualization is helping a lot too. It can now optimize the use of servers around energy use. For example, as workload declines, perhaps at night, servers can be virtualized and "moved" to underutilized servers and then automatically turn off the servers that are not needed for a few hours.

(See other IBM Happenings)

by John R Patrick October 8, 2007 in Design, Energy Efficiency, Power & Cooling, Services, SysAdmins, Virtualization
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May 23, 2007

Who would have guessed?

On May 10, IBM announced Project Big Green which is focused on helping customers to solve the end-to-end data center energy challenge. It includes:

  • IBM offerings to provide leadership energy efficient information technology (servers, storage),
  • Services to help the clients get the facts around their total energy use for both the data center infrastructure and their IT equipment and design,
  • A green grid supported metric to provide a standard of data center energy efficiency comparison,
  • Services and offerings to build new or retrofit green data centers and,
  • Tivoli Management systems that link the data center infrastructure to the IT technology including ability for Tivoli to use energy-based policy to automate things like workload consolidation and turning off unused IT equipment during low computing demand periods and bringing them  back on stream when demand returns.

In addition to the IBM announcements, Anixter, Eaton, Emerson/Liebert, GE, and Schneider/APC issued joint press releases with IBM, in support of Project Big Green or the IBM Energy Efficiency Initiative. They are each rolling out their own solutions to drive improved energy efficiency across their cooling and electrical offerings.

One final piece to the announcement included the Energy Efficiency Incentive Finder. The finder is an open systems based tool that will provide clients with a one stop shop to find government and energy utility incentives and programs that promote energy anywhere in the world that they have a data center. The tool should be available in 3Q2007 after the utility companies and governments around the world have had a chance to populate it with their programs.

Although IBM expected this to be of interest to the data center community… what is surprising is the reaction from the broader community. Within four hours of the announcement more then 250 articles had been published around the world. I suspect that part of this interest is related to the Gore global warming movement and wide interest in making the planet a better place to live for both ourselves and future generations. IBM estimated that energy savings on a typical 25,000 sq foot data center is equal to about $1.1M per year (at $0.12/Kw-hr) or about 5.2 Million pounds of coal that would not have to be used for power generation.

That is like taking about 920 cars off the road……. permanently. Maybe we should start a “Data center to save the planet” movement.

by Steve Sams May 23, 2007 in Assessments, Design, Energy Efficiency, Power & Cooling, Services
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May 16, 2007

You can't manage what you don't measure......

There's a great deal of buzz in the market today about the power and cooling crisis in the data center. I just read a Server Specs post suggesting we all just "chill out" as power consumption in the data center isn't all that bad.  As I go around the world talking with clients, I get the impression that this is a very real and substantive issue for man. However, many are in the dark (pardon the pun) as to exactly where the power is being consumed or how efficiently they are utilizing their IT assets. While it is broadly accepted as fact that most x86 servers are utilized less than 10%, very few customers actually measure their actual utilization. According to IDC, nearly half (46.8%) of data center managers do not know how many watts per square foot their data centers can or do support. The other 50% were thought to be largely "guessing" when they said that they do know.

There is an old saying that you can't manage what you don't measure and it seems that this is a case in point. Tools for usage metering as well as monitoring and actively managing resource (processor, memory, I/O,...) utilization based on a set of business priorities have existed for decades in the mainframe environment and hence it is not surprising that these systems routinely run at 70% to 90% utilization. The good news is that these tools are emerging for the open systems environment and vendors are now adding power management to the capabilities. So now an IT manager can show an application owner or business line executive exactly how much resources they are consuming and how efficient - or inefficient - they are...including power. Whether or not an IT department does chargeback, presenting the facts can have a profound and sobering effect.

Are you of the mind to simply "chill out", or does your business have process in place for monitoring and measuring resource utilization and energy efficiency? I'd love to hear your perspective.

by Rich Lechner May 16, 2007 in Design, Energy Efficiency, Power & Cooling, Services
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