What cloud? GE builds its own world-class data center

What cloud? GE builds its own world-class data center

Summary: Most companies are trying to outsource as much of their IT as possible, but GE just made a huge investment in IT with its own state-of-the-art data center that will power American manufacturing.


At a time when more and more companies are rethinking IT and considering how much of their data center they can outsource to the cloud, General Electric is going 180 degrees in the opposite direction. On Thursday, GE unveiled its new state-of-the-art "green" data center on the same site in where the world's first commercial computer was deployed in 1954.

The new data center was conceived and architected by GE's internal IT department (along with a few strategic partners) at GE Appliances & Lighting in Louisville, Kentucky. The data center itself is located within the massive complex known as "GE Appliance Park." Interestingly enough, the site has a distinguished history for IT innovation. In 1954, the Louisville GE complex became home to the first UNIVAC computer that was deployed in a private business. Before that UNIVAC at GE in Louisville, all computers had been part of government projects. That first UNIVAC was used to run a single business application: employee payroll.

GE's 2011 data center is also breaking new ground in IT. It is one of the world's first data centers to achieve LEED Platinum Certification. LEED is for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and it is awarded by theU.S. Green Building Council for projects that go above and beyond standard building codes to create sustainable, energy-efficient buildings. It's tough to get the basic LEED certification, and only 6% of all LEED buildings achieve the Platinum certification.

"We have a long, long history of firsts," said Alan Kocsi, CIO of GE Appliances & Lighting.

There were a number of things GE did to land the LEED Platinum mark:

  • 98.3% of the walls, floors, and roof were existing space that didn't require new construction
  • The data center is 34% more energy-efficient than a comparable code-compliant building
  • It reduces by 50% the amount of space used by the previous data center, as a result of using high-density servers
  • Water consumption inside the building is being reduced by 42% of the industry baseline by using ultra low-flow fixtures
  • 50.7% of construction materials were sourced regionally
  • 30.2% of the building materials were recyclable materials
  • 85.4% of construction waste was diverted from the landfill (mostly through recycling)

However, the new GE data center isn't just about saving energy, going green, and reducing the power bill. It also has to power the aggressive goals that GE Appliances and Lighting has made to expand its U.S. manufacturing operations in the years ahead. As such, the new data center provides four times the capacity of the previous data center.

The company needs all of that computing power to support a $1 billion investment that it's making to upgrade its appliance product line and create "Manufacturing Centers of Excellence" in the U.S. that will create 1,300 new U.S. manufacturing jobs by 2014. That includes 400 jobs that are being transferred from China to GE Appliance Park in Louisville in 2012 to build energy-efficient water heaters.

The IT to power this investment in appliance manufacturing in the U.S. will be run out of the new Louisville data center, which will also power the work of 27,000 employees in over 100 countries who all work for the GE Appliances & Lighting division.

"This is a historic day for GE Appliance Park," said Jim Campbell, CEO of GE Appliances & Lighting. "It wouldn't make sense to invest a billion dollars without putting some of that money into IT."

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said, "This could have easily been outsourced." He praised GE for making an investment in American manufacturing and using U.S. technology to build a a data center that will deliver "state of the art data to make state of the art decisions."

Fischer also thinks middle America can land a lot more of these types of deals. "In this part of the country, we've got a competitive advantage for advanced manufacturing," he said.

That jives with the message that GE CEO and Chairman Jeff Immelt has been telling anyone who will listen across the United States for the past couple years. Immelt has been preaching "American Renewal" through a focus on innovation and investment in R&D and manufacturing. Below is one of GE's ads that it has been running to promote Immelt's vision.

As for the Louisville data center itself, it is a Tier 3 data center (98 minutes of down time per year) with all of the latest bells and whistles, including:

  • Redundant power and cooling
  • Massive battery backup as well as dual generators
  • Biometric authentication
  • "Man trap" entrance door to prevent "tailgating"
  • An incident response command center
  • Collaborative, reconfigurable work spaces for IT professionals
  • Separate work space for maintenance crew

Chet Guess, COO of GE Appliances & Lighting, said, "This data center is a real investment in our future. Built for high-density computing with the use of virtualization, this new data center will give us more than four times the capacity of our old data center. This will give us the flexibility to radically adapt and change to new market requirements and customer needs. This will give us a 25-plus year trajectory of growth in this business... This new data center will house Enterprise Resource Planning [ERP] systems that will help GE implement lean manufacturing processes to improve operational efficiencies, to drive cost down, to improve customer service through better fill rates and billing systems... What I'm most proud of is the successful completion of a $48 million project that was an investment in this team, this business, and this community. And, I'm proud of the manner in which we achieved it. As you look at LEED certification, of all the buildings that implement LEED certification in this world, only 6% of those buildings achieve Platinum certification and we're one of them. That's a true testament to GE's commitment to this team and business, and also to its environmental stewardship."

Photo gallery

Photos: GE's LEED Platinum data center

Also read

This article was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Hardware, CXO, Data Centers, Storage

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  • Cool.

    I think many (Google, MS, Apple, Amazon) are missing what lots of people and most large companies really want in the cloud. They want a "personal cloud" and not a cloud where Apple, Google or Amazon own and track the data.

    Why not sell a "cloud box" that integrates all the needed software allowing individuals the ability to create their own seamless cloud? While iCloud has some really nice features, it would have been hyper cool had Apple provided the server side side software allowing each of us to keep our own data. 5G limits? Heck, 1TB limits. Same for Google's services. Why not sell the server side side software allowing all of your Google Docs to be saved not on Google's servers but my servers. As the default. Docs runs from my hardware/servers.

    Amazon. Same thing.

    Way to go GE.
  • RE: What cloud? GE builds its own world-class data center

    Kudos to GE. Good companies don't outsource. It is a waste of money and loss of control over your own destiny. Data is power.

    The entire argument that IT is not our core competency is a very stupid argument extended by the outsourcing industry and weak CIO's or companies with poor leadership.

    Data and IT are the KEY to success in todays connected world. Without data and complete control over IT you are at the mercy of the outsourcer who looks at you as a money machine and who cares two hoots where your business goes.

    Whenever I see a company outsource it's IT I know that they are either financial trouble or they don't care about the company or the CIO is a hack.
    • RE: What cloud? GE builds its own world-class data center

      @abc123a Amen - and thank you!
    • RE: What cloud? GE builds its own world-class data center

      @abc123a I could not have said it better myself, thanks :)
    • RE: What cloud? GE builds its own world-class data center


      Finally!!!! <b>Some one who <u>gets it!</u></b>

      Very well put. Now, to convince those members of <i>brain dead <u>manglement</u></i>, that they are on the wrong track.
    • RE: What cloud? GE builds its own world-class data center

      @abc123a <br>Agreed.<br>Most CEOs don't know anything about running companies properly.<br><br>They're taught to "pump-prime" stock prices and then flee with their ill-gotten gains before the "Great Collapse".<br>They only thing they know, is how to "White-Ant".
  • RE: What cloud? GE builds its own world-class data center

    Way to go GE, maybe you will show other companies the way.
  • Tell us the real story

    Just putting some severs is a new room is not a Cloud. But the CIO does not understand IT and is a accountant. Amazon has a Cloud, GE has a room with some racks and servers in it.

    The stock is trading well below S&P - and this article has no credibility at all. GE has laid off over 100,000 in the US over the last ten years - and has hired 100,000 abroad. This article is a sick joke on all of us IT professionals laid off by GE whose jobs went to China and other countries where GE wanted to be on the right side of the Government..
  • RE: What cloud? GE builds its own world-class data center

    This IS great news and hopefully the start of moee positive trends in the way of middle class rebirth.
    • Not even close!

      The big reasons for shipping operations and jobs overseas have not changed.

      GE still has a lot of work being done overseas, and that's not likely to change with the current environment that "forces" companies to outsource jobs and facilities to foreign shores.