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Save energy wherever you can, and use your computer better: those are the mantras at IBM's research labs in Poughkeepsie, New York.
These tenets apply both to the equipment IBM is putting into datacentres, and to the infrastructure surrounding them. The result, the company hopes, is a datacentre that saves energy and money - and it is exploring seemingly every feasible avenue to achieve its aims.
"If you look at a pie chart on how much energy is used in a datacentre, roughly half the pie goes to infrastructure, and half goes to the IT," says Roger Schmidt, IBM fellow and chief engineer for datacentre energy efficiency. "That's not good. The work is done by the IT, right? So you want to make the infrastructure half of the pie as small as possible. We're trying to tie the equipment more tightly to the environment so we can save energy."
For IBM, this means a focus on two areas: air-cooling and water-cooling. These are nowhere more apparent than in the company's 'green datacentre' at Poughkeepsie (above), which has an air-cooled side and a water-cooled side.
The air-cooled side of the room relies on a principle as simple as opening a window. "It's cold outside," Schmidt says, pointing to the minor blizzard hitting the vast plain of the IBM car park. "Just open these windows. Why can't we do that?" In fact, the industry is doing just that, he says: using ambient air to cool datacentre equipment. The upside is that air-conditioning can be turned off, saving power and emissions.