IBM unveils energy efficiency plan

Project Big Green would enable companies to reduce their data-center energy costs by 42 percent, IBM says.
Written by Caroline McCarthy, Contributor
NEW YORK--Let the color jokes begin: With its new energy efficiency initiatives, Big Blue wants to go green.

At an event for press, analysts and business partners in New York City on Thursday morning, IBM announced it will be allocating $1 billion per year into a new initiative that has the goal of making IT infrastructures more energy-efficient. According to IBM, this will not only make companies and public organizations' data centers more environmentally friendly, it will dramatically cut down on energy costs.

"Think of it as a road map to green data centers," said Val Rahmani, general manager of infrastructure management services for IBM's Global Technology Services division. "We're going to lay that out and we're going to show how the pieces fit."

The company has aptly titled this initiative Project Big Green, and claims that it will enable the average 25,000-square-foot data center to cut its energy bills by 42 percent. IBM has also set a goal of doubling the computing capacity of its worldwide data centers by 2010 while keeping power consumption levels steady.

The data center efficiency program is part of a broader environmental initiative at IBM called Big Green Innovations, which also includes developing services for water management and lowering corporations' carbon footprints.

With Project Big Green, IBM has introduced a new set of products and services for its clients that address various steps of the "greening" process for corporate IT infrastructures. "We're mobilizing IBM," Rahmani said. "We're integrating our technologies, hardware, software, our information technology and consulting skills, research, and financial capabilities together to address these issues." A Web portal for clients interested in participating in Project Big Green will launch soon.

Among the new offerings from IBM are several energy efficiency assessment programs, both full-fledged analyses and a quicker, Web-based assessment for companies that may be testing the waters. The programs are intended to help companies learn how their data centers measure up to standards and where they can improve.

"We can then work with the client to help them remediate each one of those opportunities," said Mike Daniels, senior vice president of the company's Global Technology Services division. The remedies include patented "cool batteries" and "cooling doors" to reduce the costs of cooling a data center, which Daniels said can be responsible for nearly half of its energy costs.

At the event, IBM used a Second Life 3D model to show what one of its energy-efficient data centers would look like. The company plans to continue to use virtual worlds as a tool to explore power management as the Project Big Green initiative progresses.

IBM has also created new energy management software, which monitors power consumption and allows IT administrators to set power policies. That software will be included in the company's Tivoli software suite and IBM Systems Director Porfolio. IBM will also be encouraging clients to work with its virtualization products, which it says allows them to use fewer machines and improve performance without using more power.

Additionally, the company says it has assembled a thousand experts worldwide to work with companies to help them manage energy issues in their data centers.

"Greening" efforts on the part of big technology companies and major corporations have become increasingly commonplace over the past year. One of the most high-profile eco-friendly tech initiatives surfaced earlier this month when Apple CEO Steve Jobs acknowledged criticism by environmental groups that the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer company was not doing enough to address industrial pollution and energy issues.

At the event on Thursday, IBM executives conveyed a sense of urgency with regard to skyrocketing fuel costs and the impact of IT data centers--which have come under fire for being major energy hogs--on climate change.

"Across the world there's been a frenzy in moving forward in information technology," Rahmani said. "It's estimated that the cost of energy (it takes) to power these data centers will increase by 50 percent every two to three years. It's huge: a huge cost to us, a huge cost to our clients, and also a huge cost to the environment."

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