IBM revamps Project Green

IBM is expanding its Project Green initiative to offer datacentres designed so that customers can gradually expand facilities while still matching power and cooling needs to the IT equipment installed them.

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IBM is expanding its Project Green initiative to offer datacentres designed so that customers can gradually expand facilities while still matching power and cooling needs to the IT equipment installed them.

The revamped Project Big Green, means IBM will use best practice templates and move shift away from custom-designing datacentres, said Steven Sams, the vendor's vice president of global site and facilities services.

As the servers and other devices in datacentres become more and more standardised,
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IT managers should be receptive conceptually to the idea of having datacentres that are standardised as well, said Chris Mines, an analyst at Forrester Research. But it's still a big change for users, Mines said, adding that most datacentres currently "are a hodgepodge of nonstandard configurations and equipment."

Server vendors, IBM included have been working to improve the energy efficiency of systems, for instance, by precisely calibrating fan sizes and the speeds at which they operate to specific cooling needs, and using highly efficient power supplies. In a sense, IBM now is extending that kind of energy-efficient engineering to include the rooms in which servers are located. It claimed that its standardised approach can cut operational costs by half over the life of a datacentre.

IBM launched Project Big Green last year, initially for small and midsize businesses with datacentres of up to 2,500 square feet. The company also said then that as part of the program, it planned to replace 3,900 of its own servers with 30 mainframes running Linux and server virtualization software. Wednesday's announcement expands Project Big Green's modular approach to include datacentres ranging in size from 5,000 to 20,000 square feet.

In addition, IBM said it is now making systems available in pod-like shipping containers that are 10 feet wide and either 20 or 40 feet long. Container-based systems, which also are being offered by Sun Microsystems Inc. and other vendors, are designed for use in quickly building out new datacentres or expanding existing ones; they also can be used to set up temporary IT facilities.

Many datacentres were built on an ad hoc basis and are ill-designed for the increasingly dense servers that vendors are now selling. They often are also overcooled for their needs and are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Datacentres as a whole now account for 0.5% of the world's energy consumption, according to the Uptime Institute, and about half of the energy costs at a typical datacentre are spent on cooling IT equipment.

Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata, said that the more standardised design and construction approach planned by IBM makes sense because of the speed at which companies are growing their computing operations.

But he added that IBM isn't alone in offering such services; in particular, it faces competition from Hewlett-Packard, which last year acquired datacentre designer EYP Mission Critical Facilities.

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