Visitors to Disney's Epcot Center in Orlando can walk around the world, stopping at pavilions that aim to give them a taste of other countries. Now, Disney and IBM hope to give visitors a unique look at the information technology that delivers the modern world's everyday necessities as well.
Last week, the two companies unveiled the latest revision of their collaboration, the Smarter Planet, an exhibit on how technology can save energy and Earth's resources. Based on concepts espoused in IBM's 14-month-old marketing push of the same name, Smarter Planet allows guests to explore the impact of various technologies, such as using mobile phones for banking.
Visitors at IBM's new Smarter Planet exhibit create avatars for Runtime, a customised game experience that lets players run, jump and dance through computing history. The exhibit's modular data centre also stars.
The exhibit also takes people inside the data centre, a part of the modern computing world that many people never see. Unlike the Wizard of Oz model, the servers powering the exhibit will not be behind a curtain but on full display.
Based on IBM's scalable modular data centre (SMDC) designs, the data centre at the Innoventions Pavilion at Epcot shows some of the ways that modernising IT facilities can save companies money.
"Data centres have gotten bigger and denser and more heavily utilised," says Merv Adrian, an analyst with IT Market Strategies. "We have steadily consumed more and more energy, and these facilities were not designed with energy efficiency top of mind."
Modern data centre designs, such as the scalable modular data centre (SMDC), are far more efficient than those of a decade ago, says Jody Cefola, chief marketing officer for site and facilities group at IBM's Global Technology Services.
"Data centres are still energy hogs," says Cefola. "Per square foot they take up to 30 to 80 times more energy than a typical office building."