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Big Blue debuts little green mainframes

IBM introduces new packaging of its green data center technologies dubbed "mini-IBMs."

Smaller is better when it comes to data center footprints. In line with that theme, the "mini-IBM" debuted this month, Big Blue's attempt to package its green data center technologies. These modularized mini mainframes are targeted mostly at companies seeking to get energy-efficient data centers up and running fast and cheap.

"There is a lot of infrastructure build-out going on, and ways to simplify that build-out have appeal. Servers used to be delivered in individual boxes with assembly of racks, an exercise for the end user. Now, delivery of complete, configured racks is common. So moving up to the next level of modularity is a logical step," said Gordon Haff, principal IT advisor at Illuminata Inc., a technology consulting firm in Nashua, N.H.

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The Modular Data Centers are designed for locations from 5,000 to 23,000 square feet and are ideal for remote sites. "The bulk of power in any data center is actually used for cooling and air conditioning -- installing a modular system saves 40% on energy compared to a customized data center," said Elaine Lennox, vice president for IBM Enterprise Systems.

Simple design changes such as variable-speed fans and adding rear-door heat exchangers help make the mini data centers energy efficient. The plug-and-play systems include IT racks, chiller units, a UPS and batteries, a fire suppression system, power distribution, cooling units and remote monitoring. They can be readied for shipment in as few as 12-14 weeks, according to IBM officials.

Ignoring it is not going to be acceptable to most publicly traded companies.
Mike Kahn
managing directorThe Clipper Group Inc.
The need for green data centers is pressing, according to a study released by the Environmental Protection Agency last August. The study posits that data centers are doubling their energy consumption every five years. What's more, over a data center's lifetime, energy costs can be as much as half of total operations costs. To make matters worse, the pace of technology is outstripping data centers, 78% of which are older than 7 years and based on obsolete infrastructures, according to a Gartner Inc. survey by Mike Chuba published in February. And in May, DCD London & Mutual PLC, a London-based realty and financial services company, released a report saying that storage and server requirements will increase tenfold, necessitating the expansion of data centers for nearly 50% of all companies.

But the need for greener data centers will have an even more important role in a financial reporting context, noted Mike Kahn, managing director at The Clipper Group Inc., an IT consultancy in Wellesley, Mass.

"This move toward green IT is very real at the highest levels. Ignoring it is not going to be acceptable to most publicly traded companies. Financial auditors are going to be asking these questions, too. IBM's reporting tools for monitoring energy usage could be a good vehicle for standardized [financial] reporting. On the bottom line, energy costs will be a big factor," Kahn said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Sarah Varney, Technology Editor

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