Turning the data center green

Analyst firm president says that green cannot be ignored any longer.

One technology innovation that IBM uncovered is particularly intriguing -- the "cool battery," which increases chiller utilization by storing cold gathered during the night for use throughout the daylight hours.

IBM's next focal point was its own servers and storage. Energy-efficient variable-speed fans, power supplies, chips, compute server blades, storage arrays, solid-state memory replacement for local disk storage, etc. are all available in today's shipping equipment. Coupled with these green server/storage products is the capability to install rear-door heat exchangers on the equipment racks that will remove an additional 55 percent of generated heat.

Lastly, IBM has introduced its green software in the form of the Power Executive, a Tivoli-based management software suite that measures/trends power usage, service-level optimize/allocation/cap power usage and automation of energy management. As a stand-alone data-center management tool, this is important software, but IBM has taken it to another dimension by integrating with Tivoli's systems and networking-management software suite to offer a consolidated dashboard view of the data center. Power Executive integration can also occur with Tivoli's provisioning, workload scheduling/management, capacity planning, accounting, automation and intelligent utility networking-management software.

Alternatives can always exist for the green data center. The most prominent is relocation. Yahoo, Microsoft and Google are building massive data center complexes on the banks of the Columbia River in Oregon for access to reliable, relatively inexpensive hydroelectric power. Google is building a massive data center in Eemshaven, Netherlands with access to hydroelectric, wind and tidal power. Cisco has built and is promoting data centers in Scotland where there is an abundance of renewable wind and tidal power.

Where to next? How about an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean! Microsoft, Cisco and IBM are all on the list of corporations investigating the potential of establishing data centers in Iceland to be powered by very inexpensive renewable geothermal and hydroelectric power and cooled by free outside air.

The weakest link in the chain remains communications equipment. Current equipment heat/power problems can be addressed by an immediate data-center audit and resultant redistribution of communications equipment. Since any equipment rack can be cooled using a rear-door heat exchanger, use of that should be an immediate ROI-based green initiative in all corporations. Virtualization of compute servers, storage and network services is no longer an IT-analysis alternative but a green reality.

The age of copper wire-based connectivity and switching in the data center may be coming to an end. The green, energy-efficient, low-power alternative of fiber optics for low-latency connectivity now must be given its day. Low-cost, physical-layer fiber switches from such companies as Glimmerglass need to be migrated from the service provider world into the corporate data center.

As ridiculous as it may be, unless the IT industry in unison reacts now and delivers green products and corporations focus on green data-center environments, in the not too distant future, every corporation will be looking to relocate.

Dzubeck is president of Communications Network Architects, an industry analysis firm in Washington, D.C. E-mail him at fdzubeck@comnetarchDOTcom.

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