Sun Goes for the Green with New Data Center

 
 
By Scott Ferguson  |  Posted 2007-08-21
 
 
 

Sun Microsystems vision of the data center is a green oasis.

After 12 months of design and construction, Sun will open the doors Aug. 21 to a new, 76,000-square-foot data center. Company executives believe the new data center will demonstrate its ability to deliver eco-friendly technology to its customers and demonstrate Suns commitment to green IT technology.

The data center, located in the companys hometown of Santa Clara, Calif., is expected to use less electricity and more energy efficient, a sign the company not only possesses the skills to do so but is committed to using the technology in its own IT infrastructure.

At the same time, the data center also provides a showcase for Sun to show customers the latest innovations from the company. In addition, Sun can make the pitch that its services division, which the company has been looking to grow in the last few years, can provide potential customers with the same resources it uses in the data center.

"This site demonstrates Suns commitment to eco responsibility and we will be sharing aspects of what we are using with other folks," said Mark Monroe, director of sustainable computing at Sun. "We also want to show customers how they can implement a similar data center strategy and achieve savings and energy efficiency."

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Sun is not the only major vendor to take a data center and turn it into a showcase for a specific technology or line of products that it is promoting as a green initiative that will cut costs.

Earlier this month, IBM announced that several of its data centers around the world would consolidate several thousand servers onto its own System z mainframe systems running Linux. This push by Big Blue is part of the companys Project Big Green, which the Armonk, N.Y., company detailed earlier this year.

Hewlett-Packard is another company that has frequently used its data center initiatives and IT consolidation projects to show off new technologies and various green programs its has undertaken. HP is in the middle of a massive project in which it is consolidating its 85 global data centers into six in the United States, a move that officials say will save the company $1 billion over the next few years.

Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said that while the goals of IBM, HP and Sun are similar, its hard to compare their efforts. For example, while IBM focused more on software, Sun approached the problem from the hardware side.

"The results are great, but the modular/rack footprint scalability focus makes it a hardware-centric approach to consolidation," King wrote in an e-mail. "In addition, as the company expands those facilities by adding modules/racks, its power costs will rise. IBMs mainframe strategy is more software focused, leveraging Linux and mainframe IFL [Integrated Facility for Linux] features both to consolidate the 3900 [plus] servers being replaced and to allow for future infrastructure expansion on those same 30 [plus] mainframes."

With Sun, Monroe said that the company was able to achieve significant savings and reduce electrical costs by using servers powered by its UltraSPARC T1 multicore processors, also known as Niagara. By using these servers, Monroe said the company was able to reduce the number of servers from 2,177 to 1,240.

Sun is using the older generation of Niagara processors since the new chips—the UltraSPARC T2—were only recently released by the company, and systems for Niagara 2 have not yet been released to the market.Overall, Sun managed to reduce the size of the new data center from 200,000 square feet to 76,000 square feet, which will increase yearly energy savings by about 30 percent compared to older data center design and reduce the companys annual electrical bill by $1.1 million. Engineers were also able to reduce the number of server racks the data center uses from 550 to 65, Monroe said.

In terms of electricity, the new data center will use about 500 kilowatts of electricity compared to the two megawatts consumed by older data centers. This will also allow the company to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 4,100 tons every year.

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For cooling, Sun is using refrigeration technology from a number of third-party vendors, including APC. The electrical cabling has been moved off the floor to allow for maximum air flow and Sun has also reduced the amount of copper used in some of the cabling.

The new data center also uses an array of Sun storage products, from high-end equipment to low-end offerings. In addition, the company has managed to reduce the amount of storage devices from 738 in older facilities to 225 in the new data center.

The new Santa Clara data center has been online since June and Sun is also launching similar initiatives in Blackwater, England, and Bangalore, India.

Besides the new data center, Sun will begin offering a new set of services designed to address issues of power and cooling for customers data centers. The company will begin offering the new services—Sun Eco Services suite—beginning Aug. 21, said Stephen Nowack, a Sun senior marketing manager.

Within the service offering, Sun will offer both basic and advanced assessment services for customers data centers, as well as cooling efficiency and optimization services. Sun is also working with another company, Worldwide Environmental Services, to deliver additional services and plans for rack placement and cooling suggestions for data centers.

"The company [Worldwide Environmental Services] specializes in this type of services and whether our customers are looking to build out a data center or build a new data center, we want to offer them optimal amount of eco services that is the best for our customers," Nowack said.

The price of these services starts at about $10,000 for the basic assessment package and can increase up to $30,000 to $40,000 for more advanced services with additional on-site visits by Sun engineers and the companys partners.

Like IBM, King said Sun is looking to get the most out of its efforts to rethink the data center and the services that go with it.

"IBMs mainframe/Linux effort is a great example of the company eating its own cooking but also allows the company to pitch the solution to its customers," King wrote. "Suns position is similar, and the company has really done well in positioning itself at/near the head of energy-concerned IT vendors. Leveraging this effort to expand its service offerings is a natural fit, so I expect Sun will squeeze every penny of potential business it can from this effort."

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