IBM is opening a data center that officials say offers customers a way to improve their IT operations while driving down capital and operational costs.
The new facility, in Raleigh, N.C., dovetails with IBM’s larger Smarter Planet initiative, having been built with such new computing models as cloud computing in mind, in a modular fashion that can quickly and easily be scaled, and with intelligent and energy-efficient features that help drive down operating costs, according to company officials.
“It is more interconnected and more intelligent than the data centers we opened even a few years ago,” Joe Dzaluk, vice president of infrastructure for IBM’s Server and Technology Group, said in an interview.
The data center, built in a renovated warehouse on IBM’s Research Triangle Park campus, was officially opened Feb. 4, though the tech company already has been moving clients and running operations from the facility.
The data center currently is using about 60,000 square feet of raised floor space consuming 6 megawatts of power, with the capacity to grow to 100,000 feet and 15 megawatts, Dzaluk said. At full capacity, the facility will be able to handle the computing needs of 40 to 50 clients, he said.
The key for IBM is the technologies being used inside the facility and the modular way the data center is being developed, according to Dzaluk and Steve Sams, vice president of Site and Facilities Services for IBM.
As more customers come in and bring with them their various computing needs, Dzaluk said he expects that essentially every type of IBM system-from its iDataPlex server arrays and System z mainframes to its Power and System x servers, along with storage boxes-will be deployed.
The facility also will support cloud computing, which relies heavily on virtualization and other such technologies and helps reduce hardware capital and operational costs. IBM recently announced several cloud computing offerings, including Smart Business Development and Test on the IBM Cloud and Smart Business Desktop on the IBM Cloud, which can cut a company’s infrastructure TCO by as much as 40 percent.
Such cloud computing capabilities enable clients to reduce hardware resources by as much as 70 percent, according to IBM.
Inside IBMs Efficient Data Center
IBM is hosting a cloud computing program at the data center in conjunction with North Carolina Central University and NC State University. The program enables students at Hillside New Tech High School, in Durham, N.C., to gain access to school materials and applications over the Internet, Dzaluk said.
The data center also hosts IBM’s own worldwide Website and the IT operations of such outsourcing clients as the U.S. Golf Association. USGA officials said the move to the new facility helped reduce the organization’s power consumption by 38 percent and floor space requirements by 34 percent.
IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative is designed to incorporate greater intelligence into infrastructures-from buildings, transportation systems and utilities to businesses and even cities-to make them run more efficiently. Along those lines, IBM has put in more than 8,000 branch circuit monitoring points that keep an eye on the systems, more than 2,000 sensors that gather temperature, pressure, humidity and air flow data from air conditioners, and more than 30,000 utility and environmental sensors that interconnect with IBM software tools. Data from these sensors can be analyzed to help with future planning for the building and for energy conservation.
Thanks to a host of energy-efficiency features, the IBM data center will consume half the energy that like-sized traditional data centers do, Dzaluk said. Data from sensors throughout the building enables systems to dynamically adjust cooling, which will save 15 percent in energy costs. In addition, outside air will be used for half the year to help keep the data center cool, a reflective roof is used to reduce heat from the sun and rainwater is collected for reuse.
IBM was able to also reuse 95 percent of the building’s original shell and recycle 92 percent-or 4,017 tons-of construction waste.
The data center is a showcase for IBM’s EMDC (Enterprise Modular Data Center) initiative. Introduced in June 2008, EMDC enables companies to scale their IT infrastructure as business needs demand in small, standardized modules. By growing incrementally-rather than trying to build everything at once-businesses can save 40 percent on capital expenses and 50 percent on operational expenses until further capacity is required, Sams said in an interview.
He likened it to PCs, which regularly ship with extra memory slots installed. Users don’t pay for the extra memory until it’s needed, he said.
The EMDC approach also helps businesses with planning, Sams said. Rather than trying to guess what the company will need 20 years down the road-or what technology will be like in that time-the company can expand its data center as needed.
“Planning this five years out is challenging, much less 20 years,” Sams said. “Someone building a data center five years ago didn’t even know about cloud computing.”
The data center is also a model of how IBM will roll out its own data centers in the future.