IBM Offers Green IT Advice

In an interview with eWEEK, IBM's resident green IT expert, Steven Sams, talks about Big Blue's efforts to help its customers go green.

The explosion of connectivity, online applications and new services has driven the average business to increase its server capacity by six times and storage by 69 times over the last 10 years. The increased demand to keep up with growth and manage rising energy costs, as well as increased concern for the environment, places significant pressure on aging data center infrastructures. Many companies are under pressure to reduce their carbon footprint. While "going green" and growing business appear to be diametrically opposed goals, IBM has pioneered technologies that demonstrate how green IT can actually provide a much more efficient and competitive infrastructure to support emerging business requirements.

IBM's resident green IT expert, Steven Sams, spoke with eWEEK's Darryl K. Taft about Big Blue's efforts in this area. Sams is vice president of Site and Facilities Services at IBM. He is responsible for a worldwide organization that is dedicated to helping clients identify their requirements, current capabilities and best options for data centers. This includes building new facilities and optimizing, relocating or consolidating existing facilities. The Site and Facilities Services organization that Sams oversees includes 700 specialists in more than 40 countries that have built over 30 million square feet of customer raised floor.

Can you discuss some of the ways IBM has been promoting green IT and how IBM's Global Technology Services (GTS) is helping clients redesign data centers?

We've focused on designing data centers to be the most cost-effective solutions while providing flexibility to meet clients' unpredictable changes in IT demand-and to do it in a manner which is faster to deployment. In the past few years we've designed over 400 data centers around the world with a modular, "plug and play" approach, which has provided clients with 20 to 30 percent lower energy costs than traditional methods. The client response has been tremendous-according to recent industry surveys, over 80 percent of clients plan to adopt the plug-and-play approach, a drastic increase from a reported 11 percent only two years ago.

Would you explain the distinction between the "plug and play" approach that IBM provides in this space versus the traditional data center touted by other providers?

A traditional approach includes a large, monolithic data center build that is filled over time as capacity needs of the business increase. This approach was effective when technology power and cooling requirements remained relatively stable and business growth was predictable. IBM's modular, plug-and-play approach is more cost-effective and flexible by allowing clients to build in smaller increments, pay as they grow and add capacity when needed. Consequently, deferring as much as 40 to 50 percent of the capital and operating costs. Along with increased changes in technology rates and unpredictability in most businesses, our approach (a design with additional space for components such as UPS, chillers and cooling) allows the data center to be more flexible by adopting to change.

IBM's collaboration with the world's leading providers of data center physical infrastructure equipment has helped to bring out this vision of "plug and play" data centers to market. Can you discuss the role of this ecosystem?

We believe that increasingly efficient use of capital and operational costs cannot be driven by one company. Rather, the technologies should encompass the expertise from multiple companies. IBM is establishing a new leadership approach to data center design that helps to solve many of the past cost and flexibility challenges-allowing clients to plug in more cooling and power capacity as necessary. The mechanical and electrical equipment which runs the data center represents over 60 percent of the capital costs to build a new data center. IBM believes working collaboratively with the world's leading suppliers in power, cooling, monitoring and management and network cabling are critical to the adoption of a data center which can scale on-demand and significantly reduce capital and operating costs. Moreover, these partnerships allow us to go to market on a global scale with innovative solutions.