IBM undertakes big server consolidation project

IBM is undertaking the biggest server consolidation project in the history of IT. The tech giant has set an ambitious goal of doubling its server and storage capacity for operations and outsourced customers within the next three years, without increasing its energy consumption, fiscal footprint or carbon emissions.

IBM vice president of IT optimization, Rich Lechner, said IBM stands to save more than A$400 million (US$333 million) in total operational costs within five years, including investments in new equipment and migration costs.

"We evaluated over 10,000 Intel and Unix servers across our data centers to see which ones made sense to consolidate onto Linux on the mainframe and we identified 3900," Lechner said.

"We are migrating applications from the old architecture to Linux on the mainframe, and are consolidating them.

"Over the last 15 years, we have reduced our carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent at a corporate level, through more efficient manufacturing techniques, data centers and work-at-home [staff]." He said the company will drop its emissions by a further 12 percent over the next five years.

Lechner said the project is "the largest sever consolidation project ever undertaken in the industry" and will save some $25 million in energy costs over the same five year period, equating to 5 billion kilowatt-hours over three years, or the equivalent power consumed by Paris in one year or 320,000 United States homes in Winter.

Unix and Linux was chosen over a Wintel platform because of higher utilization rates using server virtualization.

"X86 utilization of servers is about 5 to 10 percent, [but while] it can rise to 20 to 25 percent with server virtualization using Xen, VMware or Microsoft Virtual Server, it can be as high as as 60 to 80 percent on midrange mainframes," he said.

IBM will invest more than $1 billion a year in research and development and will appoint a "green army" of 850 IT architects and sales staff to educate customers on how to turn green using consolidation and virtualization at a system and data center level.

Lechner said business can reduce power consumption and carbon emissions in the data center by 40 percent by redesigning building architectures to be more efficient, and using virtualization and consolidation. He said the best servers to consolidate can be identified by examining service level agreements and work flows.

"Only 45 percent of power directed into data centers ends up with IT equipment, the rest going into lighting, chillers, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) units and UPS (uninterruptible power supply) units," he said.

"The average utilization of storage is about 25 percent, [however] customers using storage virtualization can increase their utilization by 40 points, such as from 20 to 60 percent."

The cost of data center power and cooling will rise 250 percent in five years, according to Lechner, who claimed data centers consume two percent of the world's energy and are responsible for about two percent of total global carbon emissions, the equivalent output of every aircraft in commission.

He said while power and cooling expense costs about $0.40 for every $1 on IT equipment, it will rise to $0.70 within three years, and will equal the hardware spend by 2012.

Lechner blames the costs in part on a 30 percent compound annual growth rate in server sprawl, common across most data centers.

This consumption is heightened in the 80 percent of data centers, according to research firm IDC, which are hosting more data in power hungry servers in data centers buildings more than eight years old.

"The energy consumption of data centers is 15 times intensive than a typical office building, and in some cases it is up to 100 times as exhaustive. CEOs and CFOs are grappling with energy bills that are 10 to 15 times as expensive of what they expect," Lechner said.

This story, "IBM undertakes big server consolidation project" was originally published by Computerworld Australia.

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