IBM Launches $1B Green Data Center Push

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NEW YORK - There were plenty of quips about “Big Blue going Big Green.” But make no mistake: IBM’s new initiative to improve the energy efficiency of corporate data centers is serious business. Project Big Green, which IBM unveiled at a press conference here today, will be backed by a $1 billion a year commitment.

The initiative on green data centers is being noted for its symbolic importance as a sign that Corporate America is mobilizing to tackle the tough environmental challenges. But IBM’s new vision is likely to have a major practical impact on the data center industry, given the company’s reach in this sector.

“IBM has spent a lot of time building data centers,” said Mike Daniels, senior vice president of IBM Global Technology Services. “We’ve influenced almost 40 million square feet of raised floor space. That’s larger than Central Park. We own and operate over 8 million square feet of raised floor. We have a lot of insight here into building next-generation data centers.”

Most of the components of Project Big Green are existing IBM products and services, with a new data center cooling technology being the notable exception. What’s new is IBM’s holistic approach to energy efficient data center management, which brings together its many services in a cohesive approach.

“This is not something that’s going to be changed by better chip technology,” said Bill Zeitler, senior vice president, IBM Systems and Technology Group, who emphasized the need for an end-to-end solution.


IBM’s approach to energy efficiency includes five steps:

  • DIAGNOSE: Evaluate existing facilities, includign an energy assessment, virtual 3-D power management and thermal analytics.
  • BUILD: Plan, build or update to an energy efficient data center.
  • VIRTUALIZE: Virtualize IT infrastructures and special purpose processors.
  • MANAGE: Seize control with power management software.
  • COOL: Exploit liquid cooling solutions – inside and out of the data center.

IBM will apply its green data center methodology to its own facilities, and expects to double the computing capacity of its data centers within the next three years without increasing power consumption or its carbon footprint. IBM says that this effort can save more than 5 billion kilowatt hours of energy per year, that would otherwise have been expended by building out new space.

Daniles noted that capacity issues are a key driver in green data center computing. “The data center energy crisis is inhibiting our clients’ business growth,” said Daniels. “Many data centers have now reached full capacity, limiting a firm’s ability to grow and make necessary capital investments.”

“This energy crisis is not something abstract to our industry, said Val Rahmani, general manager of infrastructure management services for IBM. “This is a crisis happening right now that we need to solve.”

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor-in-chief of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.