IBM Announces New Green IT Plans

In the environmentally conscious section of enterprise IT, there are two camps: the true green-bleeding companies who innovate, and the so-called “greenwashers.”

No matter what your opinion of venerable, bow-tied IBM may be, the enterprise and consumer IT giant has dedicated many millions of dollars and a great deal of corporate effort and time into branding itself as a leader in the Green IT sector.

The latest illustration of this came 23 June at the Green & Beyond Summit at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. IBM gathered a number of business and government leaders from around the world to detail the actions it is taking to help build the green and sustainable data centre infrastructure of the 21st century.

“We think this is the most comprehensive effort ever undertaken by a company intent on delivering green, energy efficient solutions to clients around the world,” Rich Lechner, IBM’s vice president of energy and environment, told eWEEK.

“Two years ago we launched Project Big Green to help people be more efficient in their data centers,” Lechner said. “Since then we have been methodically expending the focus, knowing we need to optimise [all IT systems] for energy use across a broad physical infrastructure.

“We’ve also been helping clients through our Smarter Planet initiative to take advantage of the increasingly instrumented, intelligent interconnected nature of things to allow us to fundamentally change the way things work [to make them more efficient].”

The six new Green IT initiatives on which IBM is embarking here in mid-2009 are as follows.

New international coalition gets going: For starters, IBM has initiated a new global industry alliance called the Green Sigma Coalition to meter, monitor, automate, and analyse smart solutions for energy, water, waste and greenhouse gas management in data centers. Currently all this is being done on a local basis.

The coalition will enable companies using these solutions to better understand energy and water usage, waste, and GHG emissions across their business operations and infrastructure, and make changes to improve efficiency, reduce consumption and waste, and lower environmental impact.

Charter members, in addition to IBM, are Johnson Controls, Honeywell Building Solutions, ABB, Eaton, ESS, Cisco Systems, Siemens Building Technologies Division and Schneider Electric.

Water-cooled supercomputer doubles as building heater: Big Blue is building a first-of-a-kind water-cooled supercomputer that will repurpose excess heat and use it for the offices where the supercomputer is deployed at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland.

The system, called Aquasar, is expected to decrease the carbon footprint of the institute by up to 85 percent — equivalent to 30 tons of CO2 per year, compared to a similar system using conventional fan-cooling methods. It is expected to lower overall energy consumption in the data center by more than one-third, Lechner said.

The water-cooled supercomputer will consist of two IBM BladeCenter servers in one rack and will have a peak performance of about 10 Teraflops.

New research into improving batteries: IBM has begun a new long-term research initiative to create next-generation rechargeable batteries capable of storing 10 times more energy than today’s most powerful Lithium-ion batteries. Eventually, this technology could power smarter energy grids, support widespread use of electric cars, and more.

Scientists at IBM Research’s Almaden lab in San Jose, Calif., are undertaking a multi-year research initiative around a new grid-scale, efficient, electrical energy storage network. The team plans to explore rechargeable Lithium/Air systems, which have the greatest energy density of all practical battery systems and are inherently safer than traditional Lithium/ion systems.

Flushing IT inefficiencies down the drain: San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission is using IBM Maximo Asset Management software to help reduce pollution in the water that surrounds the city on three sides — the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

The SFPUC treats an average of 80 million to 90 million gallons of wastewater per day during dry weather and up to 370 million gallons of combined wastewater and storm runoff per day during the rainy season. It is using the software to develop smarter management of the city’s 1,000 miles of sewer system and three treatment facilities.

Green data centre No. 100 up and running: IBM has completed outfitting its 100th scaleable, modular data center. Located in Columbia County, Georgia, it runs online services for the county’s agencies and citizens.

Over the past two years, Columbia County had experienced increasing outages due to inadequate power and cooling systems, illustrating the need to upgrade its existing data center infrastructure. The county’s population has grown 26 percent since 2000, increasing the demand for citizen services that are available 24 hours a day via the Web.

New tools for software developers: Finally, Big Blue has integrated its Tivoli Monitoring for Energy Management to work with Cisco Systems’ EnergyWise and Honeywell’s EBI and Tridium energy management software packages.

The new combined packages broaden the range of power consumption information and energy optimisation policies that can be managed by IBM Energy Management to help organisations discover, optimise, and report energy usage within their data centre and business infrastructure.