IBM's Project Big Green, Big Green Linux, and VMware Help Consolidate Data Centers

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IBM and its Business Partners provide technologies to help companies achieve a green and eco-friendly status, proving their commitment to energy conservation.


Everywhere you go these days, you hear the hype about turning everything into a "green" operation. As this relates to technology and IT staff, it usually means consolidating physical servers into something more efficient and manageable. Consolidation yields the benefit of lowering energy costs, which in return, helps out the environment.


IBM is certainly no slouch when it comes to supporting initiatives and research toward improving current technologies, as well as developing new standards and innovations that will ensure data centers become more green in the future. One initiative IBM has been using to promote better standards is called Project Big Green.


IBM's Project Big Green is a $1 billion investment, launched in May 2007, that involves improving IBM product efficiency as well as taking more steps toward greater energy conservation.


Project Big Green alone cannot solve all the problems enterprise environments share, though. Some responsibilities lie in the hands of IBM Business Partners, where virtualization king VMware steps up to assist customers establish goals of consolidation on IBM hardware.

IBM PowerVM and VMware

Between IBM's own solutions and the solutions of various Business Partners, customers are starting to be able to cut their energy costs using virtualization technologies. By now, you might be tired of reading about virtualization, but virtualization is what is helping to transform data centers into green operations, and it cannot be ignored. IBM's virtualization claim to fame is the PowerVM platform, which runs on the POWER platform, but IBM's relationship with Business Partner VMware is also flowering nicely.


IBM and VMware's business relationship started around 2005 with VMware releasing evaluation copies of VMware ESX Server with IBM eServer BladeCenter shipments. That engagement has since turned into a marriage, with the partnership including VMware support on IBM eServer xSeries, BladeCenters, and TotalStorage solutions.


Interestingly, IBM now offers its own IBM i PowerVM virtualization solutions to be integrated with BladeCenters and System x servers running VMware ESX across iSCSI. According to the IBM i Integration Web site. VMware support includes enhanced virtual storage support across iSCSI for VMware ESX Server 3. This extends storage management for IBM i customers.


Given just these two companies' commitment to solutions that play nice in the data centers together, it's virtually impossible to find solutions that you can't integrate or at least consolidate at this point in time. Couple that with an IBM Business Partner such as Sirius Computer Solutions, and you can come up with some extremely green IT solutions. One such deployment of using IBM servers and VMware technology is with the company AISO.


Affordable Internet Services Online, Inc. (AISO) is a Web-hosting company committed to environmentally friendly operations. Since 2001, AISO has powered its data center and office with 120 solar panels. The company is the first and only Web-hosting provider to be 100 percent solar powered. Being solar powered isn't the only eco-friendly option AISO has going for it, however. AISO recently replaced all fluorescent lighting with LED lighting, which contains no mercury and draws less power.


AISO is currently designing a literal green roof over the data center. The green roof will house a layer of soil deep enough to plant drought-resistant plants. When completed, it's estimated that cooling cost requirements will drop by up to 50 percent. Although AISO truly takes green to the extreme, server capacity is and was another issue all to itself. AISO aimed to remedy this particular problem by deploying virtualization heavily in its data center to continue its proud stature of being green.

The Power of Data Center Virtualization

Being a self-powered Web-hosting company does nothing except add stress to your power requirements and capacity, especially with growth and additions of dozens of servers and networking equipment. This is where AISO teamed up with IBM Business Partners Sirius Computer Solutions and VMware to work on a solution to consolidate its systems.


The first step Sirius employed was to consolidate 120 physical servers down to only four IBM xSeries 346 servers running Intel Xeon processors. The iSCSI storage technology was selected to haul traffic for the storage solutions, which in return also consolidated disks across the network. Given that Sirius has experience deploying VMware products to its customers, it only made sense to use this virtualization platform.


VMware ESX 3 Infrastructure was deployed on the four xSeries servers to provide the virtualization for all the machines that once were physical servers. Using VMware's VMotion technology, AISO was able to provide complete redundancy to its 15,000 customers. The VMotion application allows customers to move machines that are powered up and running from one physical server to another, all while never interrupting operating systems. VMware's technology is truly amazing with these kinds of capabilities, providing flexibility and failover to a data center's operations.



As a last step, Sirius implemented a high-speed backup and disaster recovery system. NetAPP Snapshot is the software and appliance system AISO chose, which allows the company to create point-in-time snapshots of the entire system. This provides the options of single file recovery or complete disaster recovery. The immediate results of all these solutions combined were amazing.

AISO's Results

The initial energy savings AISO saw was a 50 percent to 60 percent drop in power consumption. Given that AISO is completely self-powered, this solved the problem of the stressed solar-powered system. Also, with the new backup system in place, customers can be assured their data will be protected.


Since completely redesigning its infrastructure, AISO has been adding 10 to 12 new virtual servers steadily a month since 2006. CTO Phil Nail estimates even more gain in the battle to consume less energy after adding two more xSeries servers and more storage. Given the short-term drops in energy consumption that were immediately recognized, imagine the long-term benefits of applying such a system.

IBM and Other Companies' Consolidation Efforts

Virtualization isn't the only hot topic at IBM, however. With its own advancements over the last 10 years, IBM has trimmed 155 data centers down to only seven worldwide. With IBM's commitment to consolidate its own data centers, why shouldn't others follow along? Many companies are now leaning toward consolidation of physical servers to IBM mainframes running Linux. This initiative is known as Project Big Green Linux.


Shortly after the IBM Project Big Green program was announced, the Big Green Linux initiative was formed in August 2007. With more customers turning to System z and System p servers using Linux consolidation, IBM decided to consolidate 3,900 of its own servers to just 30 System z mainframes running SUSE Linux. IBM forecasts up to 80 percent more efficiency compared to the old infrastructure.


IBM isn't the only company implementing its own solutions. Baldor Electric Company in Arkansas is following in IBM's footsteps to reduce downtime and operating costs in its data center. Baldor consolidated 20 Windows servers and nine UNIX servers to a sole IBM System z running SUSE Linux 10. With one employee for the system and one employee to manage backups, Baldor is another customer happily assisted by technologies available by IBM and its Business Partners, particularly in the area of shaving energy costs.


With downtime costing the company hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, the main reason Baldor decided to go with the IBM solution was to increase availability and decrease wasted dollars on lack of production. Much like AISO, Baldor now has the ability to allow for expansion but also reaps the benefits of lower energy costs and smaller IT budgets. Baldor is currently undergoing an acquisition by its largest competitor and has already been able to reduce its IT budget by around $6 million with the improvements made by the System z mainframe infrastructure.

Green Is Good

It's obvious that Project Big Green is helping customers and data centers across the world consolidate operations for better management and for more suitable electric consumption on power grids. AISO and Baldor Electric are only two examples of data centers being transformed into greener enterprise environments while at the same time making their operations more manageable.


So far, Project Big Green has been able to help over 2,000 companies deal with similar problems. In last month's article "IBM Reveals Plans to Simplify IT Delivery and Target Growth Markets,"  , Chris Smith covered in detail the plans IBM is using to achieve lower energy costs on equipment and solutions, which in return should help boost sales of IBM technologies.


Whether you're looking to cut operating costs or to reduce your carbon footprint to better the environment, IBM, VMware, and IBM Business Partners have the solutions available to reach the goals of the enterprise data centers.


Presidents, CEOs, and accountants can't argue with the savings recognized by reducing data center operating costs. Some reports and scientists estimate that, by the year 2010, data center energy bills could reach as high as $11.5 billion worldwide. With every new machine you add to a rack, power is needed to run the equipment and to condition the air and the space the machine resides in. With companies putting fortunes into research and initiatives to improve efficiency and energy conservation, the results can bring nothing but more-efficient data centers to your companies.