IBM announced yesterday it will consolidate some 3,900 servers in its worldwide data centers onto about 30 System z mainframes running Linux.
Part of IBM's Project Big Green initiative launched last spring to reduce data center energy consumption, the consolidation is expected to result in an 80 percent reduction in energy use as well as savings in software licensing and system support costs.
IBM serves some 350,000 customers around the world from seven large data centers in the U.S. and abroad that only 10 years ago numbered 155. The computers used to store and process the data for these customers occupy more than 8 million square feet, an area that will be significantly reduced when the refrigerator-size mainframes are attached.
The project is meant to demonstrate to large corporate and government clients the benefits of server consolidation onto the efficient System z. Mainframe sales have been good over the past few months, and also profitable. IBM would like to stimulate that trend even more while solving a looming capacity limitation and imminent energy crisis faced by its customers. The energy savings IBM expects to realize from its own massive server consolidation is expected to be enough to power a small town.
Virtualization is one of the keys that will allow the consolidation onto the mainframes, as each computer can behave as hundreds or thousands of individual servers. Virtualization parcels out the mainframes' system resources-processing cycles, networking, storage, and memory-to numerous virtual servers, each functioning as a real, physical machine. Advances in the economical Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system, especially in the area of security, over the past few months almost certainly played a role in the decision.
Today's 3,900 servers employ a greater number of processors than the mainframes will use so software-licensing fees are expected to go way down. The company also will have the added benefit of freeing up IBM's technical personnel from system administration to work on other tasks, including designing and building customer solutions.
Total cost savings for IBM are expected to be around $250 million over the next five years.