This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

May 16, 2007

IBM Launches a Billion-Dollar Efficiency Effort for Data Centers

A photo of a long row of large rectangular boxes of computer equipment receding into the distance.

IBM is devoting significant resources toward cutting energy use in data centers, the workhorses of the Internet.
Credit: Š Alim

IBM announced on May 10th that it is redirecting $1 billion per year across its businesses in an effort to dramatically increase the level of energy efficiency in information technologies. Big Blue's "Project Big Green" targets corporate data centers and includes a global "green team" of more than 850 architects of energy efficiency from across the company. According to IBM, an average 25,000-square-foot data center should be able to achieve a 42 percent energy savings. IBM currently runs data centers on six continents that encompass more than eight million square feet of floor space. Within the next three years, IBM expects to double the computing capacity of its data centers without increasing their power consumption. See the IBM press release.

IBM also presented a dramatic example of what it can achieve in a company's data centers. The company is working with the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to consolidate nearly 300 Unix servers onto 6 IBM servers, cutting energy use by 80 percent while boosting the utilization of the servers by a factor of eight. PG&E will install water cooling systems on the servers to reduce the need for air conditioning in the data centers. IBM is offering financing to help data center owners make such a transition and is also offering to help dispose of old servers. See the IBM press releases on the PG&E effort and IBM's data center upgrading services.

While aiming to cut energy use at large-scale data centers, IBM is also working to improve energy efficiency at the much smaller scale of computer chips. In early May, the company announced the first-ever application of self-assembling nanotechnology to the manufacture of computer chips. The technique surrounds the chip's copper wires with insulating pockets of vacuum just 20 nanometers, or billionths of a meter, in diameter. The manufacturing process involves pouring a mix of chemicals onto a silicon wafer with the wired chip pattern on it, baking it, and then removing the carbon silicate glass to leave behind the nanoscale vacuum pockets. The vacuum insulation allows the chips to consume 15 percent less energy than conventional computer chips. IBM has pioneered the process at its manufacturing line in East Fishkill, New York, and plans to fully incorporate it in IBM's chips in 2009. See the IBM press release.