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How Green IT Is

July 24, 2008
With the Right Tools and Connectivity of OPC, IT Managers Can Determine Just How Green IT Is

By Eric Murphy, columnist

For industrial data centers today, the greener it is, the sweeter it is.  At least in terms of energy savings and environmental costs.  Energy costs are rising, supply is limited, the data center infrastructure is being taxed, and its ability to meet business demands is at stake. Companies involved in the Green Grid Alliance, like IBM know this and are taking real steps to make it happen.  But in system like a data center, managers can't control what they can't easily measure.  With the right tools and connectivity of OPC, IT managers can determine just how Green IT is.

Green IT and the Green Grid

Corporate data centers play a key role for many businesses as the central source for data storage, management and retrieval.  A green data center means the mechanical, lighting, electrical and computer systems are designed for maximum energy efficiency and minimum environmental impact.  There are many aspects to designing and operating a green data center including; building footprint, choice of materials and landscaping, water and energy usage, and on going monitoring and maintenance.

Rising electrical rates and increased deployment of power-hungry servers are causing major concerns about electricity consumption for many large businesses.  Efforts like the Green Grid Alliance are looking to help reduce the energy consumption of corporate data centers through education, establishing server power measurement standards and influencing product designs. In May 2007, IBM unveiled Project Big Green which leverages new products and services to reduce data center energy consumption and help create “green” data centers.  Project Big Green outlines a five-step approach for data centers that is designed to improve energy efficiency:

  • Diagnose: evaluate existing facilities and energy assessment
  • 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.

Although OPC may play a role at several phases, the biggest contribution is obviously in the ‘Manage’ step.   OPC interfaces enable the flow of raw data into IT energy management software from third party systems and building automation devices such as heating and air conditioning, lighting and fire and security alarms.

Green Tools

As part of IBM's Project Big Green initiative, the company has released new software designed to help customers address the growing need to maximize energy efficiency and reduce costs associated with power and cooling.  This latest version of IBM Tivoli Monitoring (ITM) software consolidates views of energy management information that enable optimization across data centers and facilities infrastructures. Monitoring capabilities offer customers the ability to understand energy usage to alert data center managers to potential energy-related problems and take preventive action. Historical trending and forecasting capabilities enable greater precision in existing environments and energy planning. Autonomic capabilities allow customers to set power and utilization thresholds to help control energy usage. The new software can also help customers handle physical constraints in the data center relating to space, power and cooling.

Getting Green with OPC

Energy consumption in the data center is predominantly from two loads: servers and cooling. The payoff of efficient servers is twofold. Servers that consume less energy also throw off less heat, requiring less energy for cooling. The first step in gaining control over any system is getting connectivity to measure and monitor the various devices in the data center facilities including: heating, ventilation and air conditioning, access control and lighting.  These various subsystems come from many manufacturers using a range of different protocols.  OPC connectivity is available for all the major building automation interfaces such as BACnet, LonWorks and Modbus as well as many proprietary or vendor specific protocols.  In addition to building control systems, OPC servers for accessing Windows Performance Counters and IT protocols like SNMP, data can also be gathered on server utilization and other variables.

OPC also provides connectivity to advanced applications, such as decision support systems, historical analysis, process optimizations and energy calculations and other high level information processing systems.  Savings are realized when data center energy usage information is captured, stored and analyzed.   Information from the compiled data leads to actionable recommendations to be implemented.  Such solutions would allow organizations to use existing systems to document, track and control the use of energy.   Simplified access to real time data and enterprise connectivity leads to benefits such as:

  • Improved handling of peak demand usage
  • Identifying energy saving opportunities through improved operation
  • Improved management systems for preventative maintenance.
  • Continuous analysis of system performance and system changes.

How Green IT is

The Project Big Green initiative combines energy management applications like IBM Tivoli Monitoring with the system connectivity of OPC to provide users with a single cohesive view of energy consumption across the enterprise. This gives data centers the ability to monitor energy consumption across IT and facility resources and manage power usage and predict potential energy-related events. OPC is an important assein energy management as it helps brings data center and facility management together to increase energy efficient operation across the enterprise.  Oh how green it is.

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