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IBM's $1B 'Big Green' Gets Smaller

A year after vowing to invest $1 billion in Green Tech, IBM is shifting into higher gear today with new products that emphasize modularity and standardization.

The company is rolling out three new members to its Project Big Green line: the Enterprise Modular Data Center (EMDC); Portable Modular Data Center (PMDC) and Modular High Density Zone (MHDZ).

Since launching its Project Big Green initiative over a year ago, IBM's offering has focused on smaller installations of up to 2,500 square feet that can be deployed in about eight to 12 weeks and do not require the traditional raised floor.

"It's a lot more flexible," said Brian Canney, an executive with IBM's Global Site and Facilities Services. "We've installed these in school locker rooms with concrete flooring, office space and warehouses. And you can move or relocate them."

He said IBM is committed to spending $1 Billion annually over the next four years on energy-savings and other green technology efforts. He said $500 million will be spent internally to improve IBM's own operations and an additional $500 on new products and services.

The EMDC module extends the pre-packaged datacenter to a larger scale. Specifically, EMDCs are pre-designed 5,000 square feet of datacenter infrastructure (including electrical, power and cooling) that can be built out horizontally or vertically.

"You can install just what you need today, say one 5,000 square foot module, and not to have pay upfront for more capacity than you need," said Canney. He also said customers can choose what computer equipment they want to include and IBM will help with the installation whether its their own equipment or that of other vendors.

To date, Project Big Green has been one of most successful projects in the computer giant's history. The company said in the fourth quarter of last year it realized $300 million in new revenue from green client engagements.

In the past year, IBM said it's built more than 40 "green" data centers, designed to save energy and work more efficiently, worldwide. These include a complete pre-designed datacenter infrastructure.

Analyst Mike Kahn said IBM has been able to leverage its decades of experience building datacenters to help large companies and organizations either upgrade or expand their operations more efficiently.

"When you look around the world, there a lot of older data centers that can't handle the power and cooling requirements of high performance, dense solutions," Kahn, Managing Director of the The Clipper Group, told InternetNews.com. "It's a big deal to go through and design a datacenter or expand one. IBM is bringing standardization and efficiency solutions that can take a lot of cost out of managing these projects."

Sun's Blackbox has a new competitor

The second new offering, the Portable Modular Data Center, is a similar concept to the "B lackbox" Sun introduced two years ago, which several other companies have followed. Like Sun's system (now called the Sun Modular Datacenter), IBM's PMDC is essentially a portable datacenter built into a standard shipping container. Canney admitted IBM customers have called, asking if IBM had a portable datacenter solution. "It's something that's proven to be much exciting than we expected," he said. "I thought it was going to be more of a niche."

One PMDC has already been deployed in Denmark and Canney said IBM's system is more than a me-too offering. "Other solutions from HP, Sun and Dell are specific to their equipment, we support multiple vendors and systems," he said. Canney also mentioned features like additional weatherproofing, fire detection and remote monitoring in IBM's PMDC.

"We have seen tremendous success with Sun MD, attracting a broad spectrum of customers across the globe and across industries including Manufacturing, Research, Education, Energy, Healthcare and Telco." said Cheryl Martin, senior director for Modular Systems at Sun, in a statement sent to InternetNews.com. "It's flattering, though not entirely surprising, to see other mainstream vendors drafting off of Sun's lead in the modular datacenter space."

The last new IBM introduction is the Modular High Density Zone. The MHDZ is a 200-square-foot modular system that combines power and cooling with high-density servers. The idea is to provide a ready way to deploy new technology in the datacenter without interrupting current operations. IBM claims the MHDZ can be deployed in two-to-three months and offer up to 35 percent cost savings compared to building the same capability in a new data center.

"What we're doing is letting you retrofit high density computing in an existing area," said Canney. "We can help companies extend the life of their datacenter so they won't be handcuffed because they can't provide the cooling."