While many IT shops are focused on saving on energy by virtualizing and consolidating data centers, IBM sees other possibilities for going green. To that end, the company has introduced a new consulting practice called Green Sigma.
Green Sigma includes a number of steps and a mix of consulting, networked sensors, and dashboards to tackle thorny energy efficiency problems. "The basis is putting a green lens on process improvement," Dave Lubowe, global leader of IBM's operations strategy practice, said in an interview. "There are economic reasons for doing that in terms of decreasing energy costs, but there are also social responsibility reasons as well, one of which is the threat of increasing regulation."
IBM and its clients will first define a problem area for energy efficiency, such as, say, water usage in a distribution center of a global manufacturing company. The companies will then set up monitoring devices on water pipes around the facility to monitor the flow of water. That data will be sent to a dashboard. IBM and the company can work together to analyze the data, come up with new measures to increase efficiency, and implement those measures.
Typically, IBM will use third-party technology to monitor and meter energy and water use, according to Lubowe. The Carbon and Water Management Dashboard, which measures water use and carbon output, can be displayed on anything from an IBM dashboard like WebSphere Monitor or dashboards from IBM's Cognos to a third-party dashboard, which IBM can interface with through SOA techniques. By using dashboards, companies can pinpoint particular problem areas and start deciding what can be done about them.
IBM will take that data and, along with the client, determine things like where the water is going and how it is used. Then the companies work on solutions: can the water be recycled? Can it be used as gray water for irrigation on campus? What are the 22 places where water is most used in the building and what can be done to cut that usage? At that stage, IBM will present a company with ROI analysis of the possibilities and implement the changes.
IBM has pilot Green Sigma programs under way at several of its own locations, as well as two client pilots. In IBM's Dublin facility, it led to a 20% reduction in natural gas usage. The company predicts this business will grow. As the demand and price for energy increases, Lubowe said, so will the use of monitoring techniques.