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IBM Goes Back To The Future To Save Earth

Purpose-built accounting machines? Water-cooled servers? IBM is taking a page from its past to deliver energy-saving systems for today and tomorrow.

Purpose-built accounting machines? Water-cooled servers? IBM is taking a page from its past to deliver energy-saving systems for today and tomorrow.It's not exactly news that energy costs are skyrocketing and demand for power is increasing. Data centers in the U.S. burned through 61 billion kilowatt hours of energy in 2006. Or about $4.5 billion worth of the juice. By 2011, that's expected to rise to 100 billion kilowatts, worth about $7.4 billion, according to the EPA.

"We're killing the planet," said IBM WebSphere CTO Jerry Cuomo, speaking Tuesday at the Interop Energy Camp at New York City's Javits Center.

To help companies rein in their energy use, IBM is introducing new, eco-friendly systems with a decidedly retro feel. "It's back to the future," said Cuomo.

IBM's Power 575 supercomputer, introduced earlier this year, takes a page from older systems in that it's water cooled. As a result, it can be housed in an environment with 80% fewer air conditioning units than is required for more common, air-cooled systems.

Cuomo said fears about introducing liquid into expensive, electrically powered computer systems are overblown, and noted that no one is too concerned that automobiles are cooled by liquid mixed with toxic chemicals. "You're literally driving around with that stuff boiling away on your lap," said Cuomo.

Another IBM throwback meant to reduce customers' energy bills is the purpose-built computing appliance. Like the company's single-purpose, mechanical accounting machines from the 1930s ("It could tear your arm off," said Cuomo), IBM's new WebSphere SOA DataPower appliances are built to do one thing and do it efficiently. The company offers various models optimized for handling XML-intensive business processes like credit card transaction processing and health care administration.

The DataPower appliances are designed to process one byte of XML code with a single CPU cycle, compared with 13 CPU cycles for the standard appliance. "The box runs a lot cooler," said Cuomo.

Even if you don't care about saving the polar bears, it might be worth a look at some of these "old-new" technologies if you care about saving energy dollars.

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