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IBM Consolidates Its Own Data Centers

Cost cuts of a quarter of a billion dollars are expected over the next five years through reduced energy use, software, and system support.
IBM on Wednesday said it has consolidated 3,900 computer servers in six locations worldwide onto about 30 refrigerator-sized mainframes running Linux, a move that the tech giant claims reduces computer-devoted floor space by 85% and will cut costs by $250 million.

IBM made the announcement to set itself up for customers as an example of how consolidation on the mainframe can build a more environmentally friendly, energy-efficient data center. The new infrastructure built on System z mainframes is expected to consume about 80% less energy than IBM's current system. Cost cuts of a quarter of a billion dollars are expected over the next five years through reduced energy use, software, and system support.

The consolidation is part of IBM's Project Big Green, introduced in May. Under the initiative, IBM plans to sharply reduce data center energy use for itself and clients.

IBM currently operates more than 8 million square feet, the equivalent of 139 football fields, of data center operations. Major locations are in New York, Connecticut, Colorado, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia. The total system supports more than 350,000 users.

The announcement is as much mainframe marketing as an example of green computing. In a news release, IBM pointed out that the consolidation project capitalizes on the mainframe's ability to behave as thousands of individual servers through virtualization. The use of the Linux operating system is also key to the project, IBM said.

Mainframes have posted five consecutive quarters of revenue growth, outpacing Windows-based servers, according to International Data Corp. In terms of unit sales, Windows servers top the market. The two systems, however, reflect very different architectures.

Windows servers, which are relatively inexpensive, are used in clusters within data centers to act as one system. Mainframes, the most expensive type of server, are single systems that can handle large workloads. Each type of architecture has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

In the first quarter, IBM was inched out of the top spot of the server market by Hewlett-Packard, according to IDC. HP recorded a 29.2% share of the market in terms of revenue, while IBM had a 28.9% share. The total market year to year rose 4.9% in the quarter to $12.4 billion.

HP showed strength in its ProLiant, Integrity, and BladeSystem operations, and IBM's brightest spots were in its System x, System z, and System p businesses.

IBM data centers participating in the Big Green project are in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Southbury, Conn.; Boulder, Colo.; Portsmouth, U.K.; Osaka, Japan; and Sydney, Australia.