IBM’s Steve Sams: Taking a Swipe at Data Center Energy Consumption

Steve Sams, IBM vice president for site and facilities services worldwide, is waging a war against energy-hogging data centers worldwide. He will carry his assault to the Computer Measurement Group’s (CMG) international conference later this year.

CMG is a not-for-profit, worldwide organization of IT professionals. Its members share information and practices focused on ensuring the efficiency and scalability of IT service delivery to the enterprise through measurement, quantitative analysis and forecasting.

Sams will deliver the keynote address at CMG’s 34th annual international conference (CMG’08) in December.

His topic, “Think Green — How Green Computing Can Pay for Itself” is not yet in final printed form as summer approaches. But that does not mean that Sams is worrying about pulling his speech together. To the contrary — he has all of it already solidified and can speak effortlessly for hours on what he will say.

Sams will examine five areas that could improve a data center’s energy management through the process of diagnosing, building, virtualizing, cooling, managing and measuring. He will tell attendees how other clients — and IBM — have implemented these areas to gain immediate business benefit to double their IT capacity and reduce their operational costs by 50 percent annually, while having a positive impact on the environment.

He knows his keynote address will hit home to the CIOs, CFOs and CEOs at CMG ’08. Those executives are the movers and shakers within their own corporate structures who have to make going green a fiscal reality.

“Most of our clients don’t realize how much energy their companies consume until they see bills for higher energy use,” Sams told TechNewsWorld. “Every device they have uses energy.”

Many CMG members have their roots in IBM. Over the years, many more CMG members have had contact with IBM in looking at how they can reduce their energy costs, according to Michael Salsburg, director of the Computer Measurement Group.

“And all of the members have to deal with the sprawl of servers that are only busy 5 to 10 percent of the time but still require energy to cool the high levels of heat they produce,” Salsburg told TechNewsWorld.

That’s CMG’s tie-in to Sams. The group sees IBM as a company in the forefront of the corporate green computing movement, he explained.

IBM’s Site and Facilities Services Worldwide has designed and built more than 30 million square feet of raised floor, including five of Japan’s top 14 green buildings, the largest data center in Egypt, and a supercomputing center in Barcelona. Sams was influential in setting direction for IBM. He served as vice president of strategy for IBM’s server group and as vice president of IBM’s corporate strategy.

Sams has spent years researching the environmental impact of the drastically growing energy footprint that computer technology has produced. His goal is to solve the business issues associated with turning data centers and other large purveyors of computer networks in the workplace into greener, more environmentally friendly places.

TechNewsWorld met recently with Steve Sams to talk about what he will tell CMG’08 participants this December in Las Vegas.

TechNewsWorld: Who do you see as the guilty party in the energy onslaught against the environment?

Steve Sams:

I’m targeting energy users in the data center and computers in general. Enterprises are filled with mobile workers. This wasn’t possible 10 years ago.

TNW: What positions data centers and large computer networks as the environment’s public enemy No. 1?


Research firm IDC estimates that the use of servers will increase six times for servers and 69 times for storage between 2000 and 2010.

TNW: Energy use is up for consumers and small companies, too. So why come down so hard on data centers?


Data center energy equals the carbon footprint of airlines worldwide, which is 2 percent of the total carbon emissions. The typical data center use compared to office space uses 10 to 30 times more energy per square foot. Data centers by nature are power hogs.

TNW: How can data centers reverse this upward spiral of energy consumption and environmental damage?


New data center building costs can go as high as (US)$7,000 per square foot at a net cost but typically are between $1,500 to 2,500 depending on the availability and redundancy a client needs. For example, a 5,000 square foot data center at $2,500 square feet will cost $17 million in capital costs to build; but a customer will pay over $70 million over 20 years to operate. Energy-related costs are 60 percent of the capital costs and 35 to 50 percent of the operational costs.

TNW: What role have you helped IBM take in reversing this environmentally harmful trend?


The industry is starting to make devices more energy efficient. Companies have to do more equipment recycling. We have to build data centers in a more environmentally friendly way.

TNW: Environmental concerns aside, what do you tell corporate execs about the business pay-off for going green?


We can improve energy efficiency for a typical 25,000 square foot plant by 40 to 50 percent. For a client, that is a total energy bill of $2.6 million at 10 or 12 cents per kilowatt. The savings give clients $1 million to $1.3 million annually on energy costs. This equates to taking 1,300 cars off the road. Every device uses energy. The EPA estimates data center energy use is doubling every four to five years.

TNW: How long do we have to wait to start seeing results?


It is no longer a question of how long. The reality is that we are making big strides today. IBM is getting very impressive results today. We are not just waiting for tomorrow. For example, the savings give clients $1 million to $1.3 million on energy costs. Most customers run out of power and cooling capacity. We can add 50 percent more technology with the efficiency savings.

TNW: Are there new technologies that will help industry better use existing computing power?


There is a huge amount of waste in server usage today. Virtualization can cut back 90 percent of existing energy use. This also reduced the complexity of the server processes. We are building new virtualization tools so our customers can get there quicker.

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