Grand designs for IBM's 'green' datacentre

Grand designs for IBM's 'green' datacentre

Vendor says new datacentre in the top 11 green list.

IBM says its datacentre at Highbrook business park in Auckland will be one of the eleventh "greenest" out of more than 400 it operates around the world when it opens in March. IBM New Zealand has been showing off the centre to dozens of corporate and government clients, but it went into "lock down" on Friday as electricians moved in to wire up the 25 tons of copper cabling that will feed power to its 1500 square metre computer room.

Cloud computing specialist Phil Sheehan says IBM plans to launch a raft of cloud-based services to customers on the back of the centre's opening. Obvious candidates include providing processor power and secure computer storage on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Greg Farmer, who heads the subsidiary's global technology service arm, hopes New Zealand's abundance of renewable energy and the cost of carbon credits will prove influential in encouraging customers from around the Asia Pacific region to use the centre, or at least consider it as a backup "disaster recovery" site.

"Part of the reason we built this is for the international market. New Zealand has got a very compelling offering in terms of price, capability and – frankly – people."

IBM expects to invest $80 million in the facility over 10 years. It is similar in size to the datacentre built by Datacom in Albany last year and takes advantage of many of the same design innovations. Those include making maximum use of ambient cooling to cut down on the need for expensive air-conditioning and individually metering racks of servers, so customers can reap the reward of efficiencies they gain from power-saving technologies such as virtualisation.

IBM was embarrassed last year when a generator fault at an old datacentre it leases from Air Zealand brought down the airline's computer systems and resulted in the cancellation of dozen of flights.

That should be a less likely occurrence for any systems housed at Highbrook, which has extra backup generators and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) – power conditioners-come-batteries – to supplement the "clean" mains supply from its nearby South Auckland substation.

Echoing Telecom chief executive Paul Reynolds' observation that remote network controllers had entered the Kiwi lexicon "thanks" to its XT network problems, Farmer says New Zealanders know what a UPS is because of datacentre outages. "Clients are demanding that that doesn't happen any more."

IBM datacentre manager Keith Martin says Highbrook draws on IBM's worldwide experience. "I think I can say happily that of all the issues we have had over the last five years, if those had occurred at this centre, there would have been no client impact."

It selected the site because it is outside Auckland's volcanic zone and away from its flight path and the "risks" associated with residential areas. "No-one will dig up the road here. Backhoes are the nemesis of any datacentre."

Farmer says IBM New Zealand could double the size of the Highbrook datacentre by building on a vacant lot, but is not considering constructing another similar facility elsewhere.

The Government is seeking to consolidate its purchasing of datacentre capacity and Farmer hopes its Highbrook centre will be part of any solution. A similar initiative in Australia is expected to save its federal government A$1 billion (NZ$1.27b) over 15 years.

But Farmer and others in the industry question whether any one company will meet all the Government's needs. "It would be a lot of capability going with one supplier."

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