Vendors aim to make the data centre green with VAR opportunity

It’s been a year since <a href="" target="_blank" IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced its Project Big Green initiative that aims to help businesses become more energy and environmentally-efficient by reducing their overall power usage and waste. As part of Project Big Green, IBM last month signed an agreement with Kelowna, B.C.-based GigaCenter Services Corp., in partnership with RackForce Networks to build in the city what is being called Canada’s most efficient and “greenest” large-scale data centres.

Rick Ellery, territory services leader for B.C. at IBM Canada, said out West, most businesses are located in earthquake zones, which place their businesses and data centres at risk on a daily basis.

“This is a big issue here on the coast and customers are looking at ways to move their business to safer geographies,” Ellery said. “At the end of 2006, we discovered Kelowna was well away from the earthquake zone and we established it as being an ideal site for a data centre facility.”

Based on a previous work relationship with RackForce, a technology company also based in Kelowna, Ellery said the companies decided to join forces to build a 150,000 square foot green data centre in the city over the span of three years.

Brian Fry, vice-president of sales and marketing at RackForce, explains that while the company specializes in server hosting and the renting out of servers to customers around the world, the company is also the owner of GigaCenter, which is the company that will design and construct the data centre. RackForce though, he says, will be the operator of the data centre facility.

“RackForce has been working with IBM for about a year and a half now,” Fry said. “Customers are getting to the point where they understand running their own data centre is expensive, so they decide to rent a space within a space. The first phase (of the centre) is scheduled to open in December of this year.”

When complete, the data centre is expected to be one of the most efficient in the industry as measured by the Power Utilization Effectiveness (PUE) rating, which Fry explains is part of The Green Grid, a global consortium focused on energy efficiency in data centres and business computing ecosystems. The new data centre’s PUE rating is 1.38, compared to a rating of three, which Fry says is typical of traditional data centres.

Recycling an existing building

The data centre, Fry says, will support 70,000 square feet of raised-floor data centre space, where spaces within the data centre will then be available for customers to rent.

What helps to reduce the impact on the environment, Ellery says, is that the new Kelowna-based data centre will be housed in a recycled building.

“If you can re-purpose an existing building, you can reduce the environmental impact because you don’t have to build from scratch,” he said. “In B.C., the majority of power in the province is generated by hydro, so it’s friendlier to the environment.”

Accordingly, Fry said the data centre will also be running on hydro power in addition to using cooling technologies using chiller systems that use water instead of air.

“Where data centre efficiency comes from is from a well-designed cooling system that uses water to cool,” Fry said. “A good portion of the facility will run on air cooling and because we live in Canada and it gets colder here, you’re not having to power the chiller systems because they sit outside and use the cold air.”

The network inside the data centre will run using a virtualized environment, Fry explains. The data centre will also house IBM servers including the 3550, 3650 and 3850 models, in addition to IBM storage area networks solutions and backup systems using IBM’s Tivoli software.

Ellery said although IBM technologies and products will remain in the data centre, IBM will still own and operate the servers. Upon completion, RackForce will be renting out spaces based on a space and volt-amp charge to IBM customers, mainly in the B.C. area. Ellery said customers will also have the option of purchasing capacity on the servers that are already in the data centre as well.

For IBM channel partners, Ellery said opportunities lie in finding customers who would be interested in renting out spaces within the data centre in addition to selling them power equipment and other various IBM technologies and products.

“IBM’s channel is key to helping us find customers and selling products and contracting services out to them,” Ellery said. “Customers are heading down the path with things like server consolidation, but they’re still in the early stages. Channel partners can then deliver and sell new equipment and services to them,” he adds.

More green initiatives

Another company jumping on the green business solutions bandwagon, is Xerox (NYSE: XRX), which launched its Your New Workplace initiative earlier this year. Al-Karim Esmail, manager of software solutions and marketing at Xerox Canada, explains the initiative is a solution for customers that focus on six different criteria. One component in Your New Workplace is called Go Green, where Xerox resellers will go into a business and do a full analysis of how environmentally efficient a business is. Based on the assessment, Xerox partners can then suggest and sell the appropriate solutions based on what’s needed in the organization.

“The assessment is free to our customers,” Esmail said. “The value for the reseller is that this drives better margins for them because we find product conversations are getting into higher levels, so there’s more revenue to be made because the solutions are often higher-end.”

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Maxine Cheung
Maxine Cheung
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