HP Maps Greener Data Center

New three-dimensional mapping solution aimed at energy efficiency

July 28, 2007

3 Min Read
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In an effort to lead the race to go green, HP is expanding its energy efficiency portfolio with a three-dimensional mapping system meant to cut power costs. The system issues ongoing reports of data center cooling and wasted energy.

HP this week announced an expansion of its Thermal Zone Mapping from two-dimensional data center modeling to three-dimensional. 3D mapping, which is part of HP's Dynamic Smart Cooling solution, works by placing a network of sensors that produce something similar to a weather map of a data center, as well as a report on where and how cooling is occurring. The goal is to discover problems like over-provisioned cooling or poor data-center layout, which results in wasted power. The software then adjusts cooling temperatures throughout the data center.

"There are simple problems that can easily be solved by close monitoring," says Brian Brouillette, vice president of HP's mission-critical network and education services. "Is there a hot air outlet of one rack pointing at a cool rack right next to it? It's as close to random as it can be [in many data centers]."

HP is only one of a slew of companies offering energy efficiency products. (See Big Blue Launches Big Green.) IBM has a similar product -- Mobile Measurement Technology -- a device that draws data from up to 100 wireless sensors placed throughout the data center.

San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric runs IBMs energy-efficiency product. “We push this device through the data center and we can see where warm spots are, where the cold spots are, and where the hot spots are," says Steven Knaebel, IT manager at PG&E.HP’s 3D mapping program offers a view of usage from the ceiling, the ground, and underneath the ground, of the data center. Both IBM and HP claim they can slash energy spending by up to 45 percent -- and both say they have seen this savings in their own data centers.

“The city of Palo Alto said ‘no more -- you have to have a cap before you start browning out the entire city,' " Brouillette says about HP's reasons for slashing power usage in its own data center. The company can get data centers to “best practice” costs, he says, where they spend 35 cents on cooling to every $1 it costs to run the servers. He says HP has seen data centers spend as much as $5 on cooling to every $1 spent on servers.

But HP’s claims of how much power and spending it can save are hard to quantify, however. The company did not produce any of its beta clients to interview, nor customers of its 2D mapping system.

Some providers of similar energy-saving technology have partnered with utilities to provide customers with rebates and other rewards for saving power through these initiatives. In those cases, it’s easy to measure through the utility when power saving initiatives are really working. In April, utility PG&E teamed up with Copan, offering financial incentives to enterprise customers that buy the company’s efficiency product MAID. (See Copan Pushes Power Savings.)

Brouillette stresses that though HP has not partnered with a utility, it “wants to see standards” for the whole industry. The company is a member of the Green Grid and is working closely with the EPA to develop standards for the entire industry, he says.Analyst Charles King says at this point there shouldn’t be a provider that isn’t trying to come up with some sort of green initiative. The important thing, he says, is that cutting power usage in data centers must be approached on a "systemic basis," which takes more than simply buying servers with low-power design.

"[Green] has become a 'cause celeb' over the past year," says King. "[A holistic] view is really something that the larger systems vendors have pursued more effectively."

As for HP differentiating itself from its competitors, that could be hard to measure, King says.

— Rivka Gewirtz Little, Special to Byte and Switch, and James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp.

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