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Harnessing the Power of Smarter IT Infrastructure to Increase Efficiency

June 30, 2014 No Comments

Featured article by Alex Yost, IBM

People are consuming more energy than ever before. In fact, the US Energy Information Administration expects global energy use to increase 56 percent between 2010 and 2040 – the equivalent of 4,000 power plants. But not all that energy will be put to good use. Much of it will be lost through inefficient systems and processes – adding up to millions of dollars in wasted energy costs each year.

At a macro level, this is a major issue for many countries because of constraints on the amount of power they’re able to generate to meet these rising demands. We’re well aware of this concern in emerging economies, but even developed nations like Japan face this problem. At a more granular level, this is a significant concern for companies, governments and other institutions that run data centers. They’re constrained not only on the amount of power they can deliver to run their IT systems, but also face the challenge of rising costs associated with that increased power demand.

Fortunately we’re all looking for better, more efficient and less expensive ways of doing things, especially when it comes to our valuable resources. For many companies, harnessing the power of smarter IT technologies may be just the solution. An optimized IT infrastructure can alter the way we manage and consume energy, from increasing grid efficiency and building a better power distribution system to reducing a company’s overall energy costs.

Take a look at these real-world examples of the benefits of efficient infrastructure.

Increasing grid efficiency and reliability

Battelle Memorial Institute, a nonprofit science and technology development company in Columbus, Ohio, works on thousands of government and commercial projects each year. In an effort to develop a smarter power grid that delivers constant energy-pricing feedback and optimizes the power system, Battelle developed a smart grid demonstration project that tests the validity and viability of demand-based pricing for electrical power.

To support this, Battelle implemented optimized IT infrastructure, built on x86-based hardware and software, that can efficiently handle large amounts of continuously flowing demand data from the power generation source through the electrical network. This provides Battelle with unprecedented insight into the cost of electricity, with the capability to analyze up to 10 PB of data in minutes to support informed consumption decisions.

Battelle’s infrastructure is having a solid effect. The advanced two-way meter system enabled a town to avoid a power outage by shutting off home water heaters during peak periods and reducing strain on an unreliable underwater cable. The self-monitoring capabilities of the system also increased overall grid efficiency and reliability, allowing for better renewable resource integration and a smarter power grid.

Building a better power distribution network

Uttarakhand Power Corporation Ltd. manages the distribution of electricity in Uttarakhand, India, delivering power to more than 1.59 million customers. With an extensive distribution network covering more than 50,000 square kilometers, UPCL needed deeper insight into network performance so the company could better balance distribution loads, guarantee a more reliable power supply, and reduce energy theft.

UPCL modernized its power distribution network with an advanced utility management system built on workload-optimized x86 servers, storage and software technology. The converged infrastructure delivers the high levels of performance and availability needed to provide real-time monitoring of consumption levels and detect network weaknesses and theft.

The system has transformed the way UPCL manages its power network and operates as a business. By integrating the utility management cycle, UPCL has network-wide visibility that allows them to deliver up-to-date information to support decision-making and manage service interruptions. The solution has cut commercial losses by as much as 10 percent in the first two years while supporting a stronger, more productive power network that better services customers across the state of Uttarakhand.

Reducing energy consumption

Based in the United Kingdom, Robert Heath Heating provides domestic and commercial gas heating installation and maintenance services to more than 100,000 properties. As the company expanded operations, it sought a way to continue delivering high-quality service to its increasing customer base while improving operational agility and keeping tight control over costs and resources.

Robert Heath Heating decided to revamp its entire IT infrastructure. With all business systems now running on virtualized x86-based servers, the company has access to top performance along with improved scalability and needed availability for mission-critical workloads. The flexibility enabled by virtualization has transformed Robert Heath Heating’s ability to sustain business growth and meet changing demands.

Not only has the new infrastructure drastically eased IT maintenance needs by up to 75 percent, but added software components have reduced the company’s overall energy consumption. Although the business now runs more servers, Robert Heath Heating has managed to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent thanks to increased system control. In fact, the data center’s power consumption is now directly offset by the building’s solar panels – a huge benefit to a company that regularly promotes renewable energy solutions to its customers.

As seen, all types of businesses can benefit from implementing a smarter IT infrastructure – whether it’s to help improve the efficiency of the power grid for consumers or reduce their own energy costs. We expect to see optimized infrastructure play an increasingly significant role in the way the world consumes energy as the demand for conservation continues to grow.

Alex YostAlex Yost2

Alex Yost

Alex Yost is vice president of strategy and alliances for IBM x86 and PureSystems Solutions. You can follow him on Twitter at alexfyost.

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