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Arranged Marriage for IT, Facilities as Power, Cooling Come to Fore

 
 
By Jessica Davis Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

IBM WebSphere eXtreme Scale

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Power and cooling and IT naturally go together, right? They directly impact each other, sure. And they ultimately should be managed together. But at most companies those functions have typically fallen under the purview of two different departments, reporting to different business leaders with different objectives and different perceived value to the corporation. It's enough to start a turf war.

IBM and Johnson Controls stepped in the middle of that a year ago with the introduction of a data center initiative that integrates Johnson Controls facilities management technology with IBM Tivoli data center management solutions. And now, a year later, the companies are opening up another front, taking the integration to smaller IT implementations including enterprises, buildings and campuses, Johnson executives told me.

The idea is simple. Why not bring together energy management and how it impacts IT and IT management into a single console? After all, IT is calling on the resources of facilities, such as power and cooling, to run its infrastructure.

Such integrations can provide 10 to 20 percent savings in energy reduction, said Clay Nesler, vice president of global energy and sustainability at Johnson Controls, through changes such as optimization of maintenance schedules.

"The worst maintenance strategy is run-to-fail," Nesler told me. "We all know what happens to cars when teenagers use that maintenance strategy." A better strategy is scheduled maintenance. But even better is a strategy that relies on sensors and alerts to tell the maintenance provider when the maintenance is actually needed. That way you aren't performing more work than is necessary, but you aren't waiting for system failure either.

Take the IBM-Johnson Controls integration a step further and you enter the brave new world of integrating the IT department with the facilities department. These groups typically report to different business leaders within a company, and there's often friction between them as IT relies on power and cooling to provide mission-critical functions and often acts without consulting facilities.

And there's a different level of importance placed on each group, too. Nesler noted that when the network is down, the business is most often down too. But if the room temperature in the office is 10 degrees cooler or warmer than is comfortable, it might be unpleasant for the workers there, but work still gets done. And that means that IT tends to be viewed as more important than facilities. But facilities have a direct impact on IT.

In the future these departments may even be merged, and getting to that point will require cultural changes and all the normal unpleasantness that goes with cultural changes.

But it will all ultimately pay off, according to Nesler.

"This is one of those things that after someone has integrated this information they will wonder why they didn't do it before," he said.

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This article was originally published on 2010-03-10