IBM & Service Express: Powering the Sustainable Data Centre

IBM & Service Express: Powering the Sustainable Data Centre
IBM's Andrew Laidlaw & Service Express CIO Nick Ockwell share how both businesses continue to power sustainable and energy-efficient data centre solutions

Data centres are power hungry, leading to debates over how the industry can operate more sustainably. And with new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing driving demand, the energy consumption of data centres is projected to grow even further.

This month we spoke with IBM Technical Power Specialist Andrew Laidlaw and Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Service Express, Nick Ockwell, about how both companies are collaborating to enhance sustainable data centre solutions.

Transforming business outcomes

IBM has been working closely with data centre services provider Service Express for more than 15 years to actualise data centre solutions. Service Express now acts as a reseller of IBM technology, but it is a service provider in its own right, with IBM helping the organisation build customer solutions.

Now, Service Express continues to enhance its infrastructure offerings with IBM Power Systems and IBM Storage to enable differentiated cloud services. As a managed service business, it hosts services and infrastructures for its clients, in addition to looking for innovative solutions to improve performance and consolidate its data centre footprint.

“In terms of the project that we're talking about here, it was really a partnership from the very beginning,” Laidlaw says. “It was based on how we collectively look at the challenge of improving sustainability and business outcomes for Service Express with the right technology from IBM, and also how we tie everything together.”

As Ockwell, the partnership is about how Servive Express leverages IBM’s different technology solutions and services to resolve business issues.

“We like to think of ourselves as data centre experts, managed services experts,” he says. “We've got a lot of people who are great technical resources as well. But by using very specialist consulting services from IBM, or some of the other OEMs that we work with, we're able to gain lots of new ideas, new innovations and different ways of thinking that we may not be thinking about.” 

Cutting carbon footprint and energy costs

Service Express aims to transform the IT infrastructure strategies of its customers, by helping them adapt to demand with flexible data centre maintenance solutions. This involves helping its clients maximise hardware investment, control maintenance costs and upgrade service expectations.

The company also places sustainability at the heart of its decisions, having committed to powering all its data centres with renewable power. Additionally, as Ockwell explains, it helps clients reduce data centre space in order to save energy.

“Bringing new technology in condenses our footprint, meaning we draw less power and are more sustainable,” says Ockwell. “Consolidation is big for us when it comes to reducing our footprint. The more we can reduce our footprint, the more we can help our clients be more sustainable.”

Growing the sustainable data centre

Whilst Service Express is primarily a UK and US-based organisation, its customer base exists in roughly 150 countries. Ockwell says the use of technology has enabled Service Express to be a truly global company. “Our goal by the end of this year is to have a single set of consistent business applications and infrastructures supporting business applications and a set of data centres to support our customer base on a global basis.

“A lot of these decisions are all founded on at least having sustainability as a component of the decision making process.”

Laidlaw adds: “The European market seems to be driving a push towards sustainability and looking to reduce emissions as a whole. There's going to be a lot more around the globe as far as I'm concerned, and that's the trend that we're seeing within IBM and I'm sure it's the same with Service Express.”

Ockwell agrees: “Normally you see things start in the US and come to Europe. I think this is actually the reverse. Europe is well ahead. A lot of the regulations are starting here and influencing the US.”

Power10: Propelling sustainability forward

Working to consolidate data centre workloads to achieve a higher and more sustainable performance is something that IBM is keen to support. Service Express has utilised IBM’s Power10 servers to reduce its power usage by roughly 50%, providing both a sustainable and financial benefit.

“With recent inflation and the energy crisis, there are actually cost benefits to being more efficient,” Laidlaw says. “Not only are you helping customers meet their sustainability targets, you're delivering a service for less.

“For Power10, there was a big focus on sustainability and energy efficiency. Even at the lowest chip level, there's technology built in to help reduce the amount of electricity needed to perform calculations and to run certain jobs.”

Having pledged to achieve Net Zero by 2030, IBM has committed to sustainability strategies across its wider business operations. In September 2023, the organisation announced that it can help businesses better manage their data to calculate emissions with IBM Envizi ESG Suite.

IBM has already removed redundant infrastructure and adopted cooling systems like adiabatic plants in its UK data centre to enable free renewable cooling. This strategic optimisation aims to significantly reduce environmental impact and energy consumption.

Laidlaw says: “There will be continued focus on sustainability in how IBM helps its customers and partners work with technology to get more efficient results.

“[Envizi] is designed to help companies really understand their carbon emissions and their impact - helping them to reduce both. We've also got a lot of work being done in IBM Cloud around predicting and reporting on carbon emissions from our own cloud services so that customers can see the impact.”


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