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N°35  |  March   2009
Experts voice

Outsourcing becomes energy aware 
Philippe Pauty, Director of Bull’s outsourcing business and the Bull Data Center at Angers

L. Mourer

As resources, IT hardware and processes are increasingly shared and industrialized, outsourcing offers private and public sector organizations an effective response to the business challenges they face. But outsourcing providers are rapidly going to find they have a new challenge to contend with: energy management. In order to face the economic, environmental and regulatory constraints brought about by the explosion in energy costs, they will have to take a much more structured and professional approach to controlling expenditure on a day-to-day basis. To meet its own commitments as outsourcing provider, Bull is reacting rapidly to this new imperative: investing significant amounts and making innovative changes at its Angers and Paris outsourcing facilities.

 

In today’s difficult economic climate, information systems have never been more critical to organizational performance, whether in the public or private sector. In order to meet the legitimate expectations of the businesses they support, information systems must be demonstrably agile, while at the same time delivering faultless service quality. For IT Departments, achieving this dual objective means facing innumerable challenges day after day: implementing new services (sometimes within unusually short timescales), integrating new technologies, meeting availability and security requirements, dealing with rapidly expanding amounts of data and ever greater complexity, managing heterogeneous facilities… All on an increasingly tight budget. 

By ensuring that customers have access to the resources, infrastructures and state-of-the-art methods they need – while also offering contractual guarantees for service quality and cost control – outsourcing enables companies and public sector bodies to get the best out of their information systems, which are evolving at the same pace as their business. Bull has built-up significant expertise in the area that is now known as IT governance, and draws on its industrial resources to guarantee customers optimum levels of services at reasonable cost. At the heart of this strategy is a truly industrial-scale resource: the Data Center. Bull is constantly updating its Data Center facilities, by using state-of-the-art technologies and industrialized service processes, adopting best practices and constantly updating its technical and business skill-base.   

Energy efficiency – an emerging challenge 
However, a new consideration is starting to emerge, fundamentally turning the technical and economic equation of the Data Center upside down: energy consumption. While the demands on IT continue to grow apace (partly, for example, because consumers and citizens want more and more on-line services), the cost per kWh will also increase significantly in years to come. In the Data Center, these two phenomena combine so that energy consumption – which already represents one of the most significant cost centers in the overall hosting of an information system – will become absolutely critical.

In parallel with this economic aspect, environmental and regulatory factors will also play a role in putting energy at the top of the Data Center operator’s list of concerns. At national, European or international level, new standards and taxes will increase the pressure to limit the carbon footprint of IT infrastructures, and forthcoming introduction of the EU energy efficiency Code of Conduct for Data Centers definitely heralds this new approach.   

A major challenge for outsourcing providers 
The fact that energy efficiency is an increasing pressing issue, is a major challenge for outsourcing providers. Tied into Service Level Agreements and constrained by cost considerations, they urgently need to industrialize energy management so their customers can in turn control the cost and environmental limitations of their information systems. Against this backdrop, simply controlling energy in the Data Center at a physical level (by dividing machine rooms into different zones for high and low density, hot and cold corridors, very high ceilings…) is no longer enough. Today, outsourcing providers can no longer respond just by optimizing their IT installations: they need to be pro-active in defining a veritable energy strategy for their Data Centers.  

Underlying this strategy, Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) is coming to be accepted as the standard metric. If this indicator – which is used to assess infrastructure quality, and the proportion of the total power consumed attributable to this infrastructure – is to have any meaning, it is essential that standards are established so the scope and conditions for calculating it are identical for all aspects of the process. And it is vital that the assessment continues over a whole year, so as to take account, among other things, for seasonal variations. In addition, tools, methods and models are essential when it comes to measuring PUE regularly and reliably, and making the most of it. Like the energy audit process developed jointly by Bull and Schneider/APC, these new kinds of approaches will enable outsourcing providers to control the energy efficiency of their Data Center from day to day.

Bull’s Data Centers at the forefront of energy efficiency 
As a specialist in the outsourcing of critical systems, Bull has already started to adapt itself to this new energy imperative. In recent years, Bull has been constantly modernizing its two main Data Centers to conform to the most stringent norms and standards. Its main hosting center has achieved ICPE authorization, most notably with 2,500 m² of office space heated using waste heat from the machine rooms, the removal of all air-cooling towers, the implementation of environmentally-friendly fire protection systems, careful monitoring and control of energy expenditure, noise reduction systems in the roof space…

But today the widespread use of racks – which consume a great deal of energy – means it is even more urgent to move beyond the current installations, and use innovative solutions such as cold corridors and doors cooled using iced water. In order to ensure it has access to all the essential resources for an effective energy strategy, Bull is currently building a 500m2 ‘Green’ area at its main Data Center. This will have latest generation uninterruptible power supplies, free cooling (using natural cooling methods), numerous sensors for real-time energy monitoring, high-performance infrastructures designed for very high density environments, such as High-Performance Computing (HPC), industrialized service processes for optimum quality and minimal carbon footprint…

Investments in every area
At an operational level, the EU Code of Conduct will no doubt add to current standards, which are placing ever greater demands on outsourcing companies. But Bull – which has achieved ISO 9001 certification and is an approved SAP Hosting Partner, and conforms with ITIL processes – will strive diligently to apply the new Code, just as it did when significant endeavors were made to obtain ISO 27001 and ISO 20000 certification.

In order to support customers’ new projects as quickly as possible, Bull is making the necessary investment in updating its new technology resources through on-going training programs. All the ingredients are being brought together to optimize its service offerings: sharing and industrialization of resources, constant adaptation of security and regular recruitment drives…

The combined effect of these investments responds to the need for constant improvements in the performance and flexibility of our service offerings. This means not just guaranteeing high levels of service, tailored to each customer’s business constraints, but also demonstrating our ability to react in the face of changing requirements, and to offer different levels of services for optimum differentiation between them, to provide information systems engineering and ‘urbanization’ services, to rapidly integrate new technologies, and to be ready for the emergence of HPC outsourcing… And in the name of a single objective: controlling cost. 

* ICPE: Installations Classified for the Protection of the Environment

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