Hewlett-Packard its own case study in data centre project

LAS VEGAS — The US$100-million data centre consolidation project being undertaken by Hewlett-Packard Co. will help it be more efficient, but also informs the consulting advice it gives to client companies.

HP officials updated customers, employees and partners on the progress of its project at the HP Technology Forum being in Las Vegas.

The company is in the second year of a three-year process to consolidate 85 data centres worldwide in just six — two each in Atlanta, and Houston and Austin, Tex. Three of the six new sites are already up and running and the remaining three should be completed within 60 days, said Randy Mott, executive vice-president and chief information officer of HP.

“It’s not just around moving stuff to a different place,” said Mott, in a clear case of understatement. Data centre consolidation gives HP, and any company that does it, a chance to refresh their technology, move to industry standard products, eliminate redundant or outdated hardware and software, and engineer energy efficiency, a major concern of late, into the data centre.

At the Tech Forum, Mott said the data centre project, which is scheduled to be completed in late 2008, will reduce the total number of servers by 30 per cent, but increase the total processing power by 80 per cent. It will reduce the cost of storage but double total storage capacity, and the cost of running HP’s corporate network will go down but the bandwidth will be tripled.

HP has already decommissioned 12 of the 86 data centres, said Mott. And for HP, going through the process gives its HP Services group new insights they can apply to customers trying to upgrade their data centres.

“We try make sure it’s done right inside HP and then we can do that for customers,” said Tony Redmond, vice-president and chief technology officer for HP Services. Teams from HP’s IT department, which handles the company’s own IT systems, and from the HP Technology Services unit, which provides technology to client firms, work together on the data centre project. Work the HP Services people do will help the Technology Services people advise their own clients, Redmond said.

HP’s technology infrastructure developed in a piecemeal fashion, just like that of many other companies. For instance, part of the project involves what companies call “software rationalization,” going through the thousands of software applications that HP uses to weed out those that are redundant, outdated or just useless. HP applications may be duplicated by similar applications from Compaq Computer Corp., which HP acquired in 2002, and Digital Equipment Corp., which Compaq bought in 1998.

HP is also going to deploy a new approach to cooling at the new data centres. Called Dynamic Smart Cooling, it involves a number of heat sensors attached to each of the servers in a data centre. The sensors can tell when a server is heating up because it’s doing a lot of processing and then directs cold air at that server. When the server slows down, the sensor can tell and the cold air reduced. Dynamic Smart Cooling, developed within HP Labs, will demonstrate at HP’s own data centres how the technology may work for others.

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