Intel Data Center Efficiency Project Should Save $200 million Annually

By Ericka Chickowski Print this article Print

With hundreds of data centers spread around the globe, Intel struggles to keep costs under control. Several years ago, Intel’s IT operations staff decided to face these issues and meet them head-on with an efficiency initiative that will help save money.

As with many organizations, data centers at Intel provide valuable resources to all aspects of their business, but they are also a tremendous resource drain on the company. With hundreds of data centers spread around the globe, the chip maker faces the same struggles as other enterprises do in keeping data center costs under control.

Several years ago, Intel’s IT operations staff decided to face these issues—such as poor utilization rates, server assets maintained for up to eight years and overall disorganization—and meet them head-on with an efficiency initiative that the group expects to help save the organization up to $200 million annually.

This isn’t some bogus green data center initiative, executives say. This is an efficiency exercise that saves the green that matters most in these tough economic times.

“Our main concern is not about being green,” says Brently Davis, manager of Intel’s data center efficiency project. “It is more so about being efficient, figuring out how we can run our computing environment better.

Project Genesis

Davis and his team started their push for data center efficiency back in 2006.

“We found out we were spending almost $1 billion per year in the data center environment,” Davis says, “and we said, ‘No, we’ve got to be able to do something better.’

“At Intel, we do an awesome job building chips and running the factories that we build those chips in, but we did not do a very good job at managing the data centers the same way. So we wanted to get to a standard environment where processes were in place, where governance was in place and where we could start managing those data centers better.”

Intel developed Davis’ group within its IT operations department just so it could tackle such issues. “You’ve always got to pull people in to help look horizontally,” he says. “A lot of times, the focus of IT groups is myopic: They like to concentrate on their own vertical. But you’ve got to have a horizontal overview, and I think that’s what we try to help them do.”

One of the first things that Davis did to make that happen was to bring in the financial folks to get a clear picture of spending beyond the overarching price tag—to see where the dollars were going. That’s the key step in any efficiency project, he says.

“You can’t do this if you don’t understand what you’re spending,” Davis says. “We brought in our finance team and said, ‘Pull all of this stuff together so we can figure out what we’re spending. Put these numbers together, get it validated and make sure it makes sense.’”

Doing that makes it easier to garner buy-in among what Davis calls the “but why-ers.” He explains them this way: “Whenever you explain what you’re trying to do, the first question that comes out of a ‘but why-er’ is, ‘But why do we have to go through this? But why do I have to move my servers? But why do I have to close that data center?’

“These are people who are normally your customers, who are, in some cases, part of your teams, who have differing agendas and motivations. And they say, ‘No, I don’t want to go do that. That’s not the approach I’d like to take.’ But once you show them that overall picture, they understand what the key value is for what you’re trying to deliver.”

This article was originally published on 2008-10-20
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