The Greening of Enterprise BI

BI and DW players are touting the benefits of Green IT with products designed to help customers reduce their power and cooling costs

Green is on everyone's mind. IT organizations, concerned about rising power and cooling costs (not to mention the attendant cost of data center real estate), are increasingly demanding eco-friendly solutions.

That's the word from market watchers such as Gartner Inc. and International Data Corp. At this year's TDWI Winter World Conference in Las Vegas, it was also a key theme from a surprising number of vendors.

BI and DW vendors are touting the benefits of Green IT and increasingly offering new or enhanced solutions designed to help customers reduce their carbon footprints -- and their power and cooling costs.

Consider HP Information Management, the new brand for the former KnightsBridge, which Hewlett-Packard Co. acquired in late 2006. For one thing, HP Information Management markets a dense data warehouse (DW) appliance, its NeoView system, which comprises an all-in-one data warehouse solution. As IBM Corp. has demonstrated with its mainframe systems, all-in-one solutions -- and their integrated (and highly optimized) power and cooling facilities -- are typically greener than distributed or rack-mounted alternatives.

HP takes things a bit further. It has developed a line of green "IT performance management" software that can help IT organizations assess their infrastructures, schedule or shift workloads, and effectively lower their overall carbon footprint, reduce their power and cooling costs, and -- as a function of both -- increase their IT efficiency. It is technology that HP developed internally, officials say, but which the computing giant plans to market to large data center customers.

"This isn't just a 'install this software and eliminate your power and cooling costs' [proposition]," says Mark Hodson, of HP Information Management. "It's an analytic [solution] that gives you insight into your existing assets, [so you can] more efficiently schedule and deploy your workloads [and] reduce the cost of powering and cooling your data center. It's based on software that we [HP] developed for our own data center [hosting] initiative."

HP isn't alone in the BI and DW performance management segment, either. Best-of-breed competitors include Appfluent Technology, which last year signed OEM agreements with both Cognos Inc., and, later IBM Corp. In the latter case, IBM officials said Appfluent's technology -- which Big Blue ships as part of its DB2 Warehouse Performance Management Suite -- equips administrators with the tools they need to better manage their DB2 data warehouse assets. Appfluent, says Marc Andrews, program director for IBM Data Warehousing, delivers advanced capabilities for reporting and analysis of data and system utilization.

DW appliance specialist Dataupia Corp. likes to emphasize the green credentials of its Satori appliances. The appliance model, Dataupia officials say, uses an integrated power and cooling value proposition -- i.e., so many processing units and so many terabytes of storage in so many cubic inches of space in a precisely controlled cooling environment -- that, they argue, is more efficient than distributed or rack-mounted servers.

"The bottom-line is power consumption," says Dataupia CTO John O'Brien. "Our definition of greening is that you have to take a look at your total solution, not just that one piece of equipment, so [you must look at] your total solution: total power consumption, the total amount of cooling. You have to generate power to generate cooling -- and then you have to take a look at the density factor," O'Brien continues. "When you do that, you can say, 'over the next year, or over the next two to three years, I'm going to spend this much money to operate this solution.' You want to try to figure out the three-year operating cost of the solution."

That's where an appliance such as Dataupia's Satori server can really distinguish itself, O'Brien argues. "We designed a lot of that inside our appliance, so [resources are] very carefully spaced out. We offer low power consumption, low cooling, [and] optimum density with fewer components for a given solution. That means no SAN switches, no Fibre Channel [switches]," he says.

"Our architecture inherently is greener. When you start to take a look at our individual components, we're about as green as you can get and still use off-the-shelf components."

Going green while still keeping going commodity is the trickiest aspect, says O'Brien. "We pick components based on how green they are. We have the AMD Opterons that are very lean on their power consumption [along with] other components in [the] internal design that reduce the power consumption by more and more. That's what you want out of an appliance."

Dataupia isn't alone, of course: HP (with its NeoView appliance-like product), DATAllegro Corp., and Netezza Inc. all at least acknowledge the importance of going green. Their standard pitch -- that the DW appliance helps consolidate and reduce power and cooling costs -- is similar.

One Green advocate was SAS Institute Inc. SAS' Green push is surprising because it isn't a hardware player. However, according to Ken Hausman, product marketing manager for data integration, Green IT isn't just a hardware issue. In the data integration segment, especially, there's ample opportunity to go green, Hausman says.

"We like to talk about data integration for sustainability, or what many people like to call Green IT. The idea is that there's a lot of waste in IT. I think that data integration can be a central tool for making IT greener. It's in part an issue of understanding where and when data is no longer useful, or where systems are inefficient or underutilized, where we can do consolidation, or where we should think about migrating off of older, inefficient systems," Hausman comments.

"At SAS, we're looking for ways that data integration can be more useful and have a bigger impact on companies -- not just on their performance, but on their bottom line -- so that companies understand the value of DI and data quality."

That's a longer-term view, of course. As SAS enhances its Enterprise ETL solution, Hausman says, it will build more intelligence -- more Greeniness -- into that tool to help customers better make those determinations.

The point, Hausman maintains, is that everyone -- hardware and software vendors alike -- has to pitch in. "This [Greening] is a problem that's confronting the whole industry. It's not just something for the hardware vendors to solve. It's not just something you can solve -- [performing] data integration more intelligently, [by] helping customers to see [these scenarios] and improve the efficiency of their [data integration operations], that's an important part."

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