News Column

As Sales Heat Up, IBM Servers Stay Cool

Jan 2, 2013

By Craig Wolf


At IBM's plant here, the engineers and technicians have been rigging up big IBM servers with cooling systems that work on much the same principle as the radiator in your vehicle, all to keep the computers from running hot and heavy from hefty online and credit card sales.

Consumers might have experienced delays during holiday shopping when a merchant's system was sluggish because of computer or network overload.

IBM just wrapped up a two-year project the company did for the Department of Energy to invent new ways to cool down the computers.

As often happens with government-backed research, the results roll out to the general business world.

The techniques IBM engineered are available to buyers of all of Big Blue's server lines.

"With more than 33 million servers in the world, cooling the computers is an acute problem," said Kristin Bryson, a spokeswoman for IBM.

"Most data centers use 25% of their total energy to simply cool their machines," she said.

The cooling system sends water through piping that runs near the semiconductor microchips to carry away the heat they generate. Many machines use air-cooling systems, but water is a more heavy-duty medium.

The online shopping world continues to grow.

The National Retail Federation projects this season will hit $96 billion in online sales.

Even after Christmas, commerce is busy with redemption of gift cards, exchanges and post-holiday bargain hunting.

IBM's research found that holiday shoppers turned 2012's Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, into the biggest spending day ever, with online sales growing more than 30% from a year earlier.

Growth was led by department stores, up 43% vs. 2011. Health and beauty sales increased 25%. Home goods gained almost 27%, and clothing rose 25%.

IBM found that more than one in six consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer's site. That was a jump of more than 70% from 2011.

But social networks weren't generating a big share of commerce.

IBM found referrals from social networks generated less than half a percent of all online sales on Cyber Monday, down more than 26% from 2011.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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