Building an Increasingly Sustainable World with the Mainframe
September 7, 2023


By Rebecca Levesque

In a business world where 71% of global Fortune 500 companies rely on mainframes, minimizing the environmental impact of IT operations—generally referred to as sustainability or “green computing”—is rapidly climbing the list of corporate priorities.

With energy costs spiking, data center power capacity has grown by 43% over the past three years, and the data center market is expected to expand more than 30% by 2027. Meanwhile, it’s estimated that the average server runs at only 12-18% of capacity while still drawing 30-60% of maximum power. Because servers represent as much as 75% of data center energy consumption, improving IT efficiency is critical for minimizing energy use and optimizing energy consumption.


zSystems and LinuxONE: Built for Sustainability

Of course, IBM has long designed the mainframe for sustainability.  And with the Telum processor that debuted with the z16, an IBM zSystems server can run the same workload as x86 while using 50% less energy. Further, zSystems can run at 100% utilization, whereas x86 systems run at far lower utilizations. Another z16 innovation is the Intelligent Power Distribution Unit (iPDU) power option, which is designed to save considerable energy compared to prior versions of the mainframe.


The recently unveiled LinuxONE Emperor 4 enterprise model—which is also powered by Telum—is capable of running tens of thousands of workloads at high density for sustained periods without increasing energy consumption.  It consumes 75% less energy and half the physical space of the same workloads running on x86.

IBM featured the Emperor 4 in a sustainability demo during September’s Open Mainframe Summit By migrating from an environment of 256 x86 cores running MongoDB to a single Emperor 4 system running 19 Linux cores, one client improved its response times and reduced error rates. In the process, the client also saw reduced electricity consumption.

As much as moving toward sustainability is a pressing need, it’s important to recognize that this process also comes with opportunities. Put succinctly, sustainability makes business sense. High priority mainframe initiatives like IT modernization, systems automation, server consolidation and hybrid cloud are all geared toward creating and strengthening efficiency. As such they nicely dovetail with sustainability strategies. The fact that many of these things that are likely in your near-term plans can also help your business reduce its energy costs, while potentially contributing to a healthier world for us all, is just one more compelling reason to take action.

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