VAR'sTechnology Plan to Cut Energy Costs at Obama's Former School

Hawaii reseller CDS crafts an ambitious energy reduction initiative for prestigious Punahou campus using IBM technology. The aim is cut power usage by half within seven years.

January 20, 2009

D.H. Kass

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A large, private school in Honolulu, Hawaii whose alumni includes President Obama and America Online co-founder Steve Case, has tapped a technology solution from a local reseller to halve its on-campus power usage by 2016.

Punahou School, founded in 1841 and the oldest independent K – 12 academy west of the Mississippi River, plans to celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2016 by executing a considerable sustainability project that encompasses not only reductions in energy use, but also in water conservation, paper waste and food management. The school, whose near-term goal is to cut its energy use by 25 percent by 2010, recently installed a photovoltaic solar system on seven of its buildings in the largest such installation at a non-profit organization in Hawaii.

Obama attended the school, which has been described as one of the most elite in the nation, between the ages of 10 and 18. He has described it as one of the most important influences on his life. The president visited the school last month when he returned to Hawaii for a post-election vacation.

The new technology installation offers a noteworthy example of a local reseller working with a vendor’s support to address a customer’s needs. Punahou enlisted the reseller, Commercial Data Systems (CDS), a channel partner based in Honolulu with seven offices throughout the U.S., because the two parties previously had worked together on smaller projects and the school believed that CDS understood its goals.

The energy reduction initiative is striking considering that Hawaii’s electricity costs are three times the national average and have risen about 50 percent in the last year, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. School officials estimate that consolidating its data center, reducing infrastructure costs and improving resource use can save up to $1 million a year and cut in half its dependence on the Hawaiian Electric Co.

New IBM Server Technology

Upgrading the school’s server infrastructure was the first step in the energy conservation plan, said Wendi Kamiya, Punahou’s chief information officer. “We have more than 3,700 students accessing the server infrastructure every day,” she said. “Technology here is an integral part of teaching and learning and our students are very involved with it.”

The school consolidated all of its legacy servers into three IBM x3850 M2 servers running VMware virtualization software. “The servers run all of our information systems, including applications, course management system, file shares, web portal, email and record storage,” Kamiya said. “The web portal alone has 40,000 users.”

Kamiya said that in planning for the project, the school looked at various technologies “with our sustainability goals in mind. We knew we wanted to make a huge change, not just exchange server for server. We planned to have enough money to do the project. All our legacy server leases and extended maintenance contracts were up at the same time. We saved money just by not having to build out our data centers.”

Kamiya added that channel partner CDS was able to gain a real understanding of the school's technology needs. “CDS did various projects with us and the more they did, the better they got to know us. As we built the relationship, the solutions became the best we could possibly get.”

CDS, an IBM Business Partner, brought IBM to the project “to look at the technology,” Kamiya said. The school considered a wide variety of technology options, including blade technology. It eventually opted for IBM’s x servers because of the cost, flexibility and reliability, she said. Accordingly, CDS has provided technical people on site to train Punahou’s staff in what Kamiya called “new technology for us.”

“Working with IBM, we were able to offer Punahou School a fully integrated solution that met their energy saving and efficiency needs,” said Mark Gilbert, CDS president.

Kamiya said that the project idea sprung from a “sustainability summit” that the school held that brought together administrators, faculty and students to identify the “needs and goals we wanted to focus on. From there, it became a school-wide initiative.”

TAGS: server,IBM,virtualization,Obama,VAR

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