Physical Analytics - Data Centers and Teleco Facilities

Description: The underlying technology for Physical Analytics in data centers data centers and/or telecommunication facilities is IBM's MMT (Measurement and Management Technologies). MMT has evolved into an integral part of the Physical Analytics Platform although is was originally designed for a specific applications space, i.e. dealing with the surging energy consumption in data centers. Data centers form the backbone of the information technology (IT) infrastructure with literally every business and government entity critically depending on it. They house very large assemblies of densely packed IT equipment and can be easily as large as several football fields on multiple floors, with a total power consumption of tens of mega-watts, which is a significant fraction of a full power plant. While today with 2 % of the total US energy consumption the impact of data centers is relatively minor, the rate of increase (~15 % per year or doubling every 5 years) is alarming.

Data centers are very complex systems, with multiple applications running on various servers, distributed throughout the facilities with different network, storage, processing, and memory requirements. The challenge is that energy management encompasses very different technical domains, ranging from facilities, power delivery, and IT systems to the actual core technologies. Traditionally, the management the IT infrastructure relies on a high level of abstraction, which on one hand makes it easier for the administrator to deal with the complexity but in essence hides information about which physical locations the different applications might be running in. However, in order to reduce energy consumption, the physical and logical layers have to be managed holistically.

To improve energy efficiency in data centers we have developed MMT (Measurement and Management Technologies) that allows simultaneous measurement and management of both the logical and physical IT infrastructure. First, we developed a comprehensive measurement system, which included wireless mesh networks as well data adapters to collect energy information from the IT systems and the support infrastructure. The main innovation of the technical work is associated with the development of an accurate and fast model that allows operators and control systems to reduce energy consumption. Traditional approaches, to model for example heat distributions, relied on complex computational fluid dynamic models, which are not only slow but also computationally very intensive when used for operational control. We developed several physics-based models, which model much faster with similar or better accuracy. In essence, these models leverage the real-time measurement data, which is applied as boundary nodes and thus enable drastic simplification of the complexity of the physical description. We complemented these physics models with advanced statistical and spatial kriging models to further improve the time response.


The work includes the development a series of control and optimization technologies, which range from decision-support systems using advanced visualization technologies, closed-loop optimal control system to full scale optimization. As part of this effort, we developed an intelligent MMT software platform, which provides the underlying basis for these control technologies. For example, the technology offers real-time energy efficiency reporting features. Chilled air pressure is constantly monitored and displayed, which gauges air leakage as well as service disruptions in the cooling system. It allows managing cooling power supplied to the different pieces of IT equipment and the rendering of real-time temperature distributions. Optimization algorithms can determine the optimum placement of workloads based on the current cooling configuration, or a series of automatic controls for the physical infrastructure (such as air conditioning units, chiller system, power distribution units, etc) can be used to support the IT load with optimum energy efficiency. The technology also includes a comprehensive free cooling management solution.

Today more than 500 data center facilities are using MMT with approximately 50% of users in the Americas, 40% in Asia-Pacific, and 20% in Europe and Africa. MMT has achieved, on average, more than 10% of energy efficiency improvements resulting to date in annual energy savings of more than 500 Million kW-hours, which is a sizeable fraction of a large scale power plant. Beyond cost savings the technology has avoided major capital investments. Demonstration and showcases of this technology have been installed in Southbury (CT), Poughkeepsie (NY), and Raleigh (NC) as well as overseas in Boeblingen (Germany), Montpellier (France), Dublin (Ireland), Delhi (India), and Shanghai (China) to help educate customers in the implementation of more energy-efficient and sustainable IT practices.

One of the virtues of the technology lies in its universality. MMT has expanded telecommunication facilities and network switching offices, working with ATT, as well as buildings in general. We went even beyond that and made use of MMT at the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art, where this technology is being used to monitor and manage the preservation of objects of art.


Recent presentations: 

Recent publications:



Key patents:

  • US Patent: 8,964,375 A.Claassen, H.F. Hamann, M.K. Iyengar, J.A. Lacey, Y.C. Martin, R.R. Schmidt, T.G. van Kessel
    Techniques for data center cooling
  • US Patent: 8,731,883 H.F. Hamann, M.K. Iyengar, T.G. van Kessel
    Techniques for thermal modeling of data centers to improve energy efficiency
  • US Patent: 8,594,985 H.F. Hamann, V. Lopez-Marrero
    Techniques for determining physical zones of influence


  • Department of Energy EERE
  • AT&T
  • PG&E
  • ibuttonLink


Other links: