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Keeping Cool

Expert Roger Schmidt helps customers understand data-center energy efficiency

Green computing is a recent IT buzz word, but IBM’s Roger R. Schmidt, chief engineer for data-center energy efficiency, has been green from the get-go. Throughout his 33-year career, Schmidt has helped develop technologies that let computers run more efficiently. When he started, IBM servers were cooled by water (and some new models revisit the technology). Schmidt was intricately involved in the transition to air-cooled servers.

He’s since made a professional transition, emerging from the lab to educate customers worldwide. These days, Schmidt estimates 75 percent of his time is spent traveling and helping customers understand how they can make their data centers more energy efficient.

Schmidt discusses the challenges customers face in reining in their energy costs, and points out the IT industry’s missteps in the 1990s. He also explains how a quick trip to a customer site in Bristol, Conn.—just two hours from his IBM home in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.—sent his career in a new direction.

Q: How does one come to be a cooling expert?

A: I guess from being in the business for 33 years. (Laughs.) I’ve worked in this field since I was hired on at IBM. I got my degrees in mechanical engineering. Then in graduate school, I focused on heat transfer and fluid mechanics. Luckily, I was hired into a company that had a great focus on cooling.

In school, I was very interested in fluid mechanics, which tied in closely with heat transfer. I think for most of us, if you had a professor you liked a lot, often you kind of link onto that as your interest. It happened that way for me. In fact, I had several really good professors in the area of heat transfer and fluid mechanics, both in undergraduate and graduate school. They created an excitement in this area that rubbed off on me.

Neil Tardy is a contributing writer to IBM Systems Magazine. Neil can be reached at ntardy@msptechmedia.com.

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