This Data Center Has Seen It All

Avnet’s IT facility in Phoenix has evolved over 25 years to handle petabytes of data, absorb acquisitions and cut cooling costs

When Brad Kenney joined the IT group at Avnet in 1987, the electronics distributor's newborn data center was populated by mainframes, data capacity was measured in gigabytes, and the company owned five servers.

Twenty-five years later, Kenney is vice president of enterprise infrastructure and that data center houses 1,700 servers, maintains 1.2 petabytes of data, and is cooled by a cutting-edge, environmentally friendly HVAC system.

The Phoenix data center's history highlights some of the tremendous technology changes over the years. "[In 1987] we had nine megabytes of bandwidth per second, and it cost the company $500,000 a year," says Steve Phillips, Avnet's senior vice president and CIO. "You can get that on your 4G smartphone today. And no one's spending half a million dollars for it." (Today the data center supports bandwidth of 2.2 gigabytes a second.)

It's also a reflection of Avnet's corporate growth. Over that last quarter century, Avnet's data center has scaled up as the company went from $1.5 billion in revenue and 9,500 employees to $25.7 billion in revenue and more than 17,000 employees. Over the past year alone, Avnet has acquired and is integrating 14 companies into the IT fold.

Yet as data center capacity has increased 30,000 percent, power consumption is just three times what it was in the 1980s, thanks in part to recent energy-saving initiatives such as virtualization, a new data-storage-management system, a script for system hibernation, green lighting and a cooling system that uses air from the Sonoran desert.

Those moves are projected to save $18 million annually and avoid a multi-million dollar power build-out. Some of those savings are reinvested in Kenney's group. "That makes it a constant point of focus," says Phillips. "They can see the benefit that they get if they reduce that power bill."

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