IBM is set to announce a modular data centre designed to reduce energy consumption. The Enterprise Modular Data Center, essentially a data centre in a box will be offered in sizes ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 square feet, set to compete with Sun's own Modular Datacenter.

The company, which is already comimitted to spending $1 billion (£500m) annuually on its Project Big Green initiative, is teaming up with the utility industry on new data centre energy management programmes.

As with the Sun product, IBM said its data centre would help reduce unnecessary capital and operational expenses.

"With roughly 60 percent of the capital costs and 50 percent of the operational costs of running a data center being energy related, the ability to design, construct and activate a highly energy efficient data center has become a business imperative," IBM said.

The data center "pod" includes power and cooling systems, remote monitoring, and protection from fire, smoke, humidity, condensation and temperature changes.

With industry-standard racks, customers can fill the Modular Data Center with technology from multiple vendors.

"By building in smaller, standardised modules, clients can scale the starting data center capacity by up to 12 times while matching their capital and operational costs to their IT needs over time," IBM says. "This approach allows the customers to defer up to 40 percent of the capital expense and 50 percent of the operational expense until the capacity is required."

The cost of the Modular Data Center was not announced.

IBM followed up the Modular Data Center announcement this week with a utility industry partnership focused on reducing energy consumption in data centres

IBM expanded its Energy Efficiency Certificates programme to let data centres obtain third-party verification that energy efficiency projects are actually cutting the use of electricity.

The company also launched two new services. The first is IBM's IT Carbon Strategy Assessment, a three- or four-week program that helps customers identify energy waste in their network, printers, distributed servers, HVAC systems, desktop computers and other technologies. The second service, based in Second Life, is called the Virtual Green Data Center, a three-dimensional tool giving users insight into managing and improving data center efficiency.