Dell believes that customers do not necessarily need to build new data centres, and is now offering to show customers how to optimise their existing ones to extend their life span.

Dell says that its expertise in this area came about two years ago, when it discovered it had reached the capacity limits of its two data centres (DCs) in Austin Texas. Rather than going to the expense of simply building a new data centre, the company instead looked at whether it was possible to squeeze more life out of its existing DCs.

"Michael Dell looks at building new buildings in order to make money, and not making money in order to build buildings," explained Rick Becker, VP, Software and Solutions Enterprise Product Group at Dell.

Becker was one of the men charged with overseeing the redevelopment of Dell's data centre resources. Dell estimates that its own data centre optimisation has internally reduced costs by more than $29 million (£19.6 million).

"When we optimised our own data centres, we learnt a lot of lessons," Becker told Techworld. "And now we want to share these lessons with our customers," he added. To this end, Dell is offering customers a data centre optimisation service.

Alongside the service, Dell is offering some simple advice, in line with the company's established policy of simplifying IT. This includes the decommissioning old servers, consolidate existing equipment; virtualise as much as possible, and re-equipping with new kit in order to take advantage of much better energy efficient technology.

On the consolidation point, Dell points out that many companies have unnecessary servers running in their DCs, legacy of past projects, but which are not shut down because managers don't know what they are used for.

Becker said that with a 70 percent server volume reduction, coupled with an equipment refresh with energy efficient products, a typical data centre would see 50 to 70 percent less energy use.

Becker also makes it clear that he is also a big fan of virtualisation, and believes that this is one of the most important ways for companies to reduce their server sprawl and optimise their server resources. "At Dell in 2006, we only had 543 virtual machines. Now the number is over 5,000," he said.

"We will also ask customers to raise the temperature of their data centres," said Becker, pointing to the fact that most data centres are currently too cool.

Dell equipment can run at 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit). Indeed, Dell's equipment is certified to run at 29.4 Celsius (85 Fahrenheit), but Becker says that at 25.6 Celsius (78 Fahrenheit), it found that its fans ran at a greater speed and started impacting on energy cost savings.

By its own estimate, Dell believes it can help companies increase their DC computing capacity by 270 percent within the same power and space footprint, using less hardware. Its message then to the market is spend now, in order to save down the road.

But will anyone buy in to this argument considering the current economic climate?

Becker disagrees somewhat with the gloomy forecasts touted by IDC and Gartner. While everyone seems to agree that the industry won't experience the extreme cuts it suffered in 2001 after the dot-com bust, Becker feels that customers will not be holding off all their spending plans, especially if Dell can demonstrate real ROI (return on investment) within a 12 to 18 month period.

"Post September, IT has suddenly become the key enabler on how companies can remain viable," said Becker. "We can show the ROI that customers can achieve, plus we have financing options available.

If companies can reduce the amount of people needed (by adding in more automation), as well as trimming their real estate costs, there is much less expense. The finance guys absolutely get that. That is what we mean when we say, simplify and save," he said.