A Peak into IT in FedEx Green Data Center

FedEx announced its Green Data Center in Colorado in Feb 2011.

FedEx Unveils “Green” Data Center in Colorado Springs


February 16, 2011

FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) today celebrated the grand opening of its first environmentally sustainable (“green”) data center, located adjacent to the FedEx Rocky Mountain Tech Center in Colorado Springs, CO. Based on the application of a number of green design standards, the Enterprise Data Center–West (EDC-W) can be counted among the most energy efficient data centers in the U.S.


The EDC-W PUE is 1.28, with a ratio of “1.0” indicating perfect efficiency.


The Technology

Over the next three years, FedEx technology teams will move core systems and applications from the Customer Technology Center (CTC) in Memphis to Colorado Springs. The massive migration of data, already in progress, will require thousands of hours of work to ensure the successful implementation of the simplified and consolidated infrastructure.

So what is some of the technology moving into FedEx's green data center?

FedEx is thinking like an information company.

The so-called Internet of things is one of the emerging technology themes at the Gartner conference. For CIOs, these sensors connect many distinct disciplines, including data management, analytics, business intelligence and customer service.

Other themes from Carter included:

  • FedEx is an information services question. The company’s ethos is that the information about the package is as important as the package itself.
  • Enterprise IT is a young discipline. “Enterprise IT as a profession is only about 35 years old. It’s a new science,” said Carter.
  • FedEx is architecture around service oriented architecture. The company is broken down into 22 services that are delivered to various operating units. These services cover addresses, locations, labeling and other items that “are foundational services that really matter to the business.”
  • Once those services are in place, interfaces and applications that aren’t necessary fall away. “You’re not entitled to an enterprise stack,” said Carter, referring to operating units.
  • FedEx’s data centers run on VMware as an internal cloud. The hardware revolves around commodity x86 servers, said Carter. That architecture is the dominant design that is used by Amazon, Salesforce and others.

And the CIO drove some action.

4. Enlist reluctant top management.

To persuade top management to make the move, Carter didn't do five-year plans or 10-year projected returns on investment. Instead, he drew a map of what the existing data center environment looked like versus the simplified one he wanted to operate. His mappings of the existing application infrastructure and dependencies were so complex, intense, and confusing that his CEO dubbed them scenes from "Hurricane Rob" in his honor. "I had a lot of ugly pictures," he said.

5. You don't have to wait for just the right software.

Carter didn't get caught in analysis paralysis. Carter wasn't looking to bring in an external supplier's private cloud system to get started or waiting for a cloud computing standard, such as OpenStack, to firm up. As a Salesforce.com customer, he and his IT staff "compared notes" with Salesforce on its data center operations and FedEx knew how Twitter and Facebook had built their new data centers. His staff worked with the LAMP stack--Linux with a proven set of integrated open source code--to build a shared x86 infrastructure, then created pilot services on top of it.

There were cultural issues. Some IT staffers felt they were doing a good job with the way legacy systems were running. Carter illustrated that FedEx was using 200 different applications to manage addresses, a key component of its business, when one address service could do the same thing more efficiently and at a lower cost. Another new service supplied currency conversions throughout the company. Carter told his staff, you're doing a good job of managing the details of the existing infrastructure. "It was the macro picture (of future data center operation) that looked unsustainable."

And, note that FedEx skipped the public cloud step and went straight to the private cloud, but has his options open for AWS.

6. What about the public cloud?

Carter acknowledged his approach doesn't include a blueprint for working with the public cloud. But FedEx is a close partner with Salesforce.com--"I've known Marc Benioff for a long time," said Carter--and initially, FedEx will "live in a hybrid cloud world with Salesforce" CRM applications. But Carter also noted the seasonal nature of FedEx's business and how it doubles with the approach of the holidays. "Our business is unique in its peaking factor ... Amazon Web Services' capacity to handle intense workloads, like Netflix streaming, means it might be quite suitable for some of our work," he said.