ColdWatt: making servers mean and green

Startup's energy-efficient power supplies take a bite out of operations costs

High-efficiency power supplies might not have the same "wow" factor as some other technologies associated with developing a greener, more cost-efficient datacenter (say, server virtualization). But consider this: replacing your existing power supplies with more efficient alternatives from ColdWatt could save $50,000 a year for a 400-server datacenter. Now isn't that wow-worthy?

Based in the green tech capital of Austin, Texas, privately owned ColdWatt spun off from Rockwell Scientific in 2004. The company, which has raised more than $31 million in funding since 2005, has developed a digital power conversion technology for AC-DC power subsystems that uses magnetics to increase energy storage in its power supplies and digital controls to boost efficiency and flexibility.

Dan Artusi, chairman and CEO of ColdWatt, says his company addresses an acute problem that many enterprises are facing today.

"As networking and computing performance continues to climb, so too does the amount of electricity required and the amount of heat generated," Artusi says. In fact, more than 50 percent of typical datacenter power consumption today is used for power delivery, which means that operational costs are starting to outstrip the cost of equipment itself, according to ColdWatt data.

High performance and higher energy costs are a one-two punch that's sent IT managers scrambling for solutions. 

ColdWatt's technology allows systems designers to deliver high performance efficiently, reducing operating expenditures for companies, Artusi says.

According to the company, its front-end power supplies boast better than 90 percent efficiency, compared with the 70 percent efficiency level of commodity power supplies.

According to ColdWatt, a server that needs 200 watts of electricity actually eats up 511 watts if it's packing a traditional power supply: 96 watts fizzle through power conversion and 193 go toward cooling the machine, according to ColdWatt. A server loaded with one of ColdWatt's power supplies would need just 25 watts for power conversion and 106 watts for air conditioning.

ColdWatt's first offerings are the 650W Power Sub-System and the AC-DC 1U 1200W Power Supply, designed for 1U servers. The first-generation 650W features 1+1 redundancy with active load-share and hot-swap, as well as communication interfaces including PMBus (Power Management Bus) protocol that provides a standard way to communicate with power converters over a digital communications bus, and PSMII.

The 1200W version includes N+1 redundancy with hot plug-in; built-in fault protection; and support for PSMII and PMBus.

ColdWatt recently joined The Green Grid, a consortium of technology companies, including AMD, HP, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft, that's working to define user-centric models and metrics, and to develop and promote energy-efficient standards, processes, measurements, and technologies.

"Joining The Green Grid is a natural extension of [our] strategy and will allow us to work with other industry leaders to make a significant impact on the datacenter ecosystem, as well as the environment," Artusi says.

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