Sentilla measures datacenter power use at the server level

Devices measure electricity being consumed by individual servers in a datacenter and make recommendations based on those usage levels to help cut energy bills

Sentilla has released a product that measures the electricity being consumed by individual servers in a datacenter and makes recommendations based on those usage levels to help cut energy bills, the company announced Tuesday.

Called the Sentilla Energy Manager for Data Centers, the product uses small Java-based devices that plug into the back of each server and measure the actual and "reactive" power flowing to each machine. The devices aggregate the data over a wireless mesh network and send it to a Web-based administrative console to give a granular view of the power being used by each server.

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The product can identify servers that are drawing power but not running any load, or be used to compare energy use among servers from different vendors or in different configurations, Sentilla CEO Bob Davis said. It also works with storage gear and can help administrators to figure out the best time to replace their storage arrays, for example, which become gradually less energy efficient over time, he said.

Sentilla claims to have already signed one large customer for the product, a telecommunications carrier that it can't yet name publicly. It is also being endorsed by Sun Microsystems, which uses its product to demonstrate the energy efficiency of its servers, Davis said.

Sentilla charges for the product by the number of power measurement devices being used. They start at $250 each but larger volumes cost less, and an order for 1,000 devices would be about $100,000, including the administrative software, Davis said.

The devices plug into a standard electrical cable between the power source and the piece of equipment, a bit like a mini-version of the power adapter used with a laptop. For server racks, instead of attaching the dongles loose to each machine, Sentilla makes a 1U component that slides into the rack and connects to the other servers.

Sentilla originally developed its technology for use in the manufacturing industry, where it's used to measure the energy consumption of large aluminium smelters, Davis said. Last year it adapted the technology for the datacenter, where reducing energy use has become a top priority for many companies.

"The thing we're told time and again by various sorts of customers is that they want to know what's happening at the equipment level," Davis said.

Sentilla is one of several startups taking a variety of approaches to cutting energy use in datacenters. SynapSense uses wireless sensors around the datacenter to create heat and humidity maps that can help manage cooling systems. Another, Cassatt, develops software that balances server workloads and turns machines off when they're not in use.

"I think we differentiate ourselves with the granularity of what we measure," Davis said.

Sentilla plans to work with partners to broaden how its technology can be used. It could work with load balancing or virtualization software, for example, to steer workloads toward the servers that are operating the more energy-efficiently, he said.

"That's something we definitely intend to do, but for this first version we grabbed onto the notion that you can't manage what you can't measure, and let's get that out there first," he said.

Sentilla is based in Redwood City, Calif. It was founded in 2000 and became incorporated in 2003. The company recently closed a second round of funding worth $7.5 million.

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