Viridity's power management tool aims to boost data center efficiency

Startup's EnergyCenter tool calculates how much power is being used by IT equipment and roots out idle or inefficient machines

Startup Viridity Software is releasing a new tool on Monday to help companies keep track of the power being used by each piece of IT equipment in their data centers, with a view to improving energy efficiency.

It's one of a growing number of startups offering energy management tools for data centers, many of which are being forced to undertake costly expansion projects because they are running out of power at existing facilities.

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A survey this month from wholesale data-center provider Digital Realty Trust found that more than a third of respondents plan data center expansion projects this year, and that the need for additional power was the top reason for those projects, up from fifth place last year.

Viridity's new EnergyCenter tool, like comparable ones from Arch Rock, Sentilla, and other startups, aims to calculate how much power is being used by IT equipment, root out idle or inefficient machines, and identify pockets of surplus power that could accommodate new equipment.

Viridity's product manages only servers today, but the company will add storage equipment in a few months and network gear soon after that, said Kevin Rogers, a member of Viridity's field services team.

EnergyCenter starts by compiling an inventory of the servers in a data center with a tool that scans the network using the SNMP, WMI and SSH protocols, as well as VMware's vSphere API. It then monitors the utilization rates of those servers at 5- to 30-minute intervals, depending on how the customer sets it up.

The software doesn't read the power drawn from servers directly. Instead, Viridity tested thousands of server configurations to calculate the amount of power they draw at different levels of utilization, and compiled the information in a database that gets installed on-site with the product.

EnergyCenter looks at the utilization rates, calculates the power draw using the database, and compiles the information into various graphics and reports that show energy use over time. Graphical charts make it relatively easy to identify inefficient machines that are candidates for replacement or consolidation.

Customers can also build a 3D image of their data center that includes server racks and PDUs, with their respective load capacities. They can then identify areas that have surplus power and experiment with different physical layouts to see where new servers could go.

Viridity isn't 100 percent accurate because it doesn't measure the power draw from the equipment itself, only by comparing utilization rates against its database. But it says the system is about 90 percent accurate and good enough to provide meaningful, actionable data about power usage. It will update the database with power use data for different equipment and configurations over time.

Measuring power draw precisely is something other vendors have struggled with. Rival Sentilla at one time used small devices that attached to each piece of equipment and reported power usage via a wireless mesh network. It decided that system was too cumbersome to implement at large data centers, and last year it switched to a software-only system. The new product reads the power draw from metered equipment and then calculates the remaining values with a triangulation system that fills in the blanks like a game of Sudoku. It claims this system is 98 percent accurate.

EnergyCenter may provide less of a granular, real-time view than some other tools, but it's still a good starting point for the many data centers that are not measuring energy use at all, said Jed Scaramella, senior research analyst for servers and energy efficiency at IDC.

"It doesn't have that real-time data, but real-time data is going to cost more and not everybody needs it yet. At the price point they are coming in at, this can be an effective tool that is very easy to deploy," he said.

Viridity sells its product on an annual subscription basis starting at about $25,000. It is available today in North America, and the company is looking for partners to help sell it in Europe. It says it has six customers using the product today.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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