Viridity Points to Greener, and Cheaper, Data Centers

Any company that owns or manages a data center, even a small one, knows how power-hungry they can be. It’s not unusual for operators of large data centers—say, 50,000 square feet—to pay $10 million a year or more for electricity. Under those circumstances, companies have every incentive to look to virtualization and other technologies that help them be more efficient. But data center energy management, it turns out, isn’t exactly a science: there’s no precise way to predict how much consolidating a few servers, for example, will reduce a company’s energy bills.

That’s the problem Viridity Software, a Burlington, MA, startup coming out of stealth mode today, hopes to solve. “We want to be able to tell a customer exactly what to do to optimize the life of their data center and decrease their energy footprint, or increase the amount of work they can do on the same energy and capital footprint,” says Mike Rowan, the company’s founder and chief technology officer.

To pursue that vision, Viridity has raised $7 million in Series A funding from North Bridge Venture Partners and Battery Ventures, and has 22 employees working to ship a series of software products starting in the first quarter of 2010. The first product, Rowan says, will be a planning aid that helps data center managers see how adding or moving servers will change overall electrical load. Next will come a control module that provides a real-time picture of power utilization, not just by IT equipment, but by a data center’s heating and cooling systems. Finally, building on the data provided by the control module will be an optimization tool that studies a data center’s historical power use patterns and recommends the changes system administrators and facilities engineers should make to reduce power consumption.

“The cost of power in data centers is approaching the cost of the capital equipment,” says Rowan. Reducing power consumption, he says, is mainly a matter of understanding how power needs change under various computing workloads, and balancing those workloads more intelligently.

While Viridity is striking a mildly green pose—the company logo features a little green leaf sprouting from the “V”—Rowan thinks it’s the high cost of electricity, rather than concern about carbon emissions or climate change, that will ultimately send customers his way.

“You can put a business case around every one of these decisions,” he says. “Why overtly talk about how it’s the right thing for the planet, when there’s a business case around it? You will get more done with less cost and less power.”

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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