Greening the Internet and Verari Systems’ “Data Center in a Box”

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finance the costs of replacing an existing data center, Verari recently formed a financial services group that offers lease financing, trade-in programs and other financing options. SDG&E also has financing programs to help bankroll its customers energy-saving initiatives.

Driggers, who worked intensely on a laptop computer while he talked with me, says Verari was founded in 1991 as a San Diego computer store and expanded with the biotech and Internet boom as a computer equipment supplier. The company once known as Computer Parts Plus evolved into a data center equipment provider that specializes in serving the need for what he calls “unstructured” data.

Driggers explains that in contrast to a financial service company’s data center, which must ensure the availability of every single transaction, unstructured data is ideally suited to media and entertainment companies that store computerized copies of movies, songs and other digital content in many places. “If you’re downloading an update for Microsoft Vista, you don’t need a single piece of data,” Driggers says. “It’s cached all over so many people can access it.”

The privately held company has received three rounds of venture funding. Drigger declined to say how much funding the company has received, but he said Verari counts the Carlyle Group among its investors.

Verari’s increased emphasis on energy-efficiency comes at a good time. Gartner recently reported a 15.1 percent plunge in global server sales—to $13.1 billion—as the recession worsened during the last three months of 2008. Gartner analyst Heeral Kota noted, though, that blade servers were “one of the few segments to achieve any growth at all in this challenging environment.”

Verari is hardly alone, though, in focusing its business on cutting energy costs and “greening” corporate data centers. Earlier this week, Folsom, CA-based SynapSense got $7 million in a second round of funding for technology that uses wireless sensors to track thermal, pressure and humidity conditions in corporate data centers. The company’s customers include the New York Stock Exchange and Verizon, among others.

Another energy-saving approach adopted by Verari and other IT equipment makers calls for developing “virtual servers.” SDG&E estimates that 20 conventional servers operating under moderate conditions use about 90,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. The San Diego utility says consolidating those units and their operating systems into a single server (which is partitioned to operate like 20 separate servers) consumes only about 6,600 kilowatt hours—and can lower the user’s annual electric bill by $6,672 under SDG&E’s energy efficiency program incentive program.

“One of the key focuses for data centers these days is how to stop spending money on heating and cooling; that’s just money down a rat hole,” Smarr told me. “At the end of the day, what counts is what the guy in accounting has to pay when the electricity bill comes in.”

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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