Interview with Earl D Sacerdoti, Phd., Chief Technical Officer of Modius Inc. headquartered in Oakland, California, a data center management solution provider.
1. Earl, you and I have known each other for several years from AI projects we worked on together before there was a term for Green IT. What prompted your interest in investing in a Green IT product? Was it the market size? Your convictions about sustainability?
Deb, I have been a resource conservation advocate for many years. But frankly, I got involved with this company for broader reasons than its value in greening IT, Modius’ OpenData enables a smart data center manager to save time, labor, and money in addition to energy. In fact, it’s not that our customers run their data centers better because they are saving energy. They are saving energy because they are running their data centers better.
That being said, I think that the growing sensitivity to Green IT turbo-charges our value proposition. We estimate there is a $2 billion domestic market for data center management solutions. The increasing cost of electric power, the very real power capacity limits that many data centers will face in the next two years, and the likelihood of governmental regulation if the industry cannot mitigate the problem on its own, are factors that will accelerate the adoption of data center management systems.
2. I know you have six key value propositions shown on your website. Let’s take energy efficiency in the data center. In less than 200 words how does OpenData address that initiative?
In the absence of detailed data, data center managers operate their facility with multiple margins of safety. For example, they’ll operate the devices in their power train at well under rated capacity, manage humidity by simultaneously adding it and removing it at different points in their air handling and cooling systems, and run the entire data center much colder than necessary. Each of these actions wastes a lot of energy. Also, they’ll maintain equipment on a fixed schedule rather than measuring its efficiency and performing maintenance when efficiency begins to slip.
OpenData helps reduce energy consumption by measuring more real-time data points than was previously practical, and by storing that data in a powerful database management system for trending and analytics. Because managers can monitor more data points in real time, they can measure what’s really going on and run their facility closer to its design limits, and thus much more energy-efficiently. Because they can see standard reports highlighting performance trends, they can identify and fix energy wasters like slipping fan belts and dirty air filters before a scheduled maintenance regime would correct them.
3. Can you describe an ideal situation for Modius in terms of size or number of appliances?
Our product is most cost-effective for larger data centers, but we have happy customers of all sizes, down to a 2500 square foot data center for a regional bank. Our “sweet spot” is a customer with a number of large, geographically dispersed data centers, with hundreds of devices monitored. But we often begin our relationship with our customers at a single data center, and expand from there.
4. I know your product is just getting launched. Does most of the market understand the problems you are solving?
We launched in February 2007, but it stands on the shoulders of a previous-generation product that has been in the field for 7 years.
Data center managers do understand the problem we are solving – best practices data center management – because it is the problem they are working to solve. Reduced energy consumption, like any other operating efficiency, is a natural consequence.
5. On your corporate website you don’t make any wild claims about 20% more energy efficient or anything like that. Are you finding there are averages for specific assets such as power or HVAC? Can you provide some anecdotal evidence?
The diversity of manufacturers and products within each asset class makes it hard to say what an “average efficiency” means. Our customers focus on improving the efficiency of the assets they already own. We have anecdotes of OpenData alerting a customer when energy-wasting harmonic distortion was introduced into the power train due to installation of unauthorized equipment in the building, of identifying slipping fan belts and misaligned pulleys, and of using temperature probes to level the heat load throughout the data center. One customer has reduced his power bill by 25% over several years, while continuing to add to his computing capacity. His energy savings paid for his installation several times over, even accounting for the large bonus he received for maintaining 100% up-time!
In addition to working with customers, we are collaborating with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. We are adding LBNL’s data center energy-efficiency metrics to the data that can be measured, alerted on, and trended. This will help managers monitor and improve their data center’s efficiency compared with best-practices benchmarks.
We don’t sell our system today as an energy efficiency solution – we sell it as a best-practices management solution (emphasis from deborah grove). The energy savings are a consequence of good data center management. But we know we are measurably moving Green IT forward together with our customers and industry colleagues.
I hope that the above interview provokes some new thoughts... Have a green day!