Startup Lopoco Aims To Build Business Around Energy-Efficient Servers10:30 AM EST Tue. Jul. 23, 2013
Startup Low Power Company is looking to make a name for itself as a provider of energy-efficient servers.
Low Power Company, or Lopoco, this month unveiled its first line of servers, one that is limited in range by design in order to cover a part of the market that traditionally has been underserved, said Andrew Sharp, CEO and co-founder of the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.
The state of server market technology made it possible to design more energy-efficient servers seven or eight years ago, Sharp said. However, legacy server vendors deal with customers that have a wide range of performance and efficiency requirements, opening the door for a company such as Lopoco to stake out a segment of the market focusing on efficiency, he said.
"The sweet spot of the market, or 60 [percent] to 70 percent of the market, doesn't need everything the other server vendors entice you with," he said.
Unfortunately, it's not certain the market is ready for a vendor focusing on power-efficient servers, said Keith Norbie, director of server, virtualization and storage for the Eastern U.S. for Technology Integration Group (TIG), a San Diego-based solution provider.
"Low power is important for servers," Norbie said. "But the main interest might be in the service provider space. If you want to enter the server business, you need to be unique. I'm not sure whether low power consumption by itself will be enough."
Norbie cited as examples two companies that have succeeded in the server business.
The first is Cisco and its UCS blade server solution. "Cisco cheated in getting a market for its servers because it had a well-known brand name," he said. "But Cisco did something different with its focus on virtualization."
The other is Nutanix, a startup combining server and storage technology into a single converged infrastructure. "Nutanix reinvented the server by converging it with storage," he said.
Sharp said that Lopoco differentiates itself from other server vendors by focusing only on energy-efficient servers.
The company offers a line of Intel Atom-based microservers, as well as Intel Xeon-based servers with four, eight and 12 cores. Lopoco does not offer AMD-based or ARM-based servers.
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Power consumption is further reduced by using 2.5-inch hard drives instead of 3.5-inch models, and by not using 10,000-rpm or faster drives, Sharp said.
"We get customers to realize that 55 percent of all servers sold today are way overprovisioned," he said. "We let customers choose the number of cores they need, the amount of memory, and the amount of disk. Because of this, we can build very, very efficient servers, and that's what we do."
Lopoco today has only 10 to 12 customers, all of which are managed directly by the company. The company, however, is interested in building an indirect channel, according to Sharp. "It makes sense for a small startup like us," he said.
Lopoco is targeting very early stage startup customers that have not yet built a legacy data center. "These customers find they can stretch their startup money further with us than with conventional servers," Sharp said.
Other target markets include customers feeling the pinch of power costs in their existing data centers, as well as those concerned about wasting natural resources, he said.
Sharp acknowledged that there is competition for power-efficient servers from the cloud. "However, the cloud is still more expensive than having your own servers," he said. "And it's harder for smaller companies to get the skilled people needed to go to the cloud."
Sharp acknowledged that established server vendors also are investing in energy-efficient server technology, but that Lopoco's focus on energy-efficient servers is an easy message for potential customers compared with competitors that sell a huge variety of servers.
"Our products are meant to be disruptive to the industry," he said. "The competitors' products are disruptive to the customer."
PUBLISHED JULY 23, 2013