Now That's Creative Energy

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UPSes, those little devices that protected PCs and LANs against a power surge or outage, have moved from an afterthought to primary business for solution providers building nextgeneration data centers.

Understanding energy consumption and its related costs and benefits has become a common exercise for many companies today. The combination of virtualization and server consolidation has created a perfect storm -- and an opportunity -- for solution providers. And power/cooling has become a larger percentage of data center spend.

Consider these numbers: Building out a data center can cost 100 times that of a typical building, and efficiency losses in a data center's UPS represent about 5 percent to 12 percent of all the energy consumed, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

To put a finer point on it, if a company has 1,000 servers, it can cost $3.8 million for power and cooling over a four-year period. And if electricity costs increase by just 2 percent, it could cost a company an additional $200,000 annually.

Beyond cost savings, excessive heat has become a rising data center problem. Heat is a result of energy inefficiency and has been associated with equipment failure. Efficient power supplies can yield approximately $3,000 per year, per rack in energy savings and allow for about 20 percent more servers per rack, according to Berkeley Lab.

If you look at the growth numbers in the UPS market, it tells a similar story. In 1995, $10.3 billion was spent on power and cooling. Today, just 15 years later, that number has tripled to $44.5 billion, according to IDC.

So customers need more sophisticated UPSes and they are buying them in droves. The time is now to look at UPSes not as an add-on to a server sale but, rather, the piece of hardware that can enable you to get your foot in the door and create robust margin opportunities. For VARs, particularly MSPs, power and cooling opportunities are a great way to break into midmarket accounts with facilities monitoring and data center design. There are also virtualization integration and managed service platform integration. VARs can provide a value-add by dynamically reallocating compute tasks to off-peak hours and by selling excess power cooling capacity.

Today, UPS vendors such as Eaton, Schneider Electric's APC, Emerson and Tripp Lite are trying to get the message out that building a practice around power and cooling can reap some substantial rewards. They are investing in training around data center design and creating some partner collaboration. Some VARs have already specialized and become experts in the area, later bringing servers to the project.

There are huge profits for solution providers focused on data center power/cooling and significant savings for customers. The transformation of what was once a peripheral UPS into a strategic data center business is an example of how VARs should not get stuck into preconceived notions of a market. As technology matures, new opportunities emerge. And VARs should take notice of technologies that were once relegated to other departments.

VARs that establish deep, strategic relationships with data center power/cooling vendors are going to find a wealth of fast-growth opportunities in the future. Those that are stuck in the old UPS mentality, meanwhile, are going to be left behind.

BACKTALK: Kelley Damore is VP, Editorial Director for Everything Channel. You can reach her via e-mail at

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