Clean & Green Division Winner

Packet Power
Clean & Green Division Winner

Data centers gobble electricity like nobody’s business, yet they waste about half of the power they consume. Most are expected to run out of juice in three years.

But if data center managers have more information about how their electronic devices use power, they can conserve energy and save their companies millions of dollars.

That’s the theory behind Packet Power, which has come to market with a simple way for businesses to monitor their data centers’ power usage and address inefficiencies and waste. High-tech entrepreneur and inventor Paul Bieganski developed the company’s smart power cables, which plug into electronic devices to gather detailed information from each system.

Together, cables from each device form a wireless information network that shares data from the macro to the micro level. It’s an elegant solution that is easy and inexpensive to install, says Steve VanTassel, CEO of the North Oaks company.

He compares Packet Power’s product with cell phone bills. Consumers receive a four-page bill, with the first page listing the amount owed and the due date. The following pages spell out details about whom the user called, when, the call length, and roaming charges. “In the world of electricity today, all data center managers get is the first page,” VanTassel says. “They are being asked to become more energy-efficient with only that level of information. Our company gives them that four pages of detail.”

To help data center managers make their facilities more energy-efficient, they can get real-time, billing-quality data from Packet Power’s smart cables. Using that data, employees can turn off idle electronics—5 to 10 percent of devices typically, which require more power for cooling than for actual use. They also can upgrade servers to be more energy-efficient or deploy server virtualization to consolidate several lightly used servers onto a single, highly utilized server.

Conserving electricity at data centers is of vital importance. The Data Center Users Group estimates that 90 percent of all centers will run out of power in the next 36 months; consequently, companies will either need to build new facilities at an average cost of $50 million, or increase power capacity at existing facilities, which also costs millions.

“Computers have gotten more powerful, and each requires more power than they did five years ago,” says VanTassel. “Companies find that their data center might be using half the available floor space but all of the available power.”

When data centers partner with Packet Power, they receive its smart cables and a reporting and analysis service to help managers translate information into action. VanTassel estimates that the company’s product can save businesses 20 to 40 percent on their power bills. That means annual savings of $1 million at a large data center, and delaying expensive power upgrades.

In business since 2008, Packet Power’s first product went into trial use at the end of the year, and volume production started this fall at a local assembly shop. Packet Power has three employees today and expects to grow to 20 next year.

“If people understood how they consumed electric power, they would take action to reduce it,” says VanTassel. “People have so little information about why and how they consume the amount of power they do. Our original objective is to gather information at the device level and make it easy and affordable. People will use that information to use less electricity.”