Sentilla’s Energy Manager: If You Can’t Measure IT, You Can’t Manage IT

Sentilla%20logo.gifAll of the major server and microprocessor manufacturers are now offering more efficient systems that draw less electricity and/or generate less heat. (Cooling accounts for about half of an IT centers overall energy usage.) Along with more efficient hardware, IT managers can now choose from a growing number of energy management systems. A recent entrant to this sector is Sentilla, who last week released their innovative Energy Manager for Data Centers.
Demands on the world’s data infrastructure are growing exponentially along with concerns over the related environmental impact. In 2005, an estimated 1% of the entire world’s electricity consumption was attributed to data centers alone (enough to power the entire state of Utah!). And a recent report by Gartner, the industry analysts, said the global IT industry is now generating as much greenhouse gas as the world’s airlines – about 2% of global CO2 emissions. Not surprisingly, IT managers are spending more of their time looking for ways reduce their energy usage as well as their carbon footprint.

If You Can’t Measure IT, You Can’t Manage IT
Sentilla’s distinctive approach is based on measurement at the source. Miniature embedded microprocessors (about the size of a quarter) measure energy consumption and environmental factors like humidity and temperature at the individual server level. Sentilla’s Energy Manager collects and wirelessly transmits data from each embedded microprocessor to a web-based management dashboard.
The management system generates real-time alerts in the case of peak load or other emergency situations like a disk failure; it also gathers data that is used to generate usage profiles for each piece of equipment in the data center. This analysis allows the IT manager to maximize the efficiency of each server, determine when maintenance or replacement is needed, and shift usage to off-peak hours for servers involved in background (rather than real time) applications.
Sentilla appears to be on the right track, according to Chris Ingle, consulting and research director at IDC. He recently commented:

IDC’s research shows that 57% of organizations consider the electricity consumption of their data centers to be key to their sustainable IT strategy. However it has been difficult to measure this consumption accurately and manual approaches tend to be relatively costly. Technologies that automate this measurement allow companies to properly implement their vision for sustainable IT.

Off the Shelf and Open Source
Sentilla’s solution uses non-proprietary, off-the-shelf hardware for their embedded microprocessors; their management system software is Java-based so customers can readily add new features and functions that are specific to their operations; and they are also offering a “System as a Service” model where Sentilla will host the management system for a monthly fee. Very clever.
Sentilla was founded in 2003 by three University of California, Berkeley, graduates, and is now based in Redwood City, California. They are currently working their way through a $7.5 million Series B financing round from Onset Ventures and Claremont Creek Ventures. Although their technology may be small, they plan to make a big impact on the data center energy management sector.

Jim Witkin is a writer and researcher based in Silicon Valley focused on business, technology and the environment. His work has been featured in the New York Times and Guardian newspapers on topics that include: sustainable business practices, clean tech, the environment and next generation transportation technologies. He holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. Contact him at

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