Power Assure, Inc. is a leading innovator of data center energy management software for large enterprises, government agencies, and managed service providers. Power Assure’s solutions provide visibility, intelligence, analytics, and automation to help CIOs, IT directors, and facilities managers balance load, capacity, service levels, and power consumption within and across data centers. Power Assure wanted to expand its suite of products to address customers’ virtualization needs, which enable greater flexibility and allow Power Assure to integrate its solution to the cloud layer.
Power Assure’s data center energy management solutions, delivered in a secure cloud-based environment, lower data center energy costs by changing capacity from "Always On" to "Always Available". This allows power use to be dynamically adjusted with actual customer demand. While the Power Assure product already provides monitoring, analytics, automation, and optimization in physical or virtual environments, the young, VC-funded company wanted to extend its key ideas with deep research to provide both greater energy savings and greater quality-of-service (QoS) for customers.
PARC’s "Adaptive Energy" platform for energy management and innovations was able to address this complex balance of savings and QoS, while advancing Power Assure’s virtualization capabilities. The Adaptive Energy approach is based on PARC’s expertise in control, optimization, and model-based planning. This expertise was initially developed to optimize the reliability and adaptability of complex production printing systems for Xerox, and was later applied to clients in the transportation, factory automation, and aerospace industries. The approach requires multidisciplinary expertise because it incorporates software and artificial intelligence reasoning into hardware systems.
Recognizing that this type of multidisciplinary expertise is hard to hire in startups or find elsewhere, Power Assure decided to draw on PARC as its research arm. PARC elected to work with Power Assure as a commercialization partner for the data center application, recognizing that Power Assure’s software implementation and rich market experience in this area fit well with its Adaptive Energy approach.
Having matched interests in a "meeting of minds" facilitated through their mutual VC networks, the two companies decided to collaborate for a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) 2009 grant. The funding would enable both companies to augment product development efforts and drive successful commercialization of the technology. PARC and Power Assure constructed a flexible, customized arrangement (including licensing options and ongoing collaboration) that aligns the long-term interests of both companies while reducing each other’s risk.
"We are pleased with how smoothly the two companies worked together to develop a partnering arrangement that aligns the long-term interests of both, as well as capture opportunities for government funding not typically available to a startup." -- Brad Wurtz, CEO, Power Assure
The Power Assure and PARC solution moves data centers from "Always On" to "Always Available" – enabling data centers to only pay for what they need to meet customer demand at any point in time.
By decoupling virtualized software from the underlying hardware resources, the technology developed by PARC and Power Assure:
- Enables data centers to shift and shed computational resources to other locations or physical machines – taking advantage of variations in their own loads and capacity, utility and smart grid demand response programs, or lower utility rates.
- Ensures adherence to service-level agreements (SLAs) – while prioritizing resource assignments on the basis of QoS requirements.
Advances had been made in data center energy efficiency – from hardware (e.g., HVAC and compact form factors) to software (i.e., virtualization to consolidate applications on fewer physical servers). But these advances were limited by currently available manual server technology for provisioning, so the industry could at best recover less than 10% of the energy consumed in data centers.
PARC’s Adaptive Energy approach could help drive the next wave of advances in data center efficiency. Using model-based control and optimization, it "adapts" energy use to match resource needs and reduces overall power consumption in data centers by more than 50% – without impacting QoS. Power Assure’s SaaS product offerings were easily extended to deliver these additional capabilities to its customers.
By working together, both companies were able to reduce each other’s risk and gain what they needed to complement each other’s strengths. Power Assure is not only able to draw on PARC for research support while developing its expanded product offering, but can also strengthen the intellectual property (IP) position for its product as a result of the cumulative optimization algorithms PARC has in place.
As a result of the collaboration, Power Assure with PARC was one of 14 companies selected for ARRA project grants, resulting in $5M additional funding to help it leverage its existing investments. The two companies are now working together to transform energy management in data centers.
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