While familiar, established companies dominated the expo floor at this year's Data Center World in San Antonio, Texas, there were more than a few startups in the mix, hoping to gather some leads to turn into customers. Two of them, DataKarte and Advanced Cryo Solutions, caught my attention because they were both pushing technologies into the data center market that had been originally developed for something else:
DataKarte: This company is marketing a DCIM software solution targeting small to mid-sized data centers using software that was originally designed for beer brewers.
The company's founder and president, Scott Stuhlmann, started his data center career after spending time in the Navy managing the operation and maintenance of nuclear submarines. Among other things he did after the Navy, he spent four years as a data center manager at Dell, before starting DataKarte.
"The software started out as an open source brewers' dashboard for microbreweries and people who do home brewing, to monitor and see how their temperature trended over time," he explained. "The company acquired a few backend licenses, expanded their product, and decided that they were going to make something that people can use in their buildings, because they had a lot of people that were open source developing in that world."
DataKarte is probably more of a pre-startup. It's currently getting by with fewer than five employees, which means Stuhlmann does much of the work himself. The software he installs offers a dashboard for monitoring and managing as many aspects of a data center as the customer requires. Customers can supply their own necessary added hardware or purchase it from DataKarte.
"In a day, I can pretty much bring in any data that they have available," he said. "It's a very open protocol, no extra licensing requirements. It does all standard facility monitoring: BACnet, SNMP, Modbus. It can also pull data out of databases."
At this time, the software isn't fully plug-and-play out of the box. For example, graphical monitoring at the server level requires customization, which DataKarte provides.
"It's good for small solutions right now, but big solutions are a little bit harder until we automate more functions," he said. "I'm working on an interface that automatically does that. If you look at how high end DCIM systems work, a lot of the new stuff is rack management and managing directly off the servers. I can pull the data, I can get the data right now, but I have to create custom grapic displays."
Stuhlmann said that the major advantage he offers to potential small data center customers is price.
"There's no scale licensing," he said. "It's cost effective if you're going to deploy 50 data points. If you're going to deploy 2,000 it's the same cost, except for the labor of the integration and putting it in."
Advanced Cryo Solutions: This startup is a division of another small company, The Tisdale Group, which is owned and staffed by US military veterans and which manufactures armor for the military. The cooling fluid it uses in its data center cooling solution was originally developed for use in the armor manufacturing process.
Advanced Cryo's claims about the energy savings that can be realized from using its solution are astounding.
"We're able to produce more than 1.4 million BTU of cooling with 2kW of power," Wade Barker, the Tisdale Group's founder and CEO, told me. "We're cooling 2MW of computing with 2kW of power."
That's pretty hefty savings considering that power and cooling infrastructure often consumes about half the total power consumed by an enterprise data center. According to Barker, a 2MW data center using his company's tech could be cooled completely using solar energy.
So how does the technology work?
"I figured out a unique way to statically cool the liquid that we developed," he said. "I do it through a series of heat exchanges that are non-traditional. We have a provisional patent in place. We have about seven or eight more months on the provisional, and then we'll go to a full application."
Barker said the company is in communication with colocation operator 365 Data Centers to discuss the possibility of using its cooling system in one of their data centers.