Engineering and facilities equipment behemoth Emerson Network Power, a division of Emerson Electric Co., announced that it will buy data center facility software company Aperture Technologies Inc.. The move is designed to improve management of a data center's physical infrastructure components.
Aperture's Vista software acts as a database for facility equipment that includes servers and power supplies. The Stamford, Conn.-based company claims a resource library with factory specifications for 30,000 facility items from all kinds of vendors.
Neither Emerson nor Aperture disclosed financial terms of the acquisition, although Aperture CEO William Clifford mentioned in an interview that Aperture was a nearly $30 million company.
Aperture customers had mixed reactions to the news of the acquisition.
Emerson Network Power also owns and operates Liebert Corp., whose power and cooling equipment is popular in larger data centers. With the acquisition, Aperture users worried that Vista would increasingly focus on Liebert equipment to the exclusion of other brands.
"I have a lot of Liebert stuff, and Liebert is a great product, but I don't have 100% Liebert," said James Berry, data center manager for Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (ISO). "My initial thought is, 'Is this going to be manufacturer-agnostic?' Berry wondered, or whether it will end up being more specific to Emerson/Liebert?'"
"It was one of the critical things we discussed," said Aperture's Clifford. "They said that they would be the dumbest people in the world to try to make us a proprietary vendor for Liebert equipment. We're going to continue to operate as Aperture. They'll be cocooning us in as a division of Liebert."
Tom Roberts, the data center facility management director for Novi, Mich.-based Trinity Health, said he was happy to hear of the announcement. The Trinity health-care system manages 46 hospitals, 379 outpatient facilities and 25 long-term care facilities. For some time, it has tested the Vista product and plans to go live in late March. Roberts wanted to bring it into production earlier, but Aperture's limited support resources hindered that.
"I think Aperture has grown a bit too fast, and their support side has not grown with their sales," he said. "We were [supposed] to be live a month ago, but some of the support team has not been available at Aperture to work on our project, which has been very frustrating."
Clifford acknowledged the concern, adding that while he wanted Aperture to become the industry standard for managing data center facility equipment, Aperture has limitations as a standalone company. He said the company focused mainly on the U.S. and has a small presence in the U.K., adding that "we've got only 20 reps. Liebert has thousands of contacts in places we haven't even discovered. We were always bootstrapping ourselves."
Roberts added that he already has a good working relationship with both companies and understands their operations from the sales and support side. "Plus," he said, "they seem to listen to their customers."
Toward a data center infrastructure database
Data center managers also expressed hope that under Emerson's control, the Aperture Vista software would become more flexible and mature.
One criticism of the Aperture product is that it's too static -- that when your data center infrastructure changes, you have to change entries manually in the Vista software, which can be time-consuming.
Midwest ISO's Berry encountered this problem when he tried out Aperture's software. He has since searched around for a dynamic data center infrastructure database (DCIDB) but has yet to implement one. In contrast, Emerson's SiteScan software can gather real-time information about Emerson and Liebert equipment, but "it's kind of old school. It hasn't really caught up in terms of Web functionality," Berry said. In a perfect world, a product would emerge that marries SiteScan's real-time information gathering and Vista's management functionality.
"I would hope [Aperture] could get more money and industry experience," he said. "One of the challenges of Aperture was that it was so manually intensive."
In its acquisition of the Advantage Group this year, Aperture did address the labor intensiveness of the product, which does live data center equipment monitoring, but it still isn't as dynamic as some would like.
While executives from Emerson were unavailable for comment, in a prepared statement, Emerson group vice president Bob Bauer said that "Aperture's vendor-independent Vista products and its strong business relationship with IT decision makers will help us to expand the Liebert brand presence into IT operations and better serve IT managers' data center needs."