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DC power pays off for online ad company

DC-powered servers are helping an online ad company make the most of a quickly expanding IT infrastructure.

For a young company, an efficient IT infrastructure can mean the difference between success or failure. Right Media, a two-and-a-half-year-old online advertising company learned that the hard way.

Just months into launching its business, the New York City-based startup had to redo its entire technology infrastructure. The company was growing in leaps and bounds and ran into power density and cooling requirements in its existing data center.

Matthew Philips, vice president of technology at Right Media, needed to make changes to his equipment to avoid running into the same problems again. And direct current (DC) powered servers were the answer.

Right Media went with DC-powered Scale Out series servers from Milpitas, Calif.-based Rackable Systems.

"Previously, the limiting factor in our data centers was power; providing enough for all of our racks in a limited data center space," Philips said. "Using DC power [servers], we're saving money on energy, while receiving 20% more compute power in the same footprint."

DC-powered servers have sparked the interest of data center pros concerned with power requirements. One approach requires housing a DC plant on site that feeds directly to the servers and switches, and also keeps the batteries charged. This has been the approach in the telco industry for decades on high-end PBX equipment.

The other approach -- more practical for existing facilities rigged out for AC -- is putting a rectifier and shared power supply into the rack and distribute DC to the various devices.

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DC power sparks interest

When Right Media revamped its IT infrastructure, it moved out of the data center space it was leasing and moved its servers into a facility owned by Foster City, Calif.-based Equinix. But Equinix didn't provide a DC plant, so Philips opted for the rack-level DC distribution model.

"There are very few data centers [available for lease] that can provide a direct DC power plant," Philips said. "But by rectifying AC to DC and housing the power supply at the rack level, it gets rid of the server-based power supply and opens up airflow to the processor. It tackles power redundancy at the rack level [as opposed to each individual server] and it's more efficient," Philips said.

According to research from IDC, this DC-powered design is more efficient than traditional AC designs, reducing server power consumption by nearly a third. Also, by removing the individual power supplies from the servers, DC-powered equipment can shift a large heat load out of the servers to the rectifiers generating between 20% and 40% less heat at the system level, compared with the design of a traditional AC-powered rack.

But Philips doesn't need Rackable or IDC to tell him. Right Media buys power, cooling and floor space from Equinix, which is how Philips measures his new servers against the old ones, and knows he's getting savings on the DC racks.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, News Editor

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