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Schneider: IT and energy management control systems bring efficiency

A new Schneider Electric initiative offers green data center design templates and encourages IT to work more closely with energy management control systems.

NEWPORT, R.I. - IT pros will have to become a lot more familiar with energy management control systems if Schneider Electric's vision of the future becomes reality.

Schneider's new EcoStruxure initiative promotes green data center design and aims to increase efficiency by relying more on energy management control software. It will use an open standards-based Web services architecture, which will collect data from various systems -- from HVAC to power to physical security -- to produce reports tailored for specific managers and executives.

"To get real efficiency, you have to work across domains," said Jim Simonelli, the chief technology officer of Schneider's business unit.

Green IT: Less art, more science
Schneider is a French provider of energy management equipment and software. Its subsidiaries include American Power Conversion (APC), which it acquired in 2006. This cross-disciplinary approach to IT and energy management is a major consideration for other green-computing industry leaders, including Cisco Systems Inc., which has its own EnergyWise program.

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Schneider's EcoStruxure will eventually tie in with an organization's complete IT infrastructure - there is already some integration with IBM Tivoli and Microsoft System Center Operations Manager for systems management -- as well as with the utility companies that power the organization, Simonelli said.

He and other executives outlined the details of EcoStruxure for the first time at the Schneider Electric Editors Event. The program will also include Energy University, which will offer training on energy-efficient data center design, and templates for designing green data centers.

There are no simple requirements for green data center design, which is why "I still don't know of a single customer who can write a good spec for their new facility," said Neil Rasmussen, a co-founder of APC and chief innovation officer for Schneider. The EcoStruxure templates will make green data center design less of an art, Rasmussen said.

"We make it more of an engineered science that improves over time," he added.

Redefining your comfort zone
Bridging the worlds of IT and energy management together requires staff on both teams to cooperate more and learn more about each other's technologies. When Greg Ganger started building the Parallel Data Lab, a data center for studying storage and energy challenges at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, he had to move out of his IT comfort zone and learn about thermal dynamics and airflow.

"I'd never concerned myself with that stuff," he said.

Ganger, now the director of the Parallel Data Lab, acknowledged he's still not an expert in those things, but he has enough of an understanding to reap the benefits of energy management control systems, and that's what's important, he said.

"You have to be able to work together without being an expert in the other topic," he said. "You have to have technologies that allow you to interact effectively without making it really hard to interact safely. It's just too much stuff to understand all of it."

Colin Steele is the site editor of Write to him at

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