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Software monitors the weather in your data center

There's an awful lot of humidity over by the hard drives. Start-up SynapSense says its software will give a more accurate view of the environment inside server rooms.

SynapSense, a start-up focusing on data center energy consumption, has come up with a software package that it says will give a more accurate view of the environment inside of server rooms.

LiveImaging, a new feature of the company's Synapsoft package, provides real-time information on humidity, temperature, pressure differentials, hot spots, cool zones, and other phenomena inside a server room. Armed with the data, IT managers can then adjust, or eventually reconfigure, the air conditioners and cooling equipment in server rooms.

Corporations have been testing technologies that will help them cut their energy costs in data centers and, in particular, the air conditioning part of their power bill. Air conditioners consume about half of the total electricity fed into data centers; that cool air is used to get rid of waste heat that was generated by electricity that was paid for but didn't perform a productive use.

A number of companies are touting things like efficient power supplies, which can convert more electricity coming from the wall into power for a computer than conventional components. SynapSense makes sensors and software for controlling server rooms. Others are making air side economizers that let ambient air cool servers. Microsoft is installing ambient coolers in a data center under construction in Ireland.

In August 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a report that said that energy consumed by data centers in the U.S. could rise to 100 billion kilowatt hours a year in 2011, a big jump from the 61 kilowatt hours consumed by data centers in 2006. Without changes or improvements in efficiency, the increase will require 10 additional power plants. That 100 billion kilowatt hours will cost $7.4 billion.

Overall, data centers accounted for 1.5 percent of the total electricity used in the states last year. (Lighting takes up around 22 percent, according to the Department of Energy.) Data centers last year gobbled up more electricity than all of the color TVs in the U.S.