Hardware Today: Sensoring the Server Room Page 2

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Oct 19, 2004

Vendor Selection

Several companies sell environmental probes, including undisputed market leader NetBotz, which boasts of 3,000 customers in more than 30 countries. Although there are no clear-cut analyst numbers for the size of this market, NetBotz did a conservative calculation during its last round of financing.

With the price point on the latest crop of devices, one set of probes is unlikely to cost more than one minor downtime incident.

"We estimate the market potential at $6 [billion] to $9 billion in terms of the number of racks and server rooms out there," said Mitch Medford, CTO of NetBotz.

Medford said recent upgrades to the NetBotz product line are wireless technology, embedded Linux for added security, and the capability to mix and match features, such as adding more cameras to the base unit. Units start at around $1,000 for small server rooms (10 feet by 10 feet) and cost as much as $3,000 for larger spaces. As extra sensors or cameras are ordered, the price increases.

But the popularity of sensors is attracting competition. Phonetics, RLE Technologies, and Javica, are three companies creeping in on NetBotz' turf. Each offers decent equipment at a lower price, albeit without the bells and whistles or end-to-end integration that NetBotz offers. For many server rooms, these units will do the job. Prices for a Javica BitSight unit, for example, start at around $400.

"While facilities personnel will provide the necessary level of BTUs to cool the room, they won't necessarily know or care whether you have a hot spot next to a particular server rack," said Marc Bilodeau, CTO of Javica. "This is particularly an issue as enterprises cram more servers into the same square footage through the use of rack-dense architectures, such as blade servers."

If you're debating whether to go for the market leader or one of the upcoming competitors, consider what New Pig Corp., a plant maintenance and safety firm headquartered in Tipton, Penn., is doing to harness the best of both worlds. It set up NetBotz probes to monitor temperature, airflow, humidity, and room access, but it also has some BitSight devices for temperature and humidity. WebNM network management software from Somix Technologies controls both sets of devices. Soon after being installed, the technology proved its worth.

"The air stopped working on a Saturday," says Steve Luciano, network administrator for New Pig. "When we arrived on site, the temperature in the server room was over 90 degrees."

Many environmental sensor adopters, though, are not so lucky. Like going to the dentist when you have an abscessed tooth, most enterprises leave the purchase until after a system failure that could have been prevented had the equipment been in place. With the price point on the latest crop of devices, one set of probes is unlikely to cost more than one minor downtime incident.

"If the server room is to be remotely managed, or if it is a lights out operation, some kind of environmental monitoring is essential," concludes Quorcirca's Collins.

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