Datacentre IT suppliers can no longer confine their focus to inside a datacentre's walls. The only way to maximise power efficiency in datacentres is to integrate the walls, the power and cooling infrastructure, and the IT kit in its racks into a unified whole. If you don't do that you will be in a hole, with more spent of power than you need to.

In a nutshell that is HP's power-efficient datacentre strategy. It has come around to the view that only with this three-way involvement can the most power-efficient datacentres be built which, a) save customers money and, b) release less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through their electricity use.

So the company has bought a datacentre design consultancy to give it the expertise in designing and equipping datacentre buildings and the associated power and cooling infrastructure. It has also announced zoned power supply products to compete with APC and others.

EYP purchase

HP has signed a definitive agreement to acquire EYP Mission Critical Facilities (EYP), a consulting company specialising in strategic technology planning, design and operations support for large-scale datacentres. The financial terms were not disclosed.

EYP has approximately 350 employees with 13 offices in the US and UK. The firm provides mission-critical services to enterprises around the world in business sectors including financial services, telecommunications, technology, broadcast, manufacturing and healthcare, as well as numerous federal, state and county government agencies.

It has designed hundreds of technology-intensive, high-performance facilities where monitoring, operational and energy efficiencies are top priority business requirements. EYP’s capabilities, particularly its expertise in energy-efficient operations, complement HP’s datacentre services and cost-saving power and cooling products, such as Dynamic Smart Cooling (DSC).

Jerome Riboulon, HP's EMEA sales manager for power and cooling and DSC, said: "EYP was our premier partner inside our datacentre solutions programme. It is the leading firm in datacentre design and consulting and is involved in 30 percent of HP's US datacentre projects. It has expertise in datacentre design which HP does not have."

"HP has expertise inside the datacentre walls. Now it extends out to include the walls, the physical, electrical and cooling infrastructures," around the IT contents of a datacentre.

"We are the only IT supplier to have this capability." Riboulon is of the opinion that competing suppliers to HP for datacentre business will have to obtain an equivalent capability.

The EYP transaction is subject to certain closing conditions and is expected to be completed within HP’s first fiscal quarter.

Zoned three-phase power

HP has also looked at the power distribution problem. Typically three-phase power comes into the datacentre and is then converted to single phase power with associated uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and then cable-delivered to the racked IT systems with long and multiple cables.

What HP has done is bought the three-phase to single phase conversion closer to the racked IT systems. This means simpler cable feeds to the three-phase converter by the racks, which removes power cable clutter, HP says, from under-floor-or over-ceiling voids and thus improves cooling air flow efficiency.

It has introduced three 3-phase converter products, small, medium and large, for rack units, a rack set, or a zone of racks:-

1. A UPS rack module rated at 8 or 12 KVA. A 16-server blade enclosure might draw about 4KVA so this module could support two such blade enclosures.
2. A parallel rack UPS pre-configured with three 12KVA modules which can scale up to six modules. This has N+1 redundancy.
3. A Power Distribution Rack (PDR) rated at about 280KVA and intended to serve a row of server racks or zone. Pre-configured whips drop power down to the rack components and ordinary electricians can be used to set up such connections.

These products are supplied by OEMs to HP specifications, and are not off-the-shelf products. For example they contain interfaces to HP's DSC controller via included comms cards. Werner Hergl, HP's product manager in this area, said: "We developed the communications card for these UPS' to talk to our server and storage devices."

Riboulon said: "We have our own R&D and engineering group developing the specifications for this. They are not just re-badged OEM products."

Hergle said that where a datacentre's existing power distribution and UPS infrastructure was at full capacity then it could be quite expensive to upgrade the whole infrastructure to provide more power to incoming densely populated blade server racks. The PDR could be used as an adjunct to the existing power distribution/UPS infrastructure and provide power for such incoming racks for much less than a customer would pay for an entire power/UPS infrastructure upgrade.

Indicative prices are $31,000 list price (£15,500 at ordinary conversion rates) for a 36KVA Parallel Rack UPS and $10,000 (£5,000) for a 12KVA UPS rack module.

Asked about competition Hergle said that APC has a zoned power approach but doesn't have the PDR product capability. HP's offering also has very much better integration with the IT systems being powered, leading to greater efficiency through a finer control granularity.

Overall view

Combined with its Opsware-derived control products, HP now offers more of a one-stop shop for datacentre build and/or re-modelling for customers wanting greater power efficiency. It has, it says, a chips-to-datacentre power efficiency strategy and capability, encompassing chips, components, rack items, cooling, chillers, power delivery infrastructure and datacentre design and build or re-modelling.

It's quite likely that Dell, IBM and specialised datacentre suppliers will have to have similar strategies. For example, can APC remain separate from datacentre buildings on the one hand and IT contents of a datacentre on the other? Can a Dell or IBM retain a focus that does not include a similar chips-to-datacentre walls capability?

With these moves HP has demonstrated considerable agility; it has now a believably agile datacentre strategy. Carly would be proud and could be forgiven for thinking 'I told you so.'