A Visit to CSRware: Aggregating Energy and Sustainability

I had this thought: What’s the big deal about CSRware? collecting and aggregating energy consumption data from multiple sources to display in a dashboard did not seem like a big deal to me because I look into monitoring and measuring IT power consumption at data centers and elsewhere. What’s CSRware’s differentiation? How does it differ from the likes of SynapSense, Sentilla, Sensicast, and OSIsoft? I had an opportunity to talk directly to Karen Alonardo, CEO of CSRware, who was patient enough to answer all my naïve questions.

Karen Alonardo, CEO, CSware

Karen Alonardo, CEO, CSware

As the report on carbon management research stated, there are three major areas for carbon management:

* Financial (carbon credit trading and so on)
* Operational (carbon emissions from an enterprise’s multiple operations)
* Supply chain (carbon emissions from an enterprise’s supply chain)

One of the interesting aspects of CSRware is its coverage of IT. Alonardo is an IT veteran who conceived the idea of tying IT to sustainability and carbon management and founded CSRware in 2006.

First, we I explained that AltaTerra focuses on the following six areas:

1. Commercial solar and green power
2. Building energy management
3. Product innovation and new markets
4. Corporate sustainability strategy
5. Enterprise carbon management
6. IT and data center energy efficiency

Alonardo then explained what CSRware does. Ultimately, corporate sustainability is at the highest corporate level and supported by enterprise carbon management, which is in turn supported by IT and data center energy efficiency. Her explanation was so clear and went so well with our focus areas that I wondered if she knew beforehand what we had to say. Clearly, CSRware is covering the intersection of enterprise carbon management and IT.

OK, this is great at 10,000 feet, but I am an IT guy who is eager to open the hood and see inside. So I asked what kind of data they collect to make a link between carbon stuff and IT. SynapSense, Sentilla, and Sensicast collect power consumption data, along with temperature and humidity information, at data centers and other buildings. Such monitoring and measurement are very important and useful for discussions of energy efficiency for those buildings (a data center is a special kind of building).

CSRware goes beyond gathering energy consumption data to collect data on carbon footprints, water, and e-waste as well. (As a side note, Alonardo thinks water will become a scarce resource. Data center people recognize this, too. See my previous blog.) Unlike SynapSense, Sentilla and Sensicast, CSRware works at a higher level to exploit the collected data. The data formats could vary, but these days something like XML has become the standard. Depending upon the type of building (data center or what not), CSRware collects a different set of data and aggregates them to show carbon footprint and other pertinent information. For instance, if you are evaluating a data center, CSRware can produce a ton of relevant energy efficient metrics, such as Uptime’s and PUE, along with carbon footprint, power consumption, and other information. It can then help you manage the resulting efficiency improvement programs – track progress against key metrics, quantify ROI and generate reports to help justify your efforts.

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Data Center: Hot Aisle vs. Cold Aisle Containment
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OSIsoft does a good job of aggregating and displaying power consumption information from multiple 125data centers but pretty much stays in the IT area, which is perfectly fine.

I am skeptical by nature and have a tendency to ask tough questions. My question was as follows:

Well, monitoring and measuring are straightforward (the technical barrier is rather low). Doesn’t CSRware worry about other guys like SynapSense (and for that matter, big guys like HP with OpenView and IBM with Tivoli) entering the same market to compete?

Alonardo was adamant on this fear and said that it is not easy to have a completely different view of sustainability beyond power consumption (that is, carbon, water, and waste) and also have the domain knowledge to tie them together with corporate sustainability.

OK, if it’s put that way, I can see her point. A 10-minute chat with her opened my eyes to the intersection between carbon management and IT. Of course, as Alonardo admitted, in time the big guys will enter this area, but CSRware has time to establish its foothold as one of the first comers to the market. I will report how customers see the company’s services in a future blog.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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