Metering and Measuring, OSIsoft’s Way

There are a lot of technologies and practices for greening data centers, but I am focusing on metering and measuring. I have talked to several companies that provide metering and measuring solutions. As with Tim Canning at Arch Rock, after bumping into Prajesh Bhattacharya a few times at data center–related conferences and meetings, I took it as a hint to visit OSIsoft.
Recently, I met with Martin Otterson (by telephone) VP of sales, EMEA; Mike Gallagher, director of operations; and Prajesh Bhattacharya.

I know that visiting an interesting company takes time, and that it isn’t very green to emit GHG (my car is neither hybrid nor electric), but it sure beats just talking to them on the phone. A visit puts me personally in touch with the real people behind technologies and services. It also really helps to visit and talk to each vendor in the same space to understand their differentiation and where the market is going.

Moreover, a company that has been in business for more than 30 years tends to have a great website with a lot of information. Sometimes, though, too much information makes it hard for me to grasp an overview of a company. Martin did a great job of giving me an overview of OSIsoft in five minutes, which was very useful for me. So let me summarize his summary in the following:

  • OSIsoft has been in business for more than 30 years, and the founder is still CEO.
  • OSIsoft started by providing process control monitoring software for an oil refinery company.
  • OSIsoft employs about 600 people and has approximately 15,000 installations of its software worldwide.
  • OSIsoft is a software-only company, providing three kinds of components:

*Over 425  Interfaces to collect data
*a time series database called PI
*Analytics and client software to make data into valuable information

  • OSIsoft provides the software infrastructure, and its customers can develop applications and services on top of it. The software infrastructure is implemented on MS Windows.
  • There are currently over 425 interfaces supporting various protocols, data formats, and sensors.
  • PI, OSIsoft’s product, is the name of the core software component, the data archive.  Over the years PI has enjoyed strong adoption in many process manufacturing industries, and most recently in the data center and critical facility market. I reported on Arch Rock before whose products are similar to those of OSIsoft. Arch Rock adovocates IP as communication protocol of choice and tries to push IP where possible. Their approach is quite opposite to OSIsoft’s. And thus,
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Electrical Efficiency Measurement for Data Centers
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I asked Martin if IP would become the protocol of choice in this space. He said “it depends upon ROI and risk, as the data center market is risk adverse . It may not make sense to rip out all the existing protocol and data formats and start all over from scratch with IP when the economy is so bad. Because sensors for many buildings and factories tend to be proprietary to protect their own markets”, OSIsoft’s way seems reasonable for now. This is totally new to me, coming from IT, which is constantly attempting to come up with a set of standards.

I asked about the metering and measuring market. “I believe the market is a just starting to evolve due.There is definite desire to have the ability to treat the facility/data center as a holistic system – measuring IT, Power and Mechanical performance”  Currently, the great majority of data centers (about 80%) measure IT power consumption at UPS units. So the market for metering at each rack or server seems to be several years away. Martin referred to the US EPA report that suggests that facilities should start measuring everything they can and the U.K.’s carbon reduction commitment (CRC), which forces everyone to measure and meter their energy use. OSIsoft has customers in the U.K. and is very keen on this. Jim Smith and Mike Manos of Digital Realty Trust have warned us that a similar regulation will come to the U.S. in the not-too-distant future.

Martin’s thought on the Facilities market today ‘There is a large gap between the BMS and EEMS systems within facilities especially when enterprise users may have a large portfolio of facilities. How does an operator grasp the use of power and the efficiency of the mechanical asset or IT asset today?  How can users to compare when efficiencies project are measured for success if there is not a holistic benchmark of information easily accessible.”

OSIsoft’s core business is managing process control data. When the company sees a market opportunity, it partners with a company like Microsoft, IBM, Cisco  or Skanska to extend its coverage to exploit its core system. With appropriate partners, OSIsoft could add other attributes, like e-waste and water usage, to provide sustainability metrics. In addition, OSIsoft is involved in the smart grid/microgrid because the PI system can provide some of the functions of smart grid. I’m interested in investigating this area further.

After talking to OSIsoft, I think I gained some perspective on the metering and measuring space. I am putting together a one-page slide presentation to describe this market. One difficulty I face is how to describe metering companies’ offerings in conjunction with BMS providers and sustainability players like HARA/CSRware. I also would like to add smart grid to the mix. Whenever I talk to a vendor in this space, I need to revise the picture.

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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