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Schneider Builds On APC For EcoStruXure Energy Brand

Jeffrey Burt is a senior editor for eWEEK and contributor to TechWeekEurope

More efficient data centres promised with APC products brought in line with the French giant’s other offerings

French energy management company Schneider Electric – which bought APC two years ago – has launched a combined brand for energy efficiency products which it claims can reduce carbon emissions from data centres by 30 percent.

EcoStruXure combines Schneider’s products with APC’s and other acquisitions, to offer energy efficiency for buildings including data centres, office buildings, factories and homes. The company will use a Web services platform to integrate its components for more compatibility.

Schneider’s $6.1 billion (£3.85 billion) purchase of APC in 2007 was the high point of a severa-year growth binge, and gained it access to the market for building data centres. Now the company — with more than 114,000 employees, a presence in more than 100 countries, 120 brands and 600 legal entities — is looking to pull all these businesses, products and services together

EcoStruXure is designed to create more intelligent and simpler energy management components that save money and reduce waste, said Schneider officials at a day-long US event on 5 June.

“For the first time, energy is becoming a C-level issue,” Schneider chief marketing officer Aaron Davis said. “Also, technology for the first time is letting tie these things together. … Power and IT needs to work together.”

Schneider, Davis said, has significant footprints in both energy and IT.

The company first began talking about its EcoStruXure push last year, as part of its “one company” program. Schneider officials began outlining some of its deliverables during the event here.

“This [new software] architecture is about collaboration and how this works together,” said Jim Simonelli, CTO of Schneider’s IT business unit, adding that the company already has many hardware pieces that can help with energy efficiency. “With EcoStruXure, we’re trying to bring them together.”

Davis spoke about Energy University, an online educational community designed to teach people how to begin designing, building and implementing energy-saving programs in their buildings. The courses touch upon such issues as energy efficiency fundamentals, alternative power, data center efficiency and the economics of energy efficiency. The project is similar in design to the company’s Datacenter University.

Other aspects of the EcoStruXure initiative, which will be rolled out throughout the year, include a Facebook-like collaborative portal that will give people the chance to work with each other and with Schneider to address energy issues, a program to teach college-age students the fundamentals of energy audits for buildings, and a set of reference architectures for various types of buildings, from data centers to factories to homes. Those reference architectures will start to be released in the fourth quarter.

There also will be a certification program for energy architects.

In addition, Schneider is looking to bring power to what Davis said are the 1.6 billion people in the world without it. He spoke of a recent project in which the company installed a power system for a remote Vietnamese fishing village.

Another program will bring prepaid electricity programs to people without the means to pay for power to be brought to their homes. With the program, people can prepay for a certain amount of power, and then when they need it, the power can be turned on to their home until the task is completed.

Davis and Chris Curtis, executive vice president of Schneider’s North American business unit, outlined the increasing problems — both environmental and economic — caused by the inefficient use of energy. There were graphics showing the disappearing coastlines in the United States caused by rising water levels and a photo of a polar bear stranded on a melting ice floe.

They also noted that the increasing costs of inefficient power consumption, from the amount of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere to the fact that its costs businesses significantly more money now to run a server than to buy one.

Davis said the opportunities are there now for businesses to begin driving down their power costs, from smart controls to greater automation of energy processes to better use of energy management tools and software. There is also a continuing drive for greater intelligence in buildings, he said.

A key problem is that there is resistance from key people in businesses—such building and facilities manager to IT administrators—to take a lot of the steps that can save them money now.

“There’s a lot of things we can do already, with good ROI, but no one’s doing it,” Curtis said. “So it’s a huge problem.”

Schneider, with its wide reach into all these different areas, will be a key player in helping drive up energy efficiency in buildings, he and Davis said. They pointed to a wide range of partners, including such IT players and Dell, IBM and VMware.