UK Green Start-Up Gets Fujitsu Backing


UK start-up company Romonet has developed an open source Java-based simulator tool which will be deployed internally by Fujitsu

An open source data centre simulator platform developed by UK company Romonet and the Carbon Trust has received the backing of Japanese IT giant Fujitsu which has developed its own analysis software on top of the tool.

Fujitsu’s Laboratories of Europe announced details this week of what it calls its Total CO2 and Value Analysis system. The system allows data centre managers to analyse energy use and carbon emissions and “breaks new ground” according to Fujitsu by including physical infrastructure, software, applications and IT services.

The Total CO2 and Value Analysis system was demonstrated at Fujitsu’s European Technology Forum event this week and is expected to be deployed internally in trials in 2010.

Although Fujitsu may opt to sell the system to other companies, it said that one of the main motivations for the development of the tool is the need to improve efficiency at its own global network of 75 data centres. The company said that recent rising in energy prices has seen the cost of running data centres rise by 40 percent.

“A truly green data centre involves combining many different facets, from the correct initial design and provisioning of the centres infrastructure, to adopting a holistic management process that can optimise its energy-efficient operation. This essential combination of efficient infrastructure and management underpins our entire Green Data Centre initiative,” said Dr Fumihiro Maruyama, managing director of Fujitsu Laboratories of Europe.

Although not referenced directly by Fujitsu Labs in its announcement, the Total CO2 and Value Analysis tool is actually based on an open source data centre simulation platform developed by UK data centre efficiency start-up Romonet.

Set up by in 2006 by Zahl Limbuwala and Liam Newcombe, Romonet is currently focused on commercialising the open sourced data centre simulator it developed in conjunction with the British Computer Society and the Carbon Trust.

Speaking to eWeek Europe UK, Romonet founder Liam Newcombe explained it has developed software to provide its customers with credible granular analysis of the costs involved of running a data centre. “We can do things such as say for this virtual machine that you are running somewhere in your data centre, for this month how much of the ammortising capital cost and embodied carbon of the UPS was it responsible for.

A report from analyst company The 451 Group, Romonet emerges from stealth with datacenter energy-modeling software, released in August, explained how Romonnet’s software differs from other data centre efficiency tools. “Many software tools are emerging that can be employed to measure the energy use of individual pieces of datacenter equipment, or of racks and rows of equipment, and some of these tools can also aggregate data to produce measurements and metrics, such as real-time or point-in-time PUE ratios. Romonet’s software takes this further: it allows managers to model what might happen if, for example, a group of 20 servers were to be replaced by five new energy-efficient ones,” the reports author and 451 Group analyst Andy Lawrence wrote.

Limbuwala and Liam Newcombe are also founders of the data centre specialist group at the British Computer Society. Through their relationship with the BCS Newcombe and Limbuwala put through a grant funding proposal to the Carbon Trust which eventually put up around one third of the funding for the simulator. With additional funding, the pair were then able to begin developing their simulator technology

Newcombe said Fujitsu’s decision to build on top of its open source simulator system is recognition that the Japanese company had realised the short-comings of existing approaches to measuring data centre efficiency. “Fujitisu have recognised that that the simplistic piece-meal approach to data centres doesn’t work,” he said. “You can’t save 4 percent here, and 3 percent there and add 6 percent there and add it up and think you have got 13 percent because you haven’t – you have got something else,” he said.

Newcombe said that he hadn’t had time to analyse how Fujitsu’s offering differed from the simulation platform Romonet had developed but explained that only the Java-based simulation engine had been open sourced while a user-interface for the system remains in beta and is only available to BCS members at present. “The firs thing that Fujitsu would have to do is build an interface to the Java code so you can actually use it but the scientist at Fujitsu labs are smart guys and I am sure they have been going through and finding sections that are relevant to them,” he said.

The decision to open source its core simulator tool meant that one day the company could end up competing with commercial software developed on top of its own platform, Newcombe admitted. “That may become the case at some point yes and that is one of the risks of open sourcing it. Fujitsu are simply using the open source version so we would see no revenue from that,” he said.

Questioned on why Romonet had taken the decision to open source its simulator in the first place, Newcombe explained that he wanted to make the ability to accurately simulate data centre behaviour an industry given. “We thought the whole industry should be capable of being able to simulate an entire data centre – just all cell-phones have a GSM radio-stack which is largely open source between the vendors now as they realise they all have to have it,” he said.

Newcombe added that open sourcing the platform also might encourage companies such as Fujitsu to license the commercial version of Romonet’s simulator which has been under development since the open source version was completed.

“Our condition on developing the software [with the Carbon Trust and BCS] was that the software was made available as open source to the market so its now available for people such as ourselves and Fujitsu to commercialise. We thought it was very important that it didn’t come out under one of the more monolithic open source licenses so this has come out under one which explicitly allows commercial exploitation,” he said.

Newcombe added that the license was not a GPL license used to cover open source software such as Linux but rather “a straight open source license” which was non-restrictive. “We thought if the code was open source there would be more opportunity for people to evaluate the code and integrate with it so that people would be able to trust that the simulator wasn’t just another vendor’s “Buy my piece of hardware it will cost you less” tool.”