|THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT of your server room plays a critical part in the efficiency, reliability, and life span of your data center equipment. In particular, data centers are at risk from fluctuations in temperature, power, humidity, flood, smoke, and airflow. For example, for every 18-degree rise in temperature above the industry standard of 68 degrees Fahrenheit, servers lose around 50% of their reliability. AVTECH is the leading worldwide manufacturer of IT and facilities environmental monitoring, and its feature-filled products alert admins to changes before they become a problem. Here is a look at what makes AVTECH special.
A Brief HistoryAVTECH (www.AVTECH.com) was founded in 1988, and the privately owned company is based out of Warren, R.I. "The initial focus for AVTECH was on the DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) marketplace, and we originally made system software for the OpenVMS operating system," says Michael Sigourney, senior product specialist at AVTECH. "Our software allowed managers to control files, processes, and resources. Unfortunately, DEC sold to compaq, who sold to HP. And then, Windows came around for the desktop PC and we had to start all over again."
From there, AVTECH decided to put its resources in its hottest product, which was called PageR Enterprise, and the company rewrote it from the ground up to run on Windows. It could monitor anything across the network for connected computers, regardless of operating system. "In short, we had a lot of experience designing system software that allowed the technical people who managed the computers to control users and data," Sigourney says. Around 1998, AVTECH started taking a look at data centers, which were many of the company's primary customers, and it realized that environmental monitoring was something that's really not addressed. "At that time, the computers were much bigger than they are today–think size of a dresser–so they had to have rooms with advanced cooling," Sigourney says.
AVTECH began making simple switch devices that would communicate with the software and tell you when you had a problem with cooling, heating, or power, among others. "At the time, they didn't have the tiny computer chips that are available today, so we'd have thermostats and humidistats with two wire contacts, so all you could tell was if the room went above or below a threshold. Of course, a couple of years later, manufactures came out with technology small enough that we could get a real-time value, and we were the first to integrate that technology into our hardware," Sigourney says.
"It all seemed like a natural progression to us, and although you might say that software to hardware seems like a big switch, it has become a strength for us, because we are an advanced hardware manufacturer with a 23-year-old background in software," he continues.
As such, AVTECH has a unique blend of experience that allows it to get more out of its hardware. For example, AVTECH is able to design hardware that now only connects to the network, but can also automatically discover the sensors, provide advanced alerting capabilities, and set thresholds and respond to events without the help of any third-party software. That means you won't need to buy additional software when you purchase an AVTECH product.
Monitoring TechnologyAVTECH's newest products offer all the top-of-the-line features you'll need to monitor your data center. "We're just getting ready to ship our brand-new product, the Room alert 32W, that replaces our 26W (the previous high-end product)." "The 32W adds Power over Ethernet [and] the ability to monitor low-voltage sensors, and it has a high capacity for sensors. You monitor almost 100 sensors and it has a maximum distance of just under a mile using the wireless capabilities."
In the future, AVTECH expects that many of the products will incorporate Power over Ethernet. "AVTECH is in the middle of testing with the FCC for a cellular modem around the size of two quarters that could become an embedded component within models, so they'll have GSM connectivity built-in," Sigourney says. This technology could have any number of uses for protecting people, places, and equipment from disaster.
AVTECH Product LinesAVTECH specializes in environmental management and monitoring products, and its top two product lines are Room Alert, which is AVTECH's biggest brand, and TemPageR. Room Alert allows you to monitor any type of environmental condition, and AVTECH offers five monitors that have different amounts of sensors built in and can be connected externally to the box. TemPageR is an entry-level product that focuses solely on monitoring temperature. "Temperature is the most important thing to a data center, in terms of threats," Sigourney says. "More data centers are brought down every year by temperature than any other environmental condition, including human error."
Sensors are the second major type of product AVTECH manufactures. "Because of our high volume of manufacturing, AVTECH is able to create sensors at a lower cost than the competition," Sigourney says. AVTECH also offers switch sensors, which are two wires that can connect to both AVTECH and competitor products and can be used by customers that have invested in other environmental monitoring products. "By investing a couple of hundred dollars in a product like ours, you have the ability to save yourself from tens of thousands of dollars in damages to equipment and lost business down the road," Sigourney says.
The company's monitoring solutions come bundled FREE with AVTECH-developed Device ManageR software for logging, graphing, advanced alerting, automatic corrective action, reporting, and more. "Our Device ManageR features all the new Web technologies and does all the logging [and] wrapping and pulls the data that's provided by our sensors," Sigourney says. "And because it's automatically logging the data to a non-modifiable sequel database, places like a medical facility are automatically in compliance with regulations." According to Sigourney, AVTECH plans on "opening up Device ManageR to monitor products from other companies, which will make it more powerful because it will allow the software to utilize products related to AVTECH that are outside of AVTECH's speciality." Through the collaboration with other vendors, AVTECH will also help to expand the potential for other manufactures, and in the end, provide greater service to AVTECH's customers.
The company has big plans in the works for its products. "We plan to continue to expand our install base and go after some more targeted markets." Sigourney says. "For example, we're working on some very big things that will be major stories in the HVAC world." AVTECH products will also be more important as data centers continue to become denser, because you'll have less time to react to problems in the environment due to the high volume of equipment being pushed to its power and heat limits. AVTECH's environmental monitoring tools will allow you to know immediately if something has physically gone wrong in your data center.