East Bay Innovation Awards: Vigilent’s quest to cool down data centers… and the planet

April 9, 2019

This article was included as a supplement to the SF Business Times profiling Vigilent as an East Bay Innovation Awards winner:

We all know how important it is to save energy, but sometimes one’s own individual impact can feel tiny. That’s not the case with Vigilent — a small team operating out of Oakland that has a big impact on some of the world’s largest energy consumers. Vigilent leverages artificial intelligence and internet of things technology to make cooling systems far more dynamic and efficient.

Every app and web page — whether it’s for news, shopping or buying flights — depends on data centers to operate. The servers that are packed into these data centers work best below certain temperatures, and overheating can cause them — and the apps that use them — to fail. With this in mind, data center operators have a standard strategy for ensuring that their servers stay cool enough: overkill. When the consequences for failure are high, better to overshoot on cooling than to play it too close.

As a result, data centers, some of the world’s biggest consumers of energy, use nearly half of their energy on cooling. Vigilent uses machine learning technology and sensors placed around the data center to automatically optimize the usage of the data center’s many cooling units. The result is a reduction of up to 40 percent in energy usage.

“Because we have sensors throughout the data centers, we can better understand how the cooling units influence the room, and influence each other,” explains Dave Hudson, Vigilent’s chief executive. Their software uses this information to adjust cooling units for optimal efficiency.

Vigilent’s impact has already been enormous: They have over 600 installations around the world, and save over 700 million pounds of carbon dioxide every year. Hudson has found that it’s easy to find people in the East Bay who share the vision of leveraging technology for a cleaner future.

“We’re huge fans of Oakland and its part of the company’s history and story,” says Hudson. “It’s definitely a clean tech hub. People here care about clean technology and fighting climate change.”

A small, impactful clean tech company, Vigilent is right at home in the East Bay.