Data centers are a crucial engine of our IT-driven world and they consume enormous amounts of power. Power can account for up to 30 percent of the operating expenses of web companies, second only to personnel.

The EPA has estimated that the nation’s servers and data centers consume about 1.5 percent of the nations electricity (in computing power and cooling) at a cost of billions of dollars. The sector is an enormous energy user but there's also ample room for improvements in the sector's energy efficiency.

Power Assure, a Santa Clara, California-based data center energy management software firm, just closed a $13.5 million round B financing led by industry powerhouse ABB along with Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Good Energies, and Judith Point Capital. Andrew Tang, a managing director at ABB Technology Ventures, will join Power Assure's board.

Power Assure provides server optimization and energy management and has raised $28.75 million to date. The firm's EM/4 software provides monitoring, analysis, and automation of data enter processes. The firm, along with UL, has developed an energy efficiency rating to measure server power usage on a transaction-per-watt basis.

An ecosystem of startups and established companies has emerged to manage data center energy usage as the data center market grows at an annual pace of eight percent to 12 percent (according to ABB).

Here's a partial list of vendors looking to make the data center more efficient through a variety of approaches:  

  • Sentilla makes software to control and analyze equipment in the data center for optimum efficiency.
  • SynapSense is a software-based temperature and power analysis tool for the data center.
  • ABB, GE, and Nextek all have efforts focused on moving from AC to DC power in the data center.
  • Sandforce swaps flash memory for hard disk drives in the data center.
  • Transphorm uses GaN materials for better power conversion.
  • SeaMicro and Calxeda build smaller, more energy efficient servers.
  • Vantage Data Centers provides high efficiency wholesale data center campuses and customized data centers.

Green IT is one of the more promising markets in the renewable energy world. Internet companies are facing escalating power bills; utilities are willing to give refunds and credits to firms retrofitting their data centers; and IT companies like Intel, Hewlett-Packard and IBM have been aggressively touting technologies that can help reduce those bills.

And, significantly, the benefits of these technologies can be quantified.

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Michael Kanellos contributed to this article.

Tags: arch rock, cisco, data centers, facebook, google, green it, hewlett packard, power assure, powerassure, sentilla, servers, storage, synapsense, vigilent