Until recently, tools for reducing power in data centers have functioned like consultants: they gave recommendations but didn't really help you implement them.

The picture is changing as competition heats up, demand increases and the technology improves.

Power Assure today announced a software service called Dynamic Power Optimization that optimizes banks of servers -- powering them down, flipping them on in anticipation of a flood of traffic, rotating applications -- for energy efficiency. In some tests, Power Assure has cut power consumption by over 56 percent. Pricing starts around $2,500 a month.

The company also announced that ABB, the Swedish-Swiss conglomerate that functions like a European version of GE, has invested $1.5 million into the company, raising the total invested to $15.25 million. Power Assure also has received $5 million from the DOE.

The company has been marketing a product called Dynamic Power Management, which gives IT managers a granular view of power consumption. The tool, however, only provided information.

"We had the ability to perform an optimization for specific customers" on an individualized basis, said CTO Clemens Pfeiffer. "Now we are announcing the full product-ization."

Rival SynapSense started talking about moving from providing snapshots of weather inside data centers to providing automated control this summer. Expect others to do the same. Sentilla has some interesting technology.

NASA uses Power Assure's services and so has Facebook. The company counts IBM, Cisco, VMWare, Dell and Intel as partners. Green IT is the future.

Technologically speaking, Power Assure's services can be viewed as something that help virtualization. Virtualization allows IT managers to lump applications onto a single piece of hardware to conserve assets and power. Nonetheless, server utilization typically stops at the 10 percent to 20 percent level to accommodate potential spikes in demand.

"Twitter has one of the most aggressive spike curves," said Pfeiffer. "You have to carry a large buffer."

If a company, however, can anticipate a spike or the flow of spikes, it can power down its peak servers during the off-hours and thereby increase overall utilization.

Power Assure's software right now only controls servers. It does not link into air conditioners. However, as Pfeiffer pointed out, reducing server power consumption naturally leads to less demand for chilled air. Power Assure hopes to move from managing clusters of servers to cloud computing applications next.

After that, it will figure out ways to tackle controlling networking and storage devices.

The company, though, does not have much interest in moving into building management, i.e., controlling the lights, heaters and air conditioners in your office. That field already seems crowded, there aren't nearly as many assets to control, and the need for dynamic, active monitoring and control is far lower.