Zonit device gives data centers powerful tool
"We already have many major clients using this product: Google, Apple, Walt Disney, Kaiser Permanente, Comcast, the United Nations," said Zonit founder Bill Pachoud, reeling off the list of customers using the proclaimed "world's smallest and most efficient Automatic Transfer Switch for data-center equipment."
The Micro-ATS is about the size of a bar of soap that can auto-switch power fed to data processing equipment, such as routers and servers, which otherwise would be tied to a single source of electricity. Pachoud said the patented and patent-pending technologies have sophisticated abilities in detecting power quality and functionality — switching between different types and qualities of power sources — not available in most commercial transfer switches.
The Zonit auto switch is a boon to saving power and reducing down time at data centers — an ongoing headache for most data-center managers — but the biggest-selling feature may be the unit's size and the fact that it mounts right into the power supply of the existing data-center equipment. At $319 for the U.S.-standard 120-volt size and $419 for the 200-plus-volt size, it may be cheaper than the rack space that less-functional auto switches often require.
It is not the first successful foray into producing data-center equipment for Zonit, which in 2007 was spun out of Pachoud's The Root Group, a reseller of information technology and data-center equipment and architect of turn-key information networks. Zonit is experiencing rapid revenue growth — reportedly reaching into seven figures — between its patented Zonit Power Distribution System, much like having an electrician in a box, and the auto switch, which is in its first year of sales.
But Pachoud sees much bigger things in store for Zonit. Both his companies remain self-funded, with the Root Group's more service-derived income approaching eight digits, he said, but Zonit appears ready to approach new funding sources today.
"We chose to focus on developing an extensive intellectual-property portfolio — a large number of patents in America, Canada, the EU, China and Australia — all tied to a set of product families," he said. "Then we went into the R&D phase.
"Today, Zonit is almost like two companies."
The first of those two is Zonit's data center-based products, with proven functionality and power savings. Pachoud said those will continue to be a core business.
"In that respect, we're more of a second-stage startup," he said. "Now, we're going after capital to grow — to build sales and marketing capacity
"We're a first-stage startup in that we have some very interesting intellectual property we're actively developing that we believe will have application in power management for both the home and office."
One of Zonit's newer projects is building out what it is calling an "Intelligent Premise Power Delivery System," which could help reduce peak power loads on our nation's electric grids and utilities and offer sophisticated power management to property owners. Pachoud explained that today's peak load reduction programs are pretty much all or nothing when it comes to electric demand.
For instance, if a homeowner signs up for Xcel's peak load reduction program, the home's air conditioner is hooked up to a radio-controlled switch. If the demand for electricity on the utility reaches a certain point, the utility sends out a signal that switches off the air conditioning on participating homes.
"That's pretty brutal," he said, "and we do have the ability to do a more sophisticated type of active-demand management."
The Premise Power system he envisions — but cannot yet talk freely about — could actually steal little bits of energy from likely uses in the home or office. Pile up enough of these minute power savings, Pachoud said, and enough savings can be realized to make a significant dent in peak power usage.
Although both the Root Group and Zonit are smaller companies — a total of about 22 employees and 10 contractors with half of the employees in the engineering groups — Pachoud isn't afraid to look at things on a grand scale. In fact, he said, that was a key to success at the Root Group, founded in 1989, which embraced creating information networks that were both sophisticated and disciplined in their structure, and sought to create standards in terms of infrastructure, security and sustainability that could be widely applied.
"If you are building a 20-story office building, you know you have to start with an architect and certain standards," he said. "But we're not there yet on IT design, mostly because the profession has gone through a very rapid rate of change."
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