RealTime IT News

Kevin Klustner, President, CEO, Verdiem

Kevin KlustnerEnergy savings is very much on the minds of cost-conscious IT managers these days. Verdiem addresses an often-overlooked part of the energy equation: PCs.

The Seattle-based company's Surveyor utility helps IT departments measure, manage and reduce its network's energy consumption to save money and lower the network's total cost of ownership. Verdiem claims it can reduce energy consumption enough to save an average of $20 per PC annually.

Tech industry veteran Kevin Klustner has only been CEO of Verdiem since March, but sees big potential in the company's technology. Prior to joining Verdiem, Klustner was the managing director of Coastal Environmental Systems and president and CEO of Sightward, a venture-backed software startup in Bellevue, Wash. He's also served as the COO for PC network software company WRQ.

Klustner recently discussed with internetnews.com the hidden energy savings to be found in PC networks and what other areas Verdiem is looking at to save money and maximize energy efficiency.

Q: What was the opportunity you saw that led to you joining Verdiem?

The company had spent a lot of time to make it scalable up to 100,000 nodes of PCs, and getting all the measurement verification and usage stats right. We have a lot of intellectual property. They were getting a lot of traction in the public-sector side, K-12 and universities, showing them a way to save money. What I saw is a technology and business model that was proving itself. And we have an ROI we can confidently predict has a 12- to 18-month payback.

Also, I saw a shift in the corporate world where environmental responsibility is becoming a key objective. Verdiem solves a problem sitting right in front of us in a very easy way. PCs and displays waste about two-thirds of the energy they consume. People go away for the weekend, for example, and fail to turn off their systems.

Q: But at least they go into sleep mode, isn't that saving energy right there?

Most PCs do have the ability to turn off into a hibernate state, but we've found that at most 25 percent really do and it's usually more like 10 percent. We solve this problem by letting IT managers profile users based on usage patterns and their time in and out of office to figure out the best time to have the PCs hibernate.

For example, if your users generally all leave at 5:30 p.m., you can have the hibernation set for 6:30 p.m. and come back up the next morning at 6:30 a.m. Also, when IT wants to distribute a software patch, the PCs can be all brought up at once and the patch distributed, which IT departments like because they don't want to have to deal with individual PCs.

Q: What kind of savings are we talking about with Surveyor?

It's going to vary by region depending on what your energy costs are, but on a 5,000 PC network that, say, consumes 3 million kilowatt hours a year, we can save approximately 1 million kilowatts. At about 10 to 12 cents per kilowatt hour, you can save about $100,000 per year.

Q: How is a company going to be sure they'll save the energy you're talking about?

We get very granular in our pre-sale work. We do a network energy audit where we measure power consumption over two weeks, and then we install Surveyor, without telling the end users, and compare the before and after energy use. It's pretty consistently worked out to a $20 savings per PC per year.

Q: And that's just this idea of making sure the PCs are put to sleep at night?

Companies have a lot of options on how aggressive they want to be. You can say, for example, go into sleep mode any time there is no activity for 15 minutes. The system comes back to life as soon as the mouse moves or the keyboard is clicked.

Q: I have something like this on my PC and have for years. What's new here?

People mistake when the screen saver kicks in; the screen goes blank or runs a screen saver but the CPU is still working, the power hasn't been drawn down.

Q: Are you likely to branch out from a one-product company?

Yes. Today we're on the PC side, but we could potentially address other systems in similar fashion. On the server side and with other peripherals on the network, there are energy-consumption issues. There are 5 million POS  systems out there that are essentially XP systems that can be turned off and on remotely.

Q: How big is your business?

We have over 100 customers and over 300,000 licenses. Those 300,000 PCs running Surveyor are saving 60 kilowatts of electricity or 40,000 tons of CO2 emissions -- the equivalent of what 8,000 cars burn or 88,000 barrels of oil.

Q: What about overhead and installation time?

There's very little. When an organization purchases Surveyor, we work with them to install it and set up the profiles they want. Depending on how aggressive they want to be [with the settings] it can take anywhere from half a day to a day. We just piggyback to whatever software deployment they use to distribute software updates.

For example, many use SMS, and Surveyor has a very small footprint. In terms of ongoing overhead, you can set it up to turn PCs off remotely at a certain time and forget about it. There's no bandwidth issue or any need for help desk calls. If an end user comes in early when the system is off, they'll see a simple dialog box to override the shut down. .

Q: How much does the system cost?

It's a licensed product with volume pricing. Basically, it's $25 per PC one time and a $3 per year charge for maintenance and energy audits to evaluate how well it's being used. The clients report to an SQL database on a regular basis and we have analysis tools that can show companies where they can be more aggressive.

Q: Who are your competitors in this space?

We see our competition from companies in the systems management space that have developed asset management software that does a little of what we do. No one else out there is as focused on PC power management, with as much detailed measurement and verification, as we are.