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SynapSense raises $16M for data-center energy monitoring

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The first rule of cutting energy from the data centers that power the Internet is to monitor how much energy these power-hungry facilities use. And it turns out that providing those types of monitoring tools is a growing business: On Wednesday wireless sensor and monitoring company SynapSense announced that it has raised a $16 million round from VCs to help it expand.

The startup, which was launched in 2006 by former Intel (s INTC) exec Peter Van Deventer and UC Davis computer science professor Raju Pandey, already had a long list of well-known investors in its corner, including GE, Aeris Capital, DFJ Frontier, Emerald Technology Ventures, Nth Power, Robert Bosch Venture Capital and Sequoia Capital. And with this latest round, Crosslink Capital joined the group.

As more data centers are built to support our growing always-on Internet consumption habits, data-center energy use has been growing rapidly. The electricity used by the world’s servers alone doubled between 2000 and 2005, to about 123 billion kilowatt-hours, and it was set to increase another 76 percent by the end of 2010.

SynapSense uses its wireless monitoring system to offer up real-time thermal, pressure and humidity readings that can help data-center operators keep an eye on their operations and spot ways to cut energy use. The company supports the 802.15.4 radio standard, which is the basis for ZigBee, and SynapSense says its system can help save up to 20 percent on overall energy costs and up to 35 percent on energy from cooling.

SynapSense’s tech also enables data-center operators to be able to measure the PUE (the power usage effectiveness) of a data center in real time, which is the most effective way to show how efficient a data center is. The PUE looks at essentially the overall energy consumption compared to the energy consumption of just the IT equipment. Recording that number continuously, and in real time, is important, because the PUE can change throughout the day and year.