Sure Power Provides Reliable, Available Energy Source

The most important performance metric of any mission-critical information system is probably its relative degree of reliability or availability. Enterprise vendors have literally invested decades perfecting the science of operating and hardware system development to achieve desired levels of high availability.According to Sure Power Corp. (Danbury, Conn.), however, these enterprise vendors--IBM, Digital and Hewlett-Packard among them--have oftentimes overlooked a vital single-point-of-failure in the architecture of any mission critical system: its power source.

Sure Power produces the Sure Power System, a fuel cell system that, the company maintains, produces reliable computer-grade power 99.9999 percent of the time. Architecturally, Sure Power leverages redundant and backup supplies of natural gas that feed four fuel cells. The system is further augmented by two separate utility feeds and two generators. Theoretically, says William Cratty, president of Sure Power, critical information system loads will always have power so long as any two fuel cells, any one utility or any one generator has power.

According to Cratty, information systems are a special case and as such are deserving of special treatment, at least insofar as power consumption is concerned. "The computer is one of the few devices developed by man that uses electricity directly, so that in the information age it seems very clear that the delivery systems traditionally developed by utilities just aren't efficient or reliable enough," he maintains. "The bulk of the power used in the country is provided by the utility industry, but when you get into the information age of 24x7 data centers, there has to be a better means of providing this kind of mission-critical power."

Sure Power's claim to deliver reliable power 99.9999 percent of the time, or "six-9s" according to an industry-standard rating scale, compares to the typical reliability rating level of utility grids and backup generators of 99.9 percent--or "three-9s." In terms of real numbers, says Sure Power's Cratty, this means that a conventional uninterruptible power supply system might experience up to 63 minutes of downtime per year, compared with only .31 to 3.18 seconds per year for the Sure Power-based system.

Not surprisingly, Sure Power is positioning its fuel cell-based system as a high-availability alternative for both the midrange and high-end marketplaces.

"Midrange and up is our target marketplace. We're not in the small space, and we don't experience overlap with [client/server-based] competitors such as APC," Cratty comments. "Our thrust is to provide a higher kind of availability so that when a customer buys an IBM system that is five- and six-9's available we're able to supply a power source that equates with that [level of availability]."

Sure Power doesn't yet have any AS/400 customers, Cratty acknowledges, although he maintains that his company's fuel cell-based system would provide a nice counterpart to IBM's midrange stalwart, at least in terms of reliability and availability.

Among existing Sure Power customers, Dennis Hughes, director of property management for the First National Bank of Omaha, Neb., says that the Sure Power system is as good as advertised. "This is a highly-reliable power source. About two weeks ago, we had a series of brown outs. The fuel cells were able to reconfigure and there was no loss of power. They kept right on chugging away with no disruption."

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