Data Centers

Vertiv acquires Energy Labs and Geist for greater data center products range

Vertiv is known as a solid mid-tier data center supplier of cooling and power products. The company started 2018 by buying into the higher and lower tiers.

Vertiv, known for its mid-range data center cooling and power hardware, made two acquisitions this month to expand its market position.

The company on January 16, 2018 bought Energy Labs, which makes large-scale cooling units, and then on January 24, 2018 bought Geist, which makes power distribution systems for rack-scale purposes. Columbus, OH-based Vertiv did not announce terms for either deal.

Energy Labs, in San Diego, CA, makes direct and indirect cooling units. Direct is an industry term referring to systems that use outside cool air, while indirect means a system that works by other methods, explained Vertiv's John Schneider, vice president for thermal management products. Direct cooling is common for cloud companies, while indirect cooling is more common for corporate and colocated data centers, Schneider noted.

Generally, small-scale cooling systems support 1-3 tons of air, mid-sized systems offer 8-20 tons capacity, and large-enterprise models can exceed 100 tons, he said. In common air conditioning terms, a single ton equals 12,000 BTU.

The smaller and larger customers are higher-growth areas than Vertiv's mid-range focus, which is what inspired the acquisitions, Schneider explained. Vertiv will have new products in both categories, using direct and indirect cooling, throughout 2018.

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Energy Labs also has commercial and industrial market share that Vertiv lacked, development officer Gary Niederpruem added.

Geist, in Lincoln, NE, focuses on power systems for smaller data centers. They also bring another market to Vertiv—that of channel sales to IT departments, rather than directly to just larger corporations, Niederpruem said.

It will take Vertiv a while to digest these deals. For now, "I think we have the big foundational pieces that we need. With that said, we will continue to prime the mergers and acquisitions pump for bolt-on acquisitions," Niederpruem said.

There's interesting background that led Vertiv to this point. Emerson Electric acquired cooling and power specialist Liebert in 1987. Emerson then spun Liebert and related acquisitions into a new company, Emerson Network Power, in 2000. Platinum Equity acquired Emerson Network Power in 2016 and renamed it Vertiv.

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What exactly does Vertiv mean? Niederpruem said it's a portmanteau of vertex and active, representing high points of data center activity—and that the trademark was available. However, they had to settle for Vertivco.com, as Vertiv.com is already owned by a Princeton, NJ software company. Vertiv still uses the Liebert brand name today.

Emerson, meanwhile, remains an industrial products specialist—the opposite trend of giants such as Hitachi, where officials cited customer demand to merge its enterprise storage products into the industrial side.

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Image: Vertiv

About Evan Koblentz

Evan Koblentz began covering enterprise IT news during the dot-com boom times of the late 1990s. He recently published a book, "Abacus to smartphone: The evolution of mobile and portable computers". He is director of Vintage Computer Federation, a 50...

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