Article: Q&A with Aheli Purkayastha, Purkay Labs: The Industry is Finally Paying Attention to Energy Efficiency

BOSTON, MA — Aheli Purkayastha is the Product Manager for Purkay Labs, a leading portable environmental monitoring company. Aheli focuses on airflow management strategies and has been featured in Processor Magazine. With her team, she has launched three products used by over two hundred Fortune 500 | Tier 3/4 facilities in the US, Canada, Europe and the Middle East. Prior to joining Purkay Labs, Aheli worked with the UN Security Council. She spends her free time chairing Bryn Mawr College’s Young Alumnae/i association and volunteering as a Team Leader for the IRS’s VITA program for low-income families. Aheli currently serves as a Marketing and WiMCO committee member for 7×24 Exchange International and on the Advisory Committee for the New England 7×24 Chapter. In advance of CapRE’s 2018 Boston and New England Data Center Summit, where Aheli’s colleague Indra Purkayastha will be a featured speaker, we caught up with Aheli to learn more about her organization and how it fits into the data center industry.

CapRE: Thank you for your time, Aheli. Let’s talk about what you do and what Purkay Labs is all about.

Purkayastha: My role is Product Manager for Purkay Labs. We work on airflow management solution for data centers and other critical air spaces, such as Labs, Hospitals, Banks and Commercial Real Estate facilities. We have a number of products, software, and services to help facility managers get necessary environmental data in a fast, secure and cost-effective manner. My job is to work with our customers and engineering team to ensure our products give meaningful information, not just thousands of data points. I want our users to go, Hey. I have a problem but I need information to make a change safely. For us, the right data point converted to information, can reduce energy consumption, and reduce OpEx expenses.

CapRE: What are some challenges in the data center sector that you’re keeping an eye on lately?

Purkayastha: 90% of our clients come to us because they have airflow issues. Either they have hot spots or they are unsure if they are delivering enough cold air to their servers. We’re focused on helping Data Centers cool effectively and efficiently. Over the years, there have been a lot of new data center technologies and trends, like virtualization, blade servers etc,  that change the overall airflow mix in the data hall. While the newly built data centers can address these new technologies, there are a lot of legacy facilities that are capacity constrained, and have airflow issues in different pockets of the data hall. Small changes can help mitigate the issue facing these customers. That’s where Purkay Labs can assist the customer.

CapRE: How do you manage that?

Purkayastha: We make tools and software that make collecting this information easy, without requiring an installations or shutdown.   All airflow issues have a discernible, real root cause. To understand them require meaningful information, that often, people don’t have. And if they don’t have the data, they can’t make a change without the proof. Our goal is to let the client make data driven decisions to resolve their issue. Improving efficiency will extend the life of a data center without requiring major investments. This also provides time to allow the customer to plan for containments, upgrades or migration as appropriate, instead of making such a critical decision hastily.

CapRE: What trends are you keeping tabs on?

Purkayastha: Purkay Labs is focused on cooling the Data Center efficiently. As the kw per square foot continue to increase, newer techniques of cooling the data center are coming into play. This involves looking at innovative container systems, cooling with alternative material such as water or oil, use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in cooling a data center. People have even started talking about block chain in data center facilities, although it’s still early days. The industry needs to get more and more efficient to reduce their carbon footprint. Purkay Labs will continue to help the data center manager with information as the industry evolved with these new trends.

CapRE: Looking at the broader industry, what are you most excited about?

Purkayastha: People are really starting paying attention to energy efficiency. In 2014, U.S. data centers consumed about 2% of total U.S. electricity consumption. That’s a problem. The D.o.E. issued a challenge to Data Centers to cut down their energy consumption by 25%. Now, data centers and colocations are looking for ways to cut down energy consumption without risking downtime or reliability. Our product is incredibly valuable because it allows people to pinpoint and diagnose airflow issues, which drive up OpEx costs and energy inefficiencies. Our data really helps to eliminate the “low-hanging fruit” of their budget. With simple adjustments they can save a lot of energy and money.

CapRE: And on the flipside, what keeps you up at night?

Purkayastha: The thing that keeps me up at night is our aging workforce. Our industry as a whole has a very talented workforce, but as they retire, there aren’t many people to fill their positions. Within our company, we focus on having a diverse team of men and women from different STEM and Liberal Arts backgrounds.  We make it a priority to work with different Mission Critical organizations to organize events to bring more in more people to our industry.

CapRE: How has that gone?

Purkayastha: So far, it’s been very challenging. When I talk to younger students, I often have to start by explaining what a data center is, and move on from there. The key, I’ve found, is try to talk about the important role Data Centers play in our day to day life. There are so many components—from designing data centers, to protecting the actual data, to my personal favorite—making sure data centers are energy efficient—that there is a job for everyone. Another challenge is also making sure that people who join our industry, stay in our industry. We’ve found that mentorship—both to individuals who are starting out in the Mission Critical field and people who are mid-way through their careers—is essential. It’s been an interesting journey to say the least.