Subzero Engineering

Keeping it Cool for Data Centers Worldwide
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
James Logan

Subzero Engineering (Subzero) is a growing design, engineering, manufacturing and installer of airflow systems for the information technology industry. Founded in 2005, the company approaches the changing needs of data centers and technology-reliant businesses with innovative design to keep equipment cool and spaces well-ventilated.

Larry Mainers, CEO of Subzero, founded the business after selling his previous company. “I was somewhat retired,” he explains. “But I decided I wanted to open up a new business in the same industry, only approaching the market from a different angle.” With Subzero, Mainers has located a flourishing niche in the airflow system industry.

“Data centers are our principal clients,” he continues. “We have some standard products but most data centers require some level of customization, which is where we stand out. The key part to succeeding in this business is the engineering. It is vital for a company working in this field to actually understand how data center airflow works and to understand what adjustments to make to ensure correct supply and return airflow at the same time. Our understanding of information technology operation as well as HVAC allows us to harness major energy savings. We literally cut 30 percent of the electrical cost of cooling for our customers.”

Where other companies flounder, Subzero excels. “Competitors have failed for undersupplying the IT equipment and not properly understanding the connectivity required,” he continues. “We are working around high voltage electrical bus ways and networking between servers and voltage. Without a background in IT and air conditioning, as well as a thorough understanding of airflow management, you can’t be successful in this business.”

Catering to a Growing Market

The rapid technological rise over the last decade has increased the role of data centers immensely. “Every time you see someone with a smartphone or wireless tablet, they are all utilizing cloud technology through data centers,” Mainers notes. “The industry is expanding, so we never saw a loss of growth during the downturn.” High-profile clients the world over have taken advantage of the services and savings offered by Subzero.

“We have manufactured and installed most of the containment systems for eBay, IBM and General Electric, as well as numerous data centers for Amazon, Oracle and Morgan Stanley,” Mainers continues. “We are doing the biggest data centers in the world. Some of our biggest clients are in Hong Kong, where we did the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. We have done quite a bit of work in various countries across the world in Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia, although 90 percent of our business is in the United States.”

According to Mainers, Subzero was one of the key companies to introduce separation of supply and return airflow. “The data center world has been inefficiently cooled until now,” he elaborates. “People think that’s a great idea, but this is also right in line with the Department of Energy’s encouragement of reducing the carbon footprint of data centers. These facilities are well-known as energy hogs. We are fitting within government regulations, as well as the framework of customers that want to reduce operating expenditures within 12 months, or in an expanding arena.”

While the market has practically exploded over the last decade, there are still hurdles for Subzero to overcome. Starting up the business was no cake walk. The team’s first FCA loan took more than six months to come into effect.

“I started to self-sponsor the business,” Mainers explains. “Eventually, I won’t be able to do that. We just received our second, but that’s just for cash flow, not capital. Fortunately we are able to carry the capitalization of our equipment internally. With the previous business, financing was very easy. That has changed over the last seven years.”

New Products, Unique Projects

As the monetary wheels start rolling faster, Subzero is picking up the pace with new products and initiatives. “We have added what has become our main product, the Intelligent Containment Environment [ICE],” Mainers states. “It separates supply and return airflow, which offers enormous energy benefits. Still, we needed to create a product that would monitor that environment. We had one of our engineers design a wireless monitoring system and we recently used that for a large client in California. That allowed us to measure factors before and after installation, and the company was able to get a $50,000 rebate from the utility company because of our system.”

The state-of-the-art monitoring system benefits employees and customers alike. “The wireless sensors in the intake side of IT equipment report to a hub and that reports to the customer’s computer or phone,” he continues. “Wherever there is access to their secure Internet Protocol address, they can get that info. All of this is done in a graphical format so they can see that information against a floor plan model. If that information differs from the agreed-upon standard, it goes to yellow. We can see physically where the problem is, go out on floor and see what’s happening. The system warns operators long before equipment is in danger. Our next generation product will automatically adjust the air conditioning at some point in the future.”

Subzero’s new projects and products are garnering attention from big-name clients, many of whom Subzero has served in the past. For a recent installation at eBay, the client wanted something unique. “They wanted a theme,” Mainers explains, “So we went with Tron. We had special displays cut and installed cool backlights. The cold air supply is blue and the hot aisle is red. We used 3-D graphics to put the eBay logo on the door centers. We have actually brought in a designer to work with the customers who want to do unique projects like that.”

With a growing and increasingly striking portfolio, Subzero is poised for expansion. “We expect tremendous growth,” Mainers says. “The containment side of technology is getting considerably larger in the coming years. As a result, we have started to release more airflow products we have not had up to now. We have doubled our revenue just selling to our existing customers.” Loyal customers are likely to stick around as Subzero Engineering continues to offer innovative protective airflow systems for the growing technology market.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Item America LLC
Workman Nydegger