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Cooling system maker changes marketing strategy

Fri., March 14, 2008

Liberty Lake tech company SprayCool has pulled back plans to expand into the data-center thermal management market. After two years of searching for a toehold in the data-center cooling sector, SprayCool has refocused on selling high-end cooling systems to the military and defense industry, said CEO Matt Gerber.

Underscoring that renewed military commitment, the privately held company made two product announcements this week. One was a second-phase sale to the U.S. Air Force of SprayCool’s liquid-cooled chassis to be used inside specialized aircraft. In particular, the units will be used in manned high-altitude U-2 aircraft as well as the Global Hawk unmanned plane. No terms of that purchase were made public.

The second was the company’s debut of a line of “multi-platform” enclosures that make SprayCool’s patented thermal-control systems more adaptable to a variety of defense-related projects.

The company’s specialized enclosures dissipate high levels of heat given off by modern electronic systems, plus protect the enclosures from contaminants. They are used by the military in both airborne and ground-based systems, Gerber said.

The refocus on defense systems is a logical move, as the company built its reputation in that sector after it was started, under the name Isothermal Systems Research, in 1988.

In 2003, SprayCool moved its headquarters to Liberty Lake, then added offices in Seattle and Silicon Valley. At one time, the company’s offices totaled more than 200 employees.

Gerber said the company has just the Liberty Lake office and about 90 workers.

In 2005, SprayCool created a division focused on selling to industrial customers, primarily data centers. Those centers, where thousands of computers churn nonstop, have immense heat-reduction issues.

But late last year Gerber and the SprayCool board agreed to put the data-center effort on the back burner, he said.

“We realized it was going to take longer than we thought to get acceptance with the major players in the data center space,” Gerber said. The company estimates it will take two to five years before SprayCool can generate interest among the three major data-center hardware providers, IBM, HP and Dell, he added.

“We’re still working in the (data center) space,” he said. “If HP comes and says, ‘Could you do a design product so we could test your technology in one of our systems,’ the answer is yes,” Gerber said.


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