Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, December 4, 2023

Environmentally-minded European Web-Hosting Company Brings Its Unusual Datacenter Concept To North America 

OVH, a leading web-hosting company based in France, designs its own datacenters, develops its own cooling technology, assembles its own servers, manages its own fiber-optic network, and promises competitive pricing. Its new North American subsidiary is now opening a huge datacenter in Beauharnois, Quebec …

OVH wants to do it all. The Roubaix, France-based web-hosting company is a major player in Europe with over 120,000 hosted servers. It hosts websites, offers public and private clouds, and provides email, database systems, VoIP, and SMS services for its corporate clients. It's dedicated to environmentally sound practices. But most unusual of all, it also develops its own cooling technology, assembles its own servers and manages its own fiber-optic network.

It's kind of like a limousine service that builds its own battery-powered engines for its cars.

Now OVH's new North American subsidiary is bringing its first datacenter to North America, with huge ambitions. It has just opened a massive datacenter in Beauharnois, Quebec that it boasts will be the world's largest, with capacity for 36 hosting towers that can hold up to 360,000 servers—three times the total number of servers it operates in eight datacenters across Europe. And that's just the first of three datacenters it plans for North America.

An article in Data Center Knowledge describes the new facility. It was converted from buildings at a former Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum plant. The center will get power from a hydroelectric dam just 300 meters away and employs the company's proprietary cooling system, which does not use air conditioning. Like Yahoo's famous chicken coop-inspired design (the Yahoo Computing Coop,) the Beauharnois facility allows excess heat to vent from the datacenter through ceiling vents. (Other OVH datacenters have been made out of recycled containers.)

OVH's servers are based on Intel's Ivy Bridge/Sandy Bridge technology. OVH says its servers are assembled on-site in its datacenters, and can produce up to 400 per day in order to meet increased customer demand within an hour. It has previously said that it was deploying a network across  Canada and the U.S. based on 100Gbps coherent technology, allowing transmission rates of 10 Tbps.