Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, June 14, 2021

Data Center Industry Seeing New Entrants, New Technology Designed to Save Energy Costs, Speed Provisioning 

A model of the Aligned Data Center, Plano, TX

Data center outsourcing means forecasting power requirements for the duration of a contract, which typically lasts five to 10 years. With the pace of change in IT, changing business conditions for individual companies and the overall economy, the volatility of energy prices, and the fact that power comprises the majority of data center fees, this is like playing poker blindfolded. We’re talking about business-critical infrastructure, with high availability an absolute must, so no one wants to underestimate power needs.

But being safe rather than sorry leads many companies to overestimate power needs and overpay for their data centers. According to industry watcher Gartner Group, overprovisioning of data center power can result in organization using only 50 to 60 percent of the power charged.

A start-up wholesale colocation service, Aligned Data Centers is countering conventional data center pricing models and taking a leaf from the public cloud book by offering what it says is the first pay-per-use multi-tenant data center that eliminates, eliminating long-term power consumption commitments.

Starting with a 30 MW, 300,000 square feet facility opened this month in Plano, TX – and with others planned for Phoenix, Silicon Valley, Chicago, northern Virginia and New Jersey – Aligned claims that similarly sized traditional data centers would consume approximately 50 million gallons of water per year, enough for the daily water use of more than 450,000 households. Aligned utilizes an advanced refrigerant cooling system developed by sister company Inertech that the company said reduces water use by up to 85 percent and enables a guaranteed 1.15 PUE (compared with an industry average PUE of 1.3 or higher, according to Aligned).

Jason Ferrara, Aligned’s Chief Marketing Officer, told EnterpriseTech that Aligned can save customers up to 70 percent in up-front commitment costs. The key to Aligned’s lower power consumption is “conductive cooling,” which utilizes continuous-flow heat sinks that remove heat directly at the rack or aisle and transports it away via a thermal bus. This contrasts with conventional cooling systems that remove the massive amounts of heat produced in data center by drawing in huge quantities of outside air and then running large compressors and fans to generate cold air. Aligned said the technology is already in use at data centers in Santa Clara, Morrisville, NC and Rimouski, Quebec, with PUEs of 1.12 or less.

Ferrara said Aligned’s lower power costs will be attractive to organizations utilizing advanced scale computing technology because HPC is a major consumer of power in the data center. “They require being online most of the time, for things like financial or seismic modeling.” He said Aligned’s data centers accommodate the trend toward denser, high performance technology that requires smaller footprints.

The company is among several vendors attempting to shake up the $25 billion (according to global colocation industry. One of them is Israel-based Stratoscale, which recently announced what it says is the first integrated software-defined data center solution (SDDC), called Symphony, that leverages a hyperconverged architecture, supports x86-based hardware and enables organizations to build an SDDC in minutes without buying additional hardware. The company said Symphony scales from three to hundreds of nodes and leverages a single software stack.

Another is Coriant, which recently announced the Coriant Groove DCI Platform, a stackable transport solution for cloud and data center networks optimized for video and other hyper-scale Data Center Interconnect (DCI) traffic with 3.2 terabits of capacity in a 1RU form factor. Coriant says it delivers 0.45W per GbE of duplex traffic, enabling up to 70 percent lower power consumption per 100G.

Meanwhile, Panasonic in collaboration with Facebook announced last week “freeze-ray,” an optical disc-based data archive system that it said is a more efficient and sustainable way to store and access cold data -- infrequently or never accessed data stored for the long term -- in data centers. Freeze-ray reduces data center operating costs and energy use with strong data integrity, according to the companies.

"We're seeing exponential growth in the number of photos and videos being uploaded to Facebook,” said Jason Taylor, Facebook’s Vice President of Infrastructure, “and the work we’ve done with Panasonic is exciting because optical storage introduces a medium that is immutable.”

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