Power Reliability is a Big Driver for Aligned Data Centers in Phoenix

PHOENIX, AZ (March 16, 2016) – Arizona Public Service and Aligned Data Centers, a division of Aligned Energy, announced today an unprecedented collaboration designed to meet the changing needs of the data center industry while delivering increased reliability and enhanced power delivery to its customers.

Data centers represent large static loads on the grid which, because of the type of information they store, require higher levels of reliability and power quality than most other large users of electricity.   Aligned’s Phoenix data center, through its more robust design and unique cooperation with APS, will be able to isolate itself from the grid proactively at times of greater grid congestion. This allows APS to more effectively manage the grid and deliver greater reliability to its customers.

APS and Aligned worked to design a “next generation” microgrid. The heart of the project is a new 69-kilovolt (kV) enhanced-capability substation, located at Union Hills Drive and I-17. Four different power lines fed from three sources will bring electricity to the on-site substation – meaning if one line experiences an outage, the redundancy is already in place to ensure the data center continues to receive reliable power.

“This is a win-win initiative,” said Scott Bordenkircher, APS Director of Technology Innovation. “Our customers will see the benefits of increased reliability and power quality, and it will be more attractive for new businesses to locate to Arizona.”

Aligned Data Centers chose Phoenix as one of its core markets largely because of the attractive electricity rates and reliable energy from APS. Part of developing the area to support the new data center meant investing in this new, innovative energy generation and infrastructure upgrades. In addition to the substation, APS is working with Aligned to build a next gen 63-megawatt microgrid project, further enhancing the facility’s reliability and security.

“Our utility team worked closely with APS to engineer dedicated utility infrastructure that can accommodate the dynamic power and high-availability requirements of large enterprises and hyper-scale service providers,” says Jakob Carnemark, CEO of Aligned. “While we deliver full UPS and generator infrastructure for back-up power to our data center clients, we partnered with APS to deliver base utility power that, by itself, was more reliable than most data centers on the market today.”

Aligned Data Centers is offering the first “Pay for Use” utility model for the data center industry. “In addition to a better business model, we are driving to deliver a step function increase in the level of data center reliability, and close cooperation with the utilities is critical to that delivery,” said Aligned’s Carnemark. Aligned Data Centers’ Phoenix data center will be the largest multi-tenant data center in Arizona, capable of offering both high-availability and high-efficiency – something the current crop of data centers in Phoenix struggle to deliver. The company will be utilizing a patented heat-removal technology from sister company Inertech, which has been proven to reduce water consumption by as much as 85%.  This technology, coupled with other infrastructure enhancements, allows Aligned Data Centers to guarantee a PUE of 1.15 – the lowest in the market.

APS has taken an industry lead to find innovative ways to increase customer and system reliability, and meet future resource needs by partnering on projects like Aligned’s Phoenix data center. Construction of the substation is nearly complete, and the on-site generators are expected to be in service soon.

About APS

APS, Arizona’s largest and longest-serving electricity utility, serves nearly 1.2 million customers in 11 of the state’s 15 counties. With headquarters in Phoenix, APS is the principal subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital Corp.. (NYSE: PNW).

Press and Analyst Inquiries

Jennifer Handshew

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Mobile: +1 (917) 359-8838

Can Your Data Center Support Bimodal IT?

In the year or so since Gartner introduced the concept of bimodal IT, there has been a lot written about whether it’s a good or bad, new or old idea. But there has been much less written about how to actually implement bimodal IT. Doing so requires changes in how you hire IT professionals, how lines of business and IT communicate, how you allocate IT resource – and how you run your data center.

In my last blog post, Agile IT Becomes Stable IT – So Bimodal IT Must Be Collaborative, I shared how the only way for an IT organization to succeed in the digital age is to balance agility and stability. I’m going to assume that you’ve bought into the idea that your IT organization needs to be bimodal. Now what? In this blog post I want to focus on one element that can either undermine or support your implementation of bimodal IT: the data center.

Getting bimodal IT right is essential. Gartner has correlated a company’s ability to successfully implement Bimodal IT to how well it will perform as a digital business. In Gartner’s 2015 CIO Agenda Executive Summary (pdf) analysts explain that to grasp digital opportunities, incrementally improving IT performance isn’t enough. Gartner research also shows that CEOs expect CIOs to step up and lead the digital charge.

The role of the data center in supporting bimodal IT

What’s the role of the data center in bimodal IT? Gartner explains it well: “The data center – as the core engine delivering IT services – will need to become far more agile and responsive than it has ever been … Without adapting the mentality and approach of data centers away from continuous stability to managed change and innovation, data center managers will find it increasingly difficult to prove their value.” So what does a more agile and responsive data center look like? It provides visibility into capacity constraints and opportunities and the flexibility to do something about it.

Visibility into capacity

One of the toughest challenges for agile IT is managing capacity. The test/dev team might need 10 kW for a month while developing and then testing a new application. When the app is ready to put into production, adoption might be slow, or it might be fast – capacity needs could be 2 kW at first, or 50 kW. The most common way of dealing with that kind of capacity uncertainty is to turn to the cloud, where capacity can be provisioned or de-provisioned instantaneously.

The cloud has its benefits to be sure, but that capacity would likely be less expensive and certainly more easily managed if it were running on the company’s own IT stack. Even better, what if the agile IT team could use extra capacity from the stable IT team and run the new app on the company’s own infrastructure? Then the marginal cost of the capacity is negligible.

Of course, sharing resources between agile IT and stable IT teams (or within them, for that matter), requires deep visibility into IT capacity (you can’t manage what you can’t measure). With an accurate idea of what he’s spending now, the CIO has a better sense of where he wants to spend his next dollar. If he knows he has capacity to spare in hardware allocated for a stable IT project, he could be flexible when the agile IT and Business teams need capacity to try something out.

At Aligned Data Centers, our DCIM software enables us – and you – to closely monitor power, cooling, storage, network and compute utilization so that, together, we can better align power allocation with the needs of your business. By gathering and consolidating these utilization data from the systems and synchronizing it with financial and supply chain data, our integrated technology platform delivers real-time, predictive – actionable – intelligence. So you know where you have capacity, and when you’ll likely need more.

(It’s the same DCIM software that saved Lenovo 60-80% in power costs because of increased energy efficiency. As Lenovo technical project manager Erin Bolduc explained to Bloomberg, “The monitoring system knows if there is an idle server or rack, so we don’t cool more than we have to.” Since cooling is the single largest data center cost, the savings is huge.)

Flexibility to adjust capacity

One key reason so much capacity is stranded in traditional data centers (average utilization is 50-60%) is a lack of visibility into server-level utilization. But another reason is that even if a CIO can see where he has unused capacity, in traditional data centers power and space are statically provisioned, so it’s not possible to go back to a server and provision additional capacity that would require additional power and/or cooling.

So knowing what you are using and what capacity is available is just the beginning; once you have visibility into the data center, you need to be able to do something about it. And that’s the benefit of a data center with modular power and cooling systems that can quickly and easily be deployed where they’re needed, when they’re needed.

Having the flexibility to adjust capacity is also about being able to increase density within your existing footprint. Doing that requires power and cooling systems that can flex to handle higher IT loads. Infrastructure modularity has a benefit here as well: it allows the data center to support newer and more powerful IT gear, with new levels of power and cooling requirements, without having to retire older power and cooling infrastructure. It allows for incremental modernization, without affecting regular stable operations – that is, it supports agility and stability.

At Aligned Data Centers, flexibility to adjust capacity comes from:

  • Modular infrastructure – Modular cooling, power generation, and power distribution systems are deployable in 300 kW increments, enabling right-sized capacity on-demand
  • Rapidly scalable model – With a global supply chain comprised of industry-leading electrical and mechanical system partners, we can deploy new infrastructure in as little as 12 weeks
  • Conductive cooling technology – Using the latest cooling technology, we can support high and mixed density environments within the same row or even rack

A data center for the present, and the future

The only way for an IT organization to succeed in the digital age is to balance agility and stability. Partnering with the right data center – one that allows the CIO to fully utilize existing capacity, and scale up or modernize quickly and easily when the time comes – is essential for the organization to find long-term gains from bimodal IT.

Aligned Data Centers is uniquely equipped to deliver visibility into capacity constraints and opportunities and the flexibility to do something about it. As CIO, Rajendran Avadaiappan is responsible for overseeing the information technology and computer systems to strategically support the company’s growth and goals.

Agile IT Becomes Stable IT – So Bimodal IT Must Be Collaborative

With heavy pressures on business to be innovative, agile, and quick-to-market, today’s CIO is as much focused on technology innovation as on installing, operating, and maintaining systems. The suggestion that IT should be two teams moving at two speeds can seem attractive. Organizations must be both stable and agile, no doubt. But the best way to achieve that balance is not splitting in two. 

In 2014, Gartner started talking about the concept of “bimodal IT.” Gartner’s research had shown that the most successful organizations have two modes of IT, with different people, processes, and tools supporting each. One mode focuses on stability – that’s Mode 1, “traditional and sequential, emphasizing safety and accuracy.” The other mode focuses on agility – that’s Mode 2, “exploratory and nonlinear, emphasizing agility and speed.”

In an evolve-or-die world, bimodal IT is essential for companies to be able to respond to the threats and opportunities of the digital economy. Indeed, whether it’s enabling customer access via an app/client portal or allowing BYOD for employees, digital innovation is key for every company. But at the same time, functioning organizations need stability in business operations, not to mention areas like accounting and HR.

Bimodal IT enables the company to do both – be agile enough to exploit new business opportunities and at the same time stable enough to maintain internal systems and processes.

Not new, but increasingly essential

The ability to support existing services and respond to market opportunities has always been important for IT. But the rapid acceleration in the pace of digital change makes it imperativefor IT to be able to run at two speeds at once. As Gartner puts it, “the tension between doing things safely and scalably on the one hand, while quickly and flexibly exploring new opportunities and fending off threats on the other, has been massively amplified by the emerging digital world.”

The pressure comes in part from customers and employees who as consumers have become used to rapid technology advances from the Googles and the Facebooks of the world. We’re used to getting what we want, when we want it as consumers, and we expect to have the same when we go to work. So organizations face pressure to innovate internally from employees and externally from customers. Organizations that can’t deliver risk being outdone by competitors that can.

None of that changes the fact that IT still has to do what it has always done – maintain the ERP and CRM and all the other enterprise applications, monitor and control security incidents, keep email services up and running, ensure employees can access their work remotely, troubleshoot hardware problems, manage the network…the list is endless!

Organizations need to balance agility and stability. The risks of not getting that balance right are big. On one hand, you risk losing out to your competition because you’re not agile enough to deliver the innovation your customers and employees expect. On the other hand, you risk internal failure from not providing enough stability for internal processes.

For CIOs, it’s a double-edged sword, no doubt.

IT has to balance between stability and agility

Exactly how an organization strikes that balance depends on what stage of maturity the company is in. The goal is to balance between stability and agility, but an established company with complex systems will have a completely different path to balance than a startup will. Often, the established company needs to find ways to move faster, encourage innovation, and embrace the digital world while the young company, naturally in agile mode, needs to solidify systems and processes that add stability.

Before Aligned Data Centers, I worked at Hibu (erstwhile Yellow Book). It is certainly evolving as a digital business, but it is also a 45-year-old company with institutionalized processes, practices, and systems that are inherently very complex. We had to move toward agility to strike a balance, but we had to do so carefully, because any change we introduced had the potential to disrupt the whole system. It was essential for IT staff working on innovation and those supporting the core to work closely together to introduce innovation without destabilizing the foundation.

Now as CIO at Aligned Data Centers, I’m in a very different position. As a new data center provider with a new model and a new approach, we’re very much in agile mode. We need to remain agile to respond to our customers’ needs. But we also need foundational IT systems, processes, and technologies that are repeatable and scalable. And we need both our agile and our stable modes to be working in sync, supporting each other.

“A data center should be like a high-performing factory – churning through ever increasing volumes of data – yet at the same time like a laboratory, enabling businesses to glean valuable insights from the flood of information.”
– Gartner

Agile IT hands ideas that work over to stable IT

Gartner analyst Lydia Leong is right when she says that “agile IT doesn’t just require new technologies and new skills; it requires a different set of skills from IT professionals.” For stability – to manage existing systems, say – I need a person who’s not excited by change but rather is thrilled when the system works exactly the same way every time. For agility, I need someone very different, someone who will thrive exploring new ideas and improvising in an uncertain environment.

The process of conceiving new ideas has to be agile because the velocity of business demands that we innovate (or fail) fast. But the moment a new idea – whether it’s a new technology or a new product or a new market – works, then we want to implement it into stable, repeatable processes and systems. The common perception of lines of business is that they want IT to be agile and innovative all the time in everything. Actually, what lines of business want is IT to come up with new ideas to make the business more competitive, and yet everything else to be stable. Once a new idea works and demonstrates value to the business, lines of business tend to become very protective of it and want to keep it just the way it is – which is the right thing to do.

A friend of mine used to tell me that making money is boring, but figuring out how to make money is exciting. If you’re the kind of person who likes to be testing new ideas, then the process of trying to figure out how to make money is exciting. The ideas are flowing, you’re having a great time. But the minute you find the formula for making money, you want to solidify that formula – put systems and processes around it for stability. Then you hire people who thrive on stability to run the moneymaking systems and processes as they are, and you step aside.

The systems and processes that are developed by the “agile mode” folks and succeed will get rolled over to the “stable mode” folks. For that reason, the teams should sit next to each other and collaborate with each other. Furthermore, a bimodal mentality should be instilled throughout the organization. Operations, Finance, Sales – every business function should have people thinking about agility and people thinking about stability. Both the sides need to be synchronized and create stable progress.

As Jim Collins says in Good to Great, only agile and synchronized organizations will be able to earn disproportionate amount of wealth, and survive in the future.
Aligned Data Centers is the first pay-for-use data center provider to offer consumption-based pricing for enterprises, service providers, and governments who require greater control of their data center. As CIO, Rajendran Avadaiappan is responsible for overseeing information technology and computer systems to strategically support the company’s goals.

Hello Texas! 11 Reasons to Choose Aligned Energy in Plano

Our just-opened data center in Plano, Texas, will ultimately serve up 30 megawatts of IT capacity to enterprises, governments, service providers, and education institutions. The data center offers everything you’d expect: designed to Tier III standards, 24x7x365 access, 100% Uptime SLA. But there are other reasons to love Aligned Data Centers in Plano. They come down to experience and reliability. 

At 2800 Summit Ave., we’ve got 300,000 square feet on 16 acres that will ultimately serve up 30 megawatts of IT capacity to enterprises, governments, service providers, and education institutions. The ultra-efficient, ultra-reliable data center allows you to align your data center to your business.

Why choose Aligned Data Centers in Plano? Here are 11 reasons:

#1: The people

You’re in safe hands. A team of some of the brightest industry veterans has designed, built, and will run the Plano data center. Together, our facilities and operations management team has 300 years of experience at organizations including Google, Microsoft, HP, the U.S. Navy, and Yahoo.

Our goal with this stellar team was not to do things the way they’ve always been done. It was to break open the box and build a better data center. For you, that means more reliability, more efficiency, and a pay-for-use, consumption-based pricing model.

#2: The always-on support

We leverage an integrated controls and monitoring platform that is currently being used to manage 26 data centers and 9 million data points. We provide you with true transparency and control; your customer portal provides rack-level, real-time capacity management information. And an onsite support and operations team is available to answer your questions and address any concerns.

#3: The model

We are the first data center provider to offer pay-for-use pricing, so you can secure the capacity you need but pay for just what you use. We dynamically provision the data center to meet your needs, from 3 kW to 25 kW per rack.

#4: The reliability

Our Plano data center is certified Tier III concurrently maintainable. But we consider that table stakes; we go way beyond that requirement. Why? We deliver a better, more reliable data center to benefit you.

#5: The power infrastructure

We utilize the most energy efficient and resilient electrical and mechanical systems available on the market today, which lowers cost and boosts reliability for you. Industry-leading innovation includes inverted topology that simplifies system operation. The UPS system backs up the entire facility, including all mechanical systems and administrative space. And supporting utility infrastructure is outside of the data hall to reduce risk.

  • Utility – We have fully diverse power coming into the facility via two different routes, from two different substations.
  • Generation – Our power generation system is built for efficiency, reliability, and cost effectiveness. We have dual infrastructure monitoring, on-site and off-site. PowerSecure Power Blocks are deployed in 2,500kW increments delivering N+4 resiliency. Industry leading, mass-produced Volvo engines deliver reliability. (Our generators are 2.8 times more reliable than the diesel backup generation used for a nuclear power plant.) We have worked directly with PowerSecure to dramatically improve generator performance and speed; the parallel is less than 10 seconds (compared to at least 30 seconds in a traditional data center). And because the Power Blocks are modular, we can rapidly replace a failed section.
  • Metering – Power is metered and tracked at the rack-level to provide full visibility into utilization and energy usage.
  • Distribution – Starline electrical busways enable plug-and-play power deployments up to 25kW per rack. This highly reliable medium-voltage distribution system enables reduced costs through simpler, safer, one-person operation, and by handling more loads per unit. Circuits are scalable from high to low density. Innovative features minimize outage duration. And our relationship with the supplier enables just-in-time delivery – so you’re in control of when and how you scale.
  • UPS – The uninterruptible power supply is a utility grade system with redundant components. It is also highly efficient, running at 98.5 percent energy efficiency regardless of IT load. We use 20-year lithium ion, concurrently maintainable batteries. So where most data centers have to swap out their batteries every 5-7 years, ours run much longer. And they’re larger, so we can deploy more capacity. In addition, the UPS is modular, comprised of segregated, hot-swappable batteries so any section can be quickly replaced. And where most data centers close couple UPS to the IT load to save money, our UPS protects the entire facility, because we recognize that it’s all critical.

See for yourself – schedule a tour

#6: The cooling infrastructure

Ours is “the most reliable cooling system in the marketplace,” according to Steve Fairfax, President of MTechnology, and a specialist in data center reliability. 2N resiliency is engineered into every component of our mechanical system – so you get 2N resiliency to the rack, which is unheard of among traditional data centers. And you don’t have to sacrifice efficiency to get it: our patented conductive cooling system uses dramatically less energy and water than traditional systems –­ good for the environment, and good for your bottom line. And it’s all modular, which combined with our lean infrastructure management model means weeks not months from order to deployment.

  • Hot Aisle Containment – Provide cooling exactly where it’s needed. We utilize configurable, ultra-efficient heat sinks that can dynamically adapt cooling to match IT loads regardless of rack density.
  • Cooling Distribution Units – With a flexible design and unique mesh architecture, the cooling distribution unit is elegantly simple. Multiple 2N components and a distributed architecture removes chillers as a central point of failure and removes the risk associated with chiller upgrades. A modular, high quality piping/valving system enables the CDU to be plug-and-play. The closed-loop heat rejection system minimizes exposure to outside air in the data center. And the system relies on free cooling throughout most of the year, even in hot climates. Each cooling distribution unit is rated for 100 tons in passive cooling mode and draws only 500 watts.
  • Thermal Bus – A super-highway for heat transfer, the thermal bus is significantly more efficient at moving heat than traditional forced air systems. The modular system delivers three times more cooling capacity.

#7: The network

  • Carrier-neutral – You have access to multiple top-tier telecommunications carriers and can cross connect to your preferred carrier for free. Initial available carriers include Time Warner, Verizon, Zayo, UPN, and Level 3. The data center is designed for 12 independent carriers.
  • Multiple points of entry – Multiple, diverse fiber entry vaults ensure your applications stay online 24x7x365.
  • Meet-me-rooms – Two dedicated meet-me-rooms give carriers the capacity they need without accessing the data center space.

#8: Security

Security is an essential pre-requisite for reliability. There are five levels of security from entry to the data hall.

But tight security can be a hassle for customers when it delays getting onsite. We maintain the highest level of security while eliminating the hassle through:

  • 24x7x365 on-site security guards – These personnel are employees of Aligned Data Centers. Many former military and law enforcement, the guard staff can determine risk, make decisions, and solve problems. In case of an intrusion, the well-trained guard staff are first responders.
  • Customer defined control devices and access control lists – Multi-authentication mantraps prevent unauthorized access. RFID armbands keep track of visitors to the data center and limit access to authorized areas only.

Additional security measures include:

  • Facilitated mantraps
  • Biometric access controls
  • Verifiable, authenticated ID scanning procedure applies to every person who walks through the door
  • Perimeter fencing, guard gates, and bollards – and perimeter beam detection
  • Video surveillance
  • Onsite Operations Command Center
  • Both hard-walled suites and cages available

#9: The location

The Plano data center is 30 minutes from both the Dallas-Fort Worth (DWF) International Airport and Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL). A Central Time Zone location provides quick access to both U.S. coasts and direct flights to international destinations.

And, we’re just close enough to provide easy access to highways I-75 and I-190 (you can be in downtown Dallas within minutes) but not so close that a highway accident could affect data center operations.

#10: Expansion space

There are 218,000 square feet of space available that we can expand into as our customers’ needs grow. The onsite power substation has expansion capabilities up to 30 MW of IT load.

#11: Creature comforts

At Aligned Data Centers, keeping the data center available is our priority #1. But we haven’t ignored the people in the process. We have a concierge mindset; we anticipate what our customers need.

So at the Plano data center, 100 parking spaces and 12,000 square feet of onsite office space make it easy for our customers to do business. The space includes conference rooms, private meeting rooms, a kitchenette, and a café. And because we know that late nights at the data center do happen, we’ve got private bathrooms with showers onsite. Plus, we provide logistics support – assistance with shipping and receiving with RFID package tracking.

I hope I’ve given you a sense of the benefits the Aligned Data Centers facility in Plano provides. But really, you have to experience it for yourself. Schedule a tour.

Learn more about the Plano data center