John Picard on How Aligned Is Accelerating the Data Center Industry Toward Sustainability

Editor’s note: John Picard is an architect, sustainability design engineer, and entrepreneur with25 years in the green building movement. He is regarded as one of the preeminent environmental consultants in North America. He serves as Aligned Data Centers’ in-house sustainability expert.

When I look back on the seven or eight seminal moments of my career thus far, I don’t focus on the things I designed and built or engineered. I think of the people. People taking bold steps toward making their companies sustainable.

Meeting Aligned founder and CEO Jake Carnemark was that kind of seminal career moment for me. Jake oversees the integrated group of forward-thinking companies that include Aligned Data Centers, Energy Metrics, Inertech, and Karbon Engineering. These companies are dedicated to solving the toughest challenges associated with data center infrastructure, energy consumption, and water usage – with the ultimate goal of substantially lowering data centers’ resource consumption.

Aligned Data Centers approaches this goal in several ways:

  • Evolving the economics of the data center model to pay-per-use
  • Using modular designs that allow customers to build out their space in increments that fit their business needs
  • Delivering an ultra-efficient cooling system

Cooling jumps ahead 100 years

Cooling has been the main culprit behind the heavy environmental footprint of data centers to date. It’s also clear that super-cooled air and water – the way traditional data centers are cooled – is inherently inefficient.

That’s where the magic happens at Aligned Data Centers, which leaves the circa 1910 chiller plant in the past in favor of an ultra-efficient, ultra-reliable new conductive cooling technology. Particularly innovative is the Cactus Cooler™ that rejects the heat outside of the building, operates in passive cooling mode most of the time (even in hot climates) for incredible efficiency gains, and uses up to 80% less water than a traditional chiller plant.

Eye-opening trip to Connecticut

The conductive cooling system is developed in Danbury, Connecticut by Inertech (an Aligned company). When I went there and first saw the conductive cooling system in action, I felt like a thousand pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. Imagine that we’re climbing Mount Sustainability. We’re at basecamp and Jake and his team are the oxygen tanks that will get us to the summit in one day.

The conductive cooling system that Aligned Data Centers employs will accelerate the industry toward sustainability. My first thought was, “Aligned has cracked the code…I’m following those guys through the door.” The team at Aligned is a beacon, calling the rest of the data industry to follow. Aligned is going to make this world a better place.


The case can be easily made that Aligned Data Centers employs one of the most highly resource-efficient cooling technologies in the world today. It is destined to help very sophisticated, very complex, data driven companies trying to improve their sustainability reports. It is a true breakthrough, by definition.

This could be a first step in a new industrial evolution that is driven by resource efficiencies. In the next industrial revolution, the gains will go to the companies that mimic nature. Because in nature there’s no waste. The companies that figure out how to waste less will be the most profitable.

I think people will someday look back on this moment and see it as one of the first big, restorative, regenerative physical moves in cooling.

Aligned Data Centers is the first pay-for-use data center provider to offer consumption-based pricing for enterprises, service providers, education institutions, and government organizations who require greater control of their data center.

Learn more about sustainability at Aligned Data Centers:

Eliminating the Cost, Time, and Physical Constraints on Innovation

SpaceX is a perfect example of the fact that true innovation, most often, means rethinking the problem. Here, learn how Aligned rethought the data center problem and eliminated cost, time-to-market, and physical space as constraints on our customers’ businesses.

Starting from scratch is liberating. It is also imperative for true innovation.

Indeed, instead of incrementally improving on what’s been done before, new entrants in many industries are taking a fresh look at the constraints that hold their customers back – and coming up with innovative ways to eliminate those constraints.

Taking control of the space race

One of the most high profile examples of the start-from-scratch approach is Elon Musk’s SpaceX. In 2012, SpaceX became the first privately funded company contracted by NASA to deliver supplies to astronauts at the International Space Station. NASA has confirmed that SpaceX will take astronauts themselves there by 2017. SpaceX also launches satellites into space for companies the likes of ORBCOMM, Iridium, and Thales Alenia Space.

How did Musk’s company, which was founded in 2002, disrupt the space industry, whose players are mostly 100-year old companies and government institutions? By being efficient and keeping the prices low. By independent estimates, SpaceX charges half as much as its main competitor.

Notably, SpaceX was able to keep costs down when others couldn’t. How? By throwing out the plans and starting over. By breaking from the traditional model and acting like a tech firm, not a 100-year old company or government agency. By focusing on new ways to solve customers’ constraints. Next step: innovate a way to actually reuse the rockets, and bring cost down even further.

SpaceX has disrupted the space industry by rethinking from beginning to end how to get payload or astronauts into space. In doing so, it has eliminated the time and cost constraints that many companies faced when thinking about getting to space. When a company can get a payload into space for half the cost, and in less time, that company has more flexibility to innovate for its own customers.

Taking control of the data center

At Aligned Data Centers, we’ve fundamentally rethought how the data center is designed, built, and operated – in order to eliminate data center cost, time-to-market, and physical space as constraints on our customers’ businesses.

Cost constraints

In a traditional data center, you have to make a big upfront capital commitment based on the capacity you think you’ll need in 5 or 10 years. And, you have to pay for the capacity you’re allocated, regardless of what you actually use. That’s tying up and wasting capital you could be using to innovate.

At Aligned Data Centers, pay-for-use pricing and a lower upfront contract commitment means you can secure the capacity you need today and pay based on what you use – so you’ve got both the IT capacity and the capital you need to innovate.

Time constraints

In a traditional data center, deploying new capacity takes months, if not years. That’s because traditional data center infrastructure like power and cooling doesn’t come in right-sized increments, and the supply chains are not set up to deliver fast. It’s hard to innovate when the data center is holding you back.

At Aligned Data Centers, deploying new capacity takes just weeks. That’s thanks to a global supply chain comprised of industry-leading electrical and mechanical system partners that are equipped to deliver just in time. And to plug-and-play electrical and mechanical infrastructure that gives you the ability to add new capacity with a simple connection. And to the capacity planning analytics that give you visibility into how much you’re using today and when you might need new capacity based on historical trends.

With Aligned, you’re no longer constrained by long data center lead times. Now you can move at the speed of innovation.

Physical constraints

In a traditional data center, even if you have visibility into capacity utilization at the rack level, your growth is constrained by available floor space and caps on density.

At Aligned Data Centers, you’re not constrained by physical space because you can scale power densities within your existing footprint. Our cooling technology is ultra-efficient, so you can scale up to 25kW per rack. And it enables multiple densities within the same row; the cooling system works as efficiently with a high-density rack next to a low-density rack. So with Aligned, your growth isn’t constrained by the physical constraints of the data center. Here, the data center keeps pace with your business.

Imagine what you could do if your data center wasn’t holding you back.

Aligned Data Centers is the first pay-for-use data center provider to offer consumption-based pricing for enterprises, service providers, education institutions, and government organizations who require greater control of their data center.