On the Future of the Data Center – Uber’s Dean Nelson & Aligned’s Jakob Carnemark

On April 27, Aligned Data Centers opened the doors of our new Phoenix data center to a group of nearly 300 industry professionals from across the data center industry. Before hosting tours of the data center, Aligned CEO Jakob Carnemark and Dean Nelson, the head of Uber Compute, shared their thoughts on the future of the data center with Julie Albright, a USC professor whose work focuses on the social aspects of technology.

Read on for highlights from the panel discussion, with paraphrased comments from Jakob and Dean.

What are the challenges (and opportunities) associated with ‘greening’ the data center?

Jakob Carnemark, Founder and CEO of Aligned

The cloud players, especially, have made great strides in their use of renewable energy to power the data center. But the problem is that renewable energy is a dynamic supply, where data centers require stable base load energy. That creates stress on the grid and makes grid frequency very difficult to maintain, a problem exacerbated by increasingly dynamic IT loads. To help mitigate the issue, this data center [Aligned Data Centers Phoenix] can actually latch on to the grid to help keep the grid frequency at the right rate and disconnect from the grid when frequency falls too low. So imagine the reliability benefit of being able to predict when the grid is going to have an issue. It also allows for greater reliance on sustainable resources.

The other aspect of ‘greening’ the data center, in our approach, is dramatic reduction of water consumption.  Our data center can save up to 85% of the water consumed by a traditional data center of the same size (here’s why it matters). [Not to mention a dramatic reduction in energy consumption.]

Dean Nelson, Head of Uber Compute

Before we can think about ‘greening’ the data center, we have to think about availability. 99% of the world has no idea that we [data centers] exist. But they expect it to work. And when data centers go down, the impact has a domino effect. After availability, we can ask ‘Is it efficient?’ ‘Is it environmentally sustainable?’ We’re responsible for all three.

Infrastructure Masons (a global data center industry group) recently released a first iteration of the Data Center Performance Index (DCPI), which focuses on the actual performance of data centers from those three standpoints. The DCPI is designed to let data center consumers see what they’re getting with one provider versus another on those three metrics of availability, efficiency, and environmental sustainability.

“Data center builders and operators, we are infrastructure masons. We are the builders of the digital age.” – Click to Tweet

What is your prediction for the future of the data center?

Jakob Carnemark

If you look at the innovation happening right now – from Amazon using drones for delivery to Uber’s self-driving cars, and so many other examples of technological innovation – we haven’t even gotten started with the growth of the data center industry. Consider 8K video, a doubling of bandwidth, which alone will result in a huge increase in data center demand. We really are just at the beginning of the data center industry’s growth.

“If you look at the amount of growth that’s about to happen in data – and data centers – we’re just at the beginning.” – Click to Tweet

Dean Nelson

The rapid pace of innovation is going to continue to escalate. In the last two years alone we’ve generated more data than in the entire history of the world before that. The amount of data is insane. And looking to the next decade, we’re going to have a much, much larger increase in compute even than we’ve seen in the last years because of the trends that Jakob referenced.

The huge increase in compute is going to strain data centers and strain resources. But there is a tremendous opportunity to innovate the data center to reliably, efficiently, and sustainably support the future.


The Data Center Must Evolve

Just because data centers have always been designed, built, and operated one way doesn’t mean they can’t change. The data center should and will evolve. Here, discover what an evolved data center looks like, what it means for you as a data center consumer, and how it can be delivered.

Cloud computing and the Internet of Things start with the data center. So data centers need to be ready for the digital tsunami heading their way.

That’s the conclusion of an April 2015 study by research firm IDC, which analyzed the growing impact of IoT on data center demand and operation worldwide. The amount of multi-tenant data center capacity that is consumed by IoT workloads will increase nearly 750 percent between 2014 and 2019, according to IDC forecasts.

Will the data center be ready?

The rapid expansion of IoT to enhance existing products, deliver new services, and transform entire industries will be a major driver of technology investment in the coming decade, says IDC. But investment isn’t enough. The data center – the foundation for our digital world – needs more than new investment. For data centers to manage the coming digital tsunami, the data center needs to evolve.

There are other trends that demand an evolved data center model, as well. For one, there has been a sea change in how we consume and pay for things. From music to TV, as consumers we’ve become used to buying just what we want, when we want. Where you used to have to buy a whole album to get the one song you wanted, now you can buy just that one song. Where you used to have to buy all 189 cable channels just to get one, now you can stream your favorite shows online.

The change in how we consume entertainment is part of a broader evolution in how we consume – and, accordingly, pay for – most things at home and at work. As we move from pay-to-own to pay-for-access, we get more choices, more control. Paying just for what you use feels right.

Indeed, there’s something profoundly unfair – and wasteful – about a model in which the provider tells you what you will consume, when and where, and how much you will pay for it. Yet as long as the industry has existed, that’s been the data center model. Traditional data centers force you to predict how much power you might consume 5-10 years from now (an impossible feat) – and pay for it today, regardless of how much power you actually consume.

Beyond a coming digital tsunami and a sea change in how we consume and pay for things, a third trend that demands an evolved data center model is the misalignment between IT infrastructure costs and data center infrastructure costs. Twenty-five year ago, power and cooling infrastructure was a fraction of the total capital outlay required for a data center and the cost of IT infrastructure was a far greater portion of data center costs than today. When power and cooling costs were low, efficiencies were secured by adding equipment to create redundancies. But in the late 1990s, the cost of power and cooling infrastructure outpaced the cost of IT infrastructure. That calls for new ways of thinking.

It’s an issue that has, appropriately, made its way to the boardroom. According to McKinsey, “With average data center costs now threatening to crowd out other technology investments, the matter has become a board level concern.” There has to be a way to change the data center infrastructure cost and efficiency trajectories – bring costs down and efficiencies up – or else the Internet of Things, cloud, and the other trends driving increasing capacity demand could become too heavy for enterprises to bear.

The data center should, and will, evolve.

Enter Aligned Data Centers

Aligned Data Centers is the first to bring an evolved data center model to the marketplace. It’s a model where:

  • Reliability and efficiency co-exist. You don’t need to sacrifice efficiency to have redundancy; you can reduce cost and maintain uptime.
  • Supply and demand align. Data center capacity can be deployed quickly and in increments that match demand. You no longer need to over-provision ahead of current demand.
  • Power densities can scale within your existing footprint. There is no need to move out of your data center to support your new power hungry IT gear. Stay right where you are – your data center is now future-proof.
  • You pay for what you use. If you use less than you need, you won’t be penalized. Pay-for-use is the modus operandi for most “as-a-service” offerings today. The data center is no longer the exception.

So what does an evolved data center look like? Broadly, it’s a data center that rationalizes costs with modern power and cooling infrastructure. It’s a data center that is aligned with the needs of the business and its environment. It’s a data center that is flexible, so the infrastructure can scale to meet IT demand today and tomorrow. And it’s a data center that is consumed on a pay-for-use basis.

You no longer need to be confined by the constraints of traditional data center infrastructure, providers, and pricing. With Aligned Data centers you now have an option. You can deploy the data center capacity you need when you need it and pay for what you use. You can improve reliability and cut cost. You can reduce the risk of making long-term commitments based on the unknown. You can free up stranded capital that could add value to other areas of your business. With Aligned Data Centers, you are in control of your data center.

Learn more. Check out the The Data Center Must Evolve Insight Brief.

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.

Kirk Offel in Mission Critical Magazine: Capacity Planning in the Age of the Cloud

Quick take

  • Kirk Offel, Executive Vice President of Platform Delivery at Aligned, explores how capacity planning is different in the age of the cloud.
  • As alternatives to on-premises data centers, colocation and cloud enable new approaches to capacity planning. It’s a hybrid approach, where end-users allow the risk tolerance of each application to drive the what-goes-where decision.
  • Retail colocation. Wholesale colocation. Managed services. Cloud. At the right data center, an enterprise end-user can access all of these under one roof.

The need to deploy new services and products quickly and efficiently is driving changes in how cloud service providers and enterprise end-users plan for their capacity needs. On-premises. Colocation. Cloud. More and more, organizations are taking a hybrid approach to which platform they use, allowing the risk tolerance of each application to drive the what-goes-where decision.

In the March/April issue of Mission Critical magazine, Aligned’s Kirk Offel, Executive Vice President of Platform Delivery, explores how these new options are driving a hybrid approach to high-performance infrastructure. A world with these new options, he explains, demands a new way of looking at capacity planning.

Getting to the cloud

Most enterprises (80%, according to 451 Research) still operate the majority of their data centers on-premises, Kirk explains. Yet for new capacity, they more often turn to colocation, and are increasingly moving to a more right-sized colocation approach and using cloud service providers when extra capacity is needed.

Kirk describes a “crawl, walk, run” path for enterprise end-users to get to the cloud. The first step is to “dip a toe in the off-premises water with a retail colocation provider for a non-mission critical application like disaster recovery.” The second step is to take down more capacity from a wholesale colocation provider. The third step: “layer in managed services to test the cloud.” Finally, “when end users succeed with initial applications in the cloud, they can think about moving production to the cloud as well.”

Getting to the cloud doesn’t mean that end users abandon colocation entirely, Kirk says, but rather that they have some applications in a wholesale colocation model, some in managed services, and some in the cloud – that is the hybrid approach. Determining the mix of applications distributed in a hybrid model is an art form based on an understanding of the risk tolerance of the application and aggregate volume.

“On-premises. Colocation. Cloud. More and more, organizations are taking a hybrid approach to which platform they use.” –Click to tweet

The ‘home of everything’ data center

Kirk, who is responsible for continuing to expand Aligned’s service offering to large cloud players and enterprise end-users, writes: “Hybrid doesn’t have to mean complex. Once enterprise end-users move off-premises, a single facility can allow them to match applications to platforms, from retail colocation and wholesale colocation to managed services and cloud.”

But that single facility, what Kirk calls the “home of everything” data center, has to be adaptive, meaning:

  1. Intelligent infrastructure that is responsive, dynamic, scalable, and flexible; able to respond to real-time dynamic workloads and support high, mixed, and variable power densities to serve both cloud service providers and enterprise end-users.
  2. An infrastructure optimization platform that offers clear visibility into both current state and predictive analysis.
  3. A data center culture of innovation – a mindset that pushes for better, simpler, more efficient solutions and keeps a focus on customers’ business goals.

To learn more about the new approach to capacity planning, one fit for the age of the cloud, read Kirk’s full article in Mission Critical magazine.

The Network’s Role in an Adaptive Data Center: Recap

March 30, 2017

Aligned’s CIO writes about networks in adaptive data centers as part of Data Center Frontier’s Voices of the Industry series.

Quick take

  • Rajendran Avadaiappan, Aligned’s CIO, is featured on Data Center Frontier’s Voices of the Industry series, where he explores the benefits of adaptiveness in network infrastructure.
  • An adaptive network can offer benefits similar to those delivered by the cloud.
  • See the full article for more on how an adaptive network can facilitate innovation and growth.

Aligned’s CIO Rajendran Avadaiappan is the latest contributor to Data Center Frontier’s Voices of the Industry series. With Voices of the Industry, DCF taps the experience of data center executives on the front lines of innovation and market dynamics and shares their insights with readers.

In The Network’s Role in Adaptive Data Centers, Raj explains that there is a lot of talk about dynamic infrastructure in terms of data center power and cooling systems – because that is where the biggest upfront cost is. But the concept applies to the network, too. “Just as there are tremendous benefits in terms of cost, reliability, and flexibility when power and cooling infrastructure are adaptive, the same benefits can be realized when network infrastructure is adaptive.”

“A truly adaptive network enables businesses to respond to changes in technologies and in customer demands.” – Click to tweet

One of the chief benefits of the cloud is its flexibility, Raj says. The cloud enables innovation and growth because users can provision the compute, storage, and network resources they need without regard to how utilized the data center is from a power, space, or network perspective. But the data center can help facilitate innovation and growth in the same way. As Raj writes:

“Data center infrastructure (power, cooling, and network) can be designed to adapt – expand or scale – as technology and business needs change. It is dynamic infrastructure for a dynamic world – a data center with power, cooling, and network infrastructure that doesn’t have to be fully built on Day 1. It can be added or reconfigured as the needs of its users change.”

Raj explores how block-like network infrastructure improves scalability. Another element of scalability, he says, is the network’s ability to support more traffic through each port. And a third: “the ability to flexibly associate or dissociate a particular server or port into a network or out of a network.” He discusses how the challenge in achieving that kind of scalability is often the “last mile” connections between the local carrier hotel and the data center, and how to overcome that challenge.

“Dynamic infrastructure is designed specifically to adapt as the world adapts, to remove the burden of static legacy infrastructure.” – Click to tweet

Want to know more about the benefits of an adaptive network? Read Raj’s full Voices of the Industry article on Data Center Frontier.

Data Center Frontier Executive Roundtable Recap, Part 2: Cloud, Renewable Energy, Modular

Quick take

  • Aligned’s founder and CEO Jakob Carnemark joined a panel of five data center executives to talk about industry predictions for 2017.
  • The other executives were Robert McClary, Chief Operating Officer for FORTRUST; Dan Papes, Senior Vice President, Global Sales & Marketing at Digital Realty; Rick Crutchley, Chief Operating Officer of IO; and Brian Kortendick, Vice President of Market Development for BASELAYER.
  • The Executive Roundtable discussed:
    • Where enterprise data will reside as the cloud continues its evolution toward a multi-cloud future
    • The best ways for service providers to provide renewable energy
    • How the growth of edge computing and the IoT will increase the need to deploy infrastructure in smaller chunks

This is a recap of a series of articles that first appeared on Data Center Frontier as part of the site’s Executive Roundtable: Data Center Trends to Watch in 2017

Aligned’s founder and CEO Jakob Carnemark joined a panel of five data center executives recently to share their thoughts on trends that will shape the data center industry in 2017.

The Data Center Frontier Executive Roundtable showcases the insights of thought leaders on the state of the data center industry, and where it is headed. In an earlier blog post, we summarized the overarching thoughts the executives had about 2017 trends. This blog post summarizes what they said about cloud, renewable energy, and modular data centers.

Aligned CEO Jakob Carnemark on the enterprise cloud

“The adoption of hybrid platforms will continue to increase as companies seek to balance cost efficiency and scale through the application lifecycle. The ability to drive seamless orchestration across platforms will be a critical need for businesses.”

“Aligned is focused on supporting next-generation capabilities such as application defined networks and advanced DCIM platforms so that our physical infrastructure – from the network to the data center – can be orchestrated by cloud and large enterprise clients.”

Learn more about how we deliver for cloud providers: A Cloud-like Data Center for Cloud Providers.

Jakob Carnemark on renewable energy

“More so than ever, the data center industry and large cloud players are focused on drastically curbing their data center water and energy use and moving to fully offset their carbon footprint with green power projects rather than just looking for carbon credits. Aligned is continually looking to create and help foster the adoption of new technologies.”

“For example, we recently partnered with Swedish-based Climeon to bring a new green technology to the U.S. More than 50% of the world’s energy is exhausted to the environment as low-grade heat (below 190 degrees F), effectively making waste heat a largely available but unused resource. We now offer a new heat-to-power system that generates 100% green electricity from this low-grade waste heat (think steam from your cup of coffee).”

Learn more about our partnership with Climeon: A Breakthrough in Carbon-Neutral Power Production from a Reusable, Available Source.

“Innovation is always an evolutionary process, and we must continue to identify new solutions and technologies that will create new green power sources for the benefit of the planet and each other.”

Learn more about how Aligned technology reduces data center energy consumption by up to 80% and reduces data center water consumption by up to 85.

Jakob Carnemark on the modular data center

“Modular solutions continue to evolve. We seek to deliver the data center as a utility. We believe the right goal of modularity is to deliver the lowest cost of a kWh of compute power on a utilized basis on demand. Many current approaches to modularity actually dramatically increase stranded capacity and thus cost. The key here is the result, not the approach.”

PUE: What IT Ops & Facilities Leaders Need to Know

Quick take

  • As you look to shortlist colocation providers, PUE should be a factor that you compare providers on. But take care, as things aren’t always as they seem.
  • 8 PUE questions to ask when comparing colocation providers will help you trust, but verify PUE claims. Learn more about PUE and keeping your costs in check in our new white paper

Have you ever had trouble evaluating the PUE claims of different colocation data centers?

You’re not alone.

Understanding the energy efficiency of one data center compared to another is made difficult by a lack of transparency into what metric is used. Without a consistent definition of PUE, and a standard for how it is measured, it is very difficult to compare the efficiency level (which ties directly to cost) of one data center to another.

It matters more than you might realize.

After all, power is by far the largest operating expense you’ll pay in the data center. And 40% of enterprise IT managers are paying more for colocation contracts than they had initially planned or expected, according to the Uptime 2016 Survey.

The fact is that when measuring data center energy efficiency, both annualized PUE and peak PUE matter – for different reasons.

8 PUE questions to ask when comparing colocation providers

Arming yourself with an understanding of annualized PUE and peak PUE – and how they impact you – is the first step toward being able to make a true apples-to-apples comparison between data center providers. Then, when you go shopping for that new colocation provider, ask these 8 questions:

  1. What is the annualized PUE of the data center facility I’m considering? How is that annualized PUE calculated?
  2. What is the peak PUE of the data center facility I’m considering? How is that peak PUE calculated?
  3. For both annualized PUE and peak PUE:
    • How was the data collected?
    • From what type of equipment was the data collected?
    • What is the timeframe covered by the reported value?
    • At what frequency were the individual data points collected?
  4. Is PUE used to determine my monthly energy costs? What is the fine print around what PUE I’ll actually be charged on?
  5. Is a certain annualized PUE guaranteed in the service level agreement (SLA)?
  6. How much of utility load goes to mechanical overhead? How much to electrical overhead?
  7. What about your technology drives energy efficiency?
  8. What mechanism do you have for me to see real-time and historical PUE data?

Learn more about the importance of PUE and what it measures in the white paper Comparing PUE Between Colocation Data Centers – And Why It Matters.

In the white paper, you’ll learn:

  • The difference between annualized PUE and peak PUE, and why it matters. (Annualized PUE impacts operational costs; peak PUE affects capital costs and your ability to scale up IT load within a data center.)
  • The technology behind our industry-leading 1.15 annualized PUE, which yields a 32% savings over a high-end data center.