Data centers represent the intersection of real estate, technology and energy. Many of the industry’s largest builders of data center space are structured as real estate investment trusts (REITs).
Getting the real estate piece right is important to Jakob Carnemark, the founder and CEO of Aligned Energy. But Carnemark believes that technology is a key differentiator for Aligned, which has just opened the doors on its second data center in Phoenix.
“There’s a significant opportunity to make facilities more efficient and allow them to support more IT load,” said Carnemark.
Aligned’s data center design enables tenants to put low-density and high-density racks next to one another in a data hall, a configuration which is problematic in many design scenarios. “In our Plano facility we have some clients coming in at 3 kW a rack and some that are 10 times that,” said Carnemark.
Aligned Energy launched its first data center in Plano, Texas last year, and held a grand opening for its Phoenix facility last week. Situated on a 51-acre campus, the new 550,000 square foot Phoenix data center offers 62 megawatts of IT power for its first phase, and is expandable up to 120 megawatts at full build.
Bringing Efficiency to Scale
Building big is just part of the story. The key to Aligned’s approach is making efficient use of the space inside those large buildings, emphasizing granular control of the cooling costs and customer footprint. It describes its design as an “adaptive data center” and focuses on eliminating waste and inefficiency in data center design and operations, especially in cooling.
Aligned Energy embraces the idea that data centers are the power plants of the 21st century, and reside on the front lines of a new Digital Age bringing profound social, economic, and environmental impact.
“The kind of growth projected for the digital economy is simply unsustainable without dramatic improvements in data center efficiency,” said Carnemark. “We believe providing truly reliable, critical infrastructure is no longer enough. Our mission is to make critical infrastructure smart enough to continuously improve its economic performance and environmental impact, delivering a tremendous business advantage for our customers.”
Aligned has leased the first data hall in its Plano facility and launched in Phoenix with a customer using 3 megawatts of power. Carnemark says his approach is appealing to hyperscale data center customers.
Efficiency Across All Climates
“What we’ve found is that the large hyperscale and cloud players are looking for a suite of solutions and more of a partner,” said Carnemark. “We’re more focused on the larger projects because our platform scales better on larger chunks of infrastructure. There’s a lot of benefits to partnering with large enterprises and larger providers.”
Building its first two data centers in warm climates showcases the adaptability of Aligned’s technology. “We have a unique advantage in warmer climates,” said Carnemark. “We have great PUEs and efficiency, even in hot climates. We have been enabling existing chiller plants to do higher density and better electrical efficiency.”
Aligned says its cooling system can deliver a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.15 in any climate. That’s a function of years of advanced research and development in a facility in Danbury, Ct. operated by Inertech, a business unit of Aligned that has developed modular containment systems to deliver efficient cooling. Inertech describes its approach as a “dynamic fit” passive cooling system that offers a more flexible approach than other modular data center designs.
The refrigerant-based cooling system has multiple components, which include:
- A rack enclosure using hot aisle containment.
- A cooling unit known as an eSync that sits atop the enclosure.
- A cooling distribution unit (CDU).
- A pump house that provides low-energy pumps.
- A “cactus cooler” unit that rejects the heat outside the building.
The eSYNC cooling unit sits on top of the enclosure, and uses a refrigerant system and heat sink to cool exhaust heat from the hot aisle and return it to the front of the enclosure and the server inlets. The refrigerant is pumped by a cooling distribution unit (CDU) with a heat exchanger that allows the system to use free cooling – tapping cool outside air to support the cooling system.Aligned Energy CEO Jakob Carnemark: We have a unique advantage in warmer climates. Click To Tweet
There are two cooling coils in the eSync unit, which uses variable speed fans and is supported by two separate CDU loop for refrigerant to create 2N reliability. There’s no water in the data hall, and the system can handle up to 50kW in power density per cabinet.
Managing density is increasingly important, according to Carnemark, who said large cloud service providers are seeing their average rack densities rise above 10kW a cabinet, into a range closer to 12 kW to 15 kW per cabinet. “We are seeing HPC racks actually drawing above 30 kW a rack,” he said. “In Plano, we’re yielding about 225 watts per square foot.”
Aligned emphasizes intelligent infrastructure, with a focus on innovation in data center design, and optimization through Aligned’s Data Center Services Optimization (DCSO) software portal. It is also exploring new strategies to save energy through a partnership with Swedish energy company Climeon, which aims to harness low-grade waste heat and convert it into green energy.
It’s a differentiated approach, as reflected in Aligned’s description of itself as an “infrastructure technology company” that focuses on colocation and data centers.
“When people walk through our facility, it looks like a traditional data center to many people,” said Carnemark. “Anytime you start out with something new, there’s always a learning curve. The tech-savvy clients appreciate what we’re doing. We’re finding a pretty strong resonance that they appreciate our technology-driven perspective on the market, instead of just a real estate approach.”
The company’s early leasing wins in two highly-competitive data center markets have reinforced its view that customers are becoming more sophisticated in the management of their data center footprints.
“There’s no question that it’s a competitive market, but we’ve been getting our fair share of work,” said Carnemark. “We’re not going to take over the world, but we’re getting our fair share of deals. The market fundamentals and access to capital are still very strong.”
Carnemark’s vision for Aligned includes data centers in the top six markets in the U.S., suggesting further expansion lies ahead.
“We’re leasing up Plano and Phoenix, and in the process of site selection in other markets,” said Carnemark. “We expect to be expanding in those markets pretty soon. It will be at the right time.”