The Data Center Frontier Executive Roundtable features insights from industry executives with lengthy experience in the data center industry. Here’s a look at the insights from Joel Stone of RagingWire Data Centers.
Joel Stone is Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of RagingWire Data Centers, one of the top wholesale data center providers in the U.S. and part of NTT Communications with 140 data centers worldwide. Joel is a proven operations leader in the data center, IT infrastructure, and telecommunications industries with global experience at CenturyLink, Global Switch in London, and Microsoft.
Here’s the full text of Joel Stone insights from our Executive Roundtable for the second quarter of 2016:
Data Center Frontier: In the first half of 2016 we’ve seen unusually strong demand for wholesale data center space from cloud builders and Internet enterprises. Is this a short-term phenomenon, or is cloud growth fueling a long-term shift toward larger requirements?
Joel Stone: To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “I think, it’s both – both are happening at the same time.”
From a technology perspective, we are living in truly historic times. The cloud is a disruptive force that is changing our lives. Data centers are the home of the cloud.
Yes, these massive wholesale deployments of 5, 10, and even more megawatts may be part of short term response to the rapid adoption of cloud computing. But, these deals also represent a broader trend towards scale computing that occurs most efficiently in wholesale data centers.
These large wholesale deals are typically not installed completely on Day 1. They ramp up over time. Once established, these large footprint deployments will continue to grow. In addition I expect to see more 1-4 megawatt deals particularly to support enterprise companies as they migrate out of in-house data centers and into hybrid cloud environments.
Data Center Frontier: A growing number of data center providers are embracing renewable energy. Is it becoming easier to procure renewables at a scale and price that makes sense for data centers? Which approaches hold the most promise?
Joel Stone: Increasing the usage of renewable energy in data centers requires a close partnership between the data center provider and the energy utility.
Our experience is that the technical challenges of producing and distributing renewable energy are well understood and attracting innovation. The next step on the journey to renewables will be more about contracts, regulation, and pricing.
For example, we work closely with Dominion Virginia Power to support our Ashburn Virginia data center campus. Dominion has been an excellent partner to the data center industry, providing electricity that is reliable, cost effective, and available. Dominion is now partnering with the data center industry to create new “green tariffs” and power purchase agreements that can enable data center companies to target the usage of renewable energy as part of their overall draw and retain competitive pricing. Under these new agreements, Dominion provides the energy management services and administration. The data center company makes a commitment to renewables through specific green energy projects such as wind and solar. Here’s a blog posting about this new initiative by Dominion Virginia Power.
Data Center Frontier: In recent years, the data center industry has made solid progress on energy efficiency. What are the most promising opportunities and strategies for continued improvement?
Joel Stone: The next wave of energy efficiency in data centers will be in the cooling systems required to run servers, storage, and network device at optimal performance. The goal is to leverage the most efficient cooling systems based on targeted airflows and heat transfer combined with reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from using less energy.
We see three areas of innovation in data center energy efficiency:
Less Water. Traditional cooling methods consume large amounts of water or use refrigerant which can cause environmental damage due to its ozone depletion and global warming potential. Newer technologies such as the Kyoto wheel are proving themselves to be worthy additions to the mechanical systems of data centers. Warm air passes through the wheel transferring the heat to the outside air and using conduction to cool the air that is returned to the data center.
More Air. Our data centers are being designed for the most productive use of air flow. Massive fan walls and sophisticated duct work designed with advanced computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models are used to target cool air to specific hot spots. We use high ceilings of 20 feet or higher to draw warm air up away from the server racks. We deploy specialized floor tiles to deliver concentrated air flows, as well as hot aisle and cold isle containment systems to maximize cooling.
Efficiencies of Scale and Automation. The combination of scalability and automation creates a “sense and respond” data center that is continually adapting to conditions inside and outside of the data center and adjusting to the needs of the computing systems in the facility. Variable speed fans allow for maximum efficiency across a broad range of IT loads.
Data Center Frontier: New technologies like the Internet of Things, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are generating excitement in the technology world. What are the implications of these new technologies for the data center sector?
Joel Stone: The next era in computing is going to be about scale. In this new era, those of us in technology will be responding to the disruptions of cloud computing and the internet by delivering at-scale computing solutions that are better, faster, and cheaper than currently available approaches. The winners will be those companies that use scale efficiencies to provide solutions with operational “pay as you go” economics versus traditional capital-intensive “pay up front” business models.
Internet of Things, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and other technologies will drive the need for scale and efficiency. What is exciting is that these new technologies have moved from theory to practice. They are creating tangible value for users. Whether it’s IoT sensors collecting weather data from around the world, or a new multi-player VR game, or an AI system used to track and predict consumer behaviors – these apps are becoming part of our lives. This user demand is driving the data center industry and creating opportunities for data center providers.