At a panel session at INCOMPAS, Nancy Casados, CEO of 2210 Cortez joined Anthony Kewitsch, Co-Founder and CEO of Telescent to discuss and share perspectives on the evolving landscape of the data center industry, and what is needed to rethink data center design for the immediate future and beyond. 

Traditional Data Center Design  

As it stands today, in a typical data center there are servers where potentially four or five cabinets are required in order to secure a standard deployment. Single one rack unit servers can output more power today than older cabinets of the past. In addition, with recent advancements in automation, technology, and AI, the data center industry is on a new path to growth.

In some data center facilities, one could find a whole floor with just one rack deployed. As data center operators have moved away from copper and pivoted to fiber, they’ve experienced some key benefits, including much lower power consumption and higher bandwidth. This allows data center tenants to get a dense server rack that could fill a whole floor. 

With recent advancements in technology, higher amounts of capacity can be output through smaller racks, lowering total costs and the ability to run open-source software on it. This advantage allows tenants to scale and grow within a data center facility.

The Shift of Power Across the Data Center Industry

To alleviate issues where data centers might not have enough power, operators are looking at other ways of producing more power within facilities. Solar wind farms are a newer potential option that data center facilities can seek to reduce power costs, in addition to gaining more power capabilities.

Data centers typically consume a significant amount of power, which has led operators to also consider the possibility of automating and switching fibers, which can allow for increased power savings and efficiency. To add, operators are also looking at new technologies associated with water cooling to reduce power consumption and pass on those savings to their customers. 

A key way data center operators are reducing power consumption is by having their connectivity in fiber without the need for internet routers or switches. Through the actual fiber switching layer, the burden of electronic switching is reduced so that operators can operate at higher utilization. 

The days without internet routers or switches are over. As more and more of this is done at the actual fiber switching layer, it reduces the burden on all of the electronic switching that’s needed. By having the ability to switch, enterprises can operate at higher utilization. 

Typically, hyperscalers build with a power perspective in mind and in most cases run at 10-20% utilization. So capacity gets lost when hyperscalers operate this way. The benefit of having an agile connection as a result of fiber switching, hyperscalers could be operating at much higher utilization. 

For example, Telescent’s automated cross-connect solution offers almost no power consumption with its fiber switching. Their solution consumes 20 watts with a maximum usage of 500 watts when the automated systems are reconfiguring. The system sleeps and connections are not being changed within the fiber which allows for low power consumption.

Data Center Infrastructure and Architecture

Given the rise of AI in applications as well as physical hardware, companies’ perspectives are shifting toward AI and toward driving applications. For example, many enterprises are focusing on GPUs as opposed to CPUs in dense racks. 

On top of AI, power again is another key driver for data center operators. When it comes to site selection, location plays a significant factor. Being located near a power grid or preexisting facilities that could be easily repurposed for increased power efficiency is a big plus, as data centers can reduce total costs and pass on saving to their customers. 

For example, Quantum Loophole, an innovative developer of first-of-its-kind Gigawatt-scale master planned data center communities, has repurposed an aluminum smelter with one-gigawatt power capacity that had not been used in the past decade. The company was able to repurpose the facility to enable power efficiency from the start without having to build new infrastructure. By supplementing these existing facilities, adding battery backup, and the additional possibility of adding in solar power on top, there is now an abundance of power resource options to increase power efficiency and to reduce costs. 

Additionally, Start Campus is a prime example of how industry leaders are re-approaching the site selection process. Start Campus is dedicated to the innovation of data center design, and building 100% green energy ecosystems. They are taking steps to achieve this goal through the repurposing of existing energy grid facilities, utilizing the ocean for a state-of-the-art cooling solution, as well as their solar parks, backed by batteries and green PPAs, to optimize costs. By locating some facilities outside of large metro regions, Start Campus has continued to make a positive impact on net contributions by providing a new industry within local communities, complete with employment and new skills.

To summarize, there are many facets to consider with the evolution of data center design and infrastructure. Power is often the main point of focus for companies, and shifts in technology are driving enterprises to rethink their design choices. The optimization of power sources will be fascinating to watch, from the repurposing of existing facilities, to utilizing AI, to reducing power consumption with automating switching. These potential routes may serve as the next key for facilities and hyperscalers looking to grow and evolve.