ASHBURN, Virginia-Looking at the towering cooling wall in Aligned Energy's newest data center, Andrew Schaap looks to the future. The company's facility here in Ashburn, which opened this week, is the biggest step yet towards its vision of building intelligent infrastructure in the largest data center markets.
For Schaap, CEO ofAligned Energy, the giant wall is a showcase of the company's Delta Cube technology, which cools high-density workloads and can be expanded to provide even more cooling in the same space. Aligned says its cooling system provides "future-proofing" for its customers, who have a hard time predicting how much IT capacity they will need.
Artificial intelligenceand other next-generation technologies are raising the stakes for data center customers in the hyperscale and enterprise sectors. The Delta Cube is at the heart of Aligned's approach to solving the capacity planning challenge, enabling a flexible design that can increase throughput capacity as a customer adds servers, even within their existing footprint.
Aligned Ashburn brings the company's technology to the industry's most competitive market. Ashburn is home to Data Center Alley, the hub of Northern Virginia's vast cloud computing infrastructure. The Aligned project is located at a major crossroads of power and fiber, less than a kilometer from Equinix's Ashburn campus, where the world's leading networks converge.
Stepping onto the biggest stage in the industry, Aligned is building big and fast. It plans to deploy approximately 1 million square feet of data center space and 180 megawatts of power capacity at Quantum Park, the historic former campus of UUNet, which has been a major hub since the dawn of the Internet.
The first building occupies an area of 368,755 square feet and will support 60 megawatts of capacity. The 12-megawatt first phase, which includes two new data rooms, was completed in less than six months.
"Aligned Ashburn is among the fastest building permit operations in the history of Ashburn's critical infrastructure, providing critical capacity in record time to meet Ashburn's growing need for high-efficiency, high-density, scalable colocation solutions." said Schaap.
Smart infrastructure, efficient growth
Ashburn's opening on Monday ended a flurry of expansion news for Aligned. Last week, he announced that he would expand hisData center location in Plano, Texas, where Aligned will add 8 megawatts of capacity to the 19-acre property north of Dallas. The company also operates data center campuses in Phoenix and Salt Lake City, and the Ashburn location represents Aligned's first major East Coast presence.
Aligned's growth was aided by the financial strength of Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, the giantInfrastructure Fundthis is the company's main creditor (BlueMountain Capital and Goldman Sachs are also investors). The entry of Macquarie and othersbig global investorsis changing the way datacenters are built, powered and financed. Aligned aims to be at the forefront of this trend and builds on Macquarie's experience and connections.innovations in your supply chainBuild faster and more efficiently.
According to Schaap, these supply chain efficiencies, combined with Macquarie's ability to fund growth at attractive rates, have helped Aligned compete with the game's biggest players. North America Data Centers, which tracks wholesale data center rental activity,reportedthat Aligned signed five leases of 2 megawatts or more in 2018, including deals with some of the biggest hyperscale companies.
With a focus on "smart infrastructure", Aligned specializes in solving capacity management challenges through innovations in refrigeration and supply chain. Aligned's offering is positioned to appeal to technology-focused customers, particularly growing Internet companies.
Aligned's focus on intelligent infrastructure drew interest from hyperscale players early on, but Schaap says he's now seeing increased interest from enterprise customers whose data center needs have been complicated by emerging technologies, including ASI.Internet of Things,expanded reality. Many also struggle with an active procurement environment that can drive IT consolidations.
The front facade of the Aligned Ashburn data center in Ashburn, Virginia. (Photo: Aligned)
Exclusive, not out
Schaap says the company's cooling technology will allow customers to "scale up" by adding power capacity rather than more space, accommodating up to 50 kW per cabinet in IT equipment. Aligned describes its design as an "adaptive data center" that allows tenants to juxtapose low-density and high-density racks in a data room, a configuration that is often problematic.
The cooling wall in the 25,000 square foot data room at Aligned Ashburn illustrates the concept. Fan walls have been used in data centers for at least a decade, and several major companies are using the technology, including Microsoft. The design draws air to one side of the data room and uses fans to maintain the desired temperature and air pressure throughout the space.
Aligned adds some new folds to allow for extensibility and power density. Ashburn's cooling wall features vertical stacks of Delta Cube cooling units, approximately 4 feet wide, that house multiple fan coil units, allowing them to cool workloads of up to 50kW per cabinet. The wall also provides space to install additional rows of Delta Cube units, providing additional capacity in the data room. According to Aligned, the system can handle a Delta-T (the difference between cold supply air and hot return air from the server exhaust) of up to 45 degrees.
This ability to scale locally without having to reconfigure existing infrastructure is key to Aligned's value proposition. The company says it can deliver a low PUE (Efficiency in Energy Use, an important energy efficiency metric) of 1.15 while using less water than many other cooling designs.
Alignment, front and center
Aligned's Ashburn campus will include three buildings on 26 acres surrounding Quantum Park, which is also home to a large Verizon office complex. The company's growth will be supported by the construction of a substation by Dominion Power on adjacent property.
Showing a visitor the new building days before opening, Schaap looks at the many ways the company embodies its "aligned" philosophy and seeks to connect with customer goals for both its business and its technology. The conference room's glass walls display messages about the many facets of programming the company is trying to deliver. The walls are adorned with murals representing the Aligned logo and values.
A presence in Virginia gives Aligned a truly national presence, and Schaap believes the company is on the right track. With its entry into Data Center Alley, Aligned brings another new competitor to the industry's hottest market.
CloudHQYEisenbergentered the Northern Virginia market in 2017 andadvantage data centersYQTS data centersthey all hit the market in 2018 with huge new campuses.compass data centersexpects to bring new capacity online later this year. Established operators are also expanding their capabilities. Digital Realty creates ahuge new campus, whilewild thread,site principal,Sabey Data Centers,equinoxYCyrusOneall add new features.
Ashburn is home to the densest fiber optic network in the world and the new Ashburn Aligned is on fiber and cable routes, providing access to over 50 operators in the immediate area. The Aligned building is less than 250 meters from the MAE East Exchange originally operated by UUNET, the first Internet exchange point, and less than a mile from the Equinix campus, which is today's hub of connectivity in Northern Virginia .