CAPRE’s Atlanta Data Center Summit Preview: GIGA’s Jake Ring Asks, How Resilient is the Cloud?

ATLANTA, GA — Jake Ring is Co-Founder & CEO of GIGA Data Centers. GIGA was formed by a group of data center professionals, designers, and engineers who saw the future of data center technology. GIGA’s mission is to reinvent the data center to improve your economic performance and impact on the environment by making cutting-edge technology available to everyone, not just Hyperscale IT companies. GIGA’s team has been involved in the data center market for decades. GIGA has built out some of the largest and most technically advanced data centers on the planet for  leading Enterprise IT firms. Companies such as AT&T, Microsoft, Southern California Edison, and U.S. Federal agencies including the Dept. of Energy use data centers built with the cost-saving modular systems designed and deployed by our team. Jake will be a featured speaker at CAPRE’s Fifth Annual Atlanta Data Center & Cloud Infrastructure Summit on August 15.

CAPRE: Thanks for chatting with us Jake. What’s the latest at GIGA?

Ring: GIGA was recognized in May as being only North American data center to be OCP-Ready. The Open Compute Project was started by Facebook, and then Google, Microsoft, Rackspace and other companies joined as a consortium to push the industry forward in sharing open designs for switches, network operating systems, and different equipment, so that the leverage of the volume of these hyperscalers could help reduce the cost so that anyone could get the same kind of equipment inside of a Facebook or Google data center, at those prices.

CAPRE: Tell us more about the Open Compute Project.

Ring: One of the things they recognized that was needed for an Open Compute rack was a place where they could reside. So they set up criteria and a sub-committee to evaluate the qualifications of data centers that applied to be Open Compute Project Ready. After the first part of this year, only two data centers had been through the process – both are in England – but then we applied and we were awarded the label. Open Compute racks are typically higher power density, often used by financial institutions such as Fidelity, Bank of America, and analytic companies. They’re 52 U high, arrive fully assembled to be rolled into place, and distribute power from a DC-power distribution shelf.

CAPRE: So what’s the latest at GIGA in terms of new development?

Ring: Well we had a grand opening that took place on June 21stfor our new facility in the Charlotte North Carolina region. The first phase of this data center can support 2 megawatts in a 2N or 3 megawatts in N+1 configuration, and we exclusively use our WindChill® enclosure, which is our proprietary modular enclosure that allows us to deliver a flexible power density from 5 up to 50 KW in a rack. And with a guaranteed PUE of 1.15.

CAPRE: Let’s talk about the Peach City. What kind of activity are you tracking in Atlanta? How does it compare to its regional neighbors? 

Ring: Atlanta is chugging along with 3-7 megawatts of absorption, but looking at the overall market, you’ve got Northern Virginia with 41 megawatts thus far this year. A year ago this time, there was over 200 megawatts leased in NoVA. You don’t see a lot of absorption yet for a market that is the capital of the Southeast, and has a lot of promise. There’s so much fintech headquartered in Atlanta, and it ticks so many boxes with low cost power and excellent universities supplying talent. Yet we’re talking about a quarter of the leasing activity in the north, and that’s kind of a bellwether for the overall market. It makes you wonder, with all that Atlanta has going for it, why is Dallas absorbing 40 megawatts per year? There’s a major fiber distribution point in Atlanta, so you don’t have to put your stuff down in Miami anymore to serve Latin America. Why aren’t folks doing it here in Atlanta?

CAPRE: What are you looking forward to about the CAPRE’s Fourth Annual Atlanta Data Center Summit?

Ring: I noticed you’ve got some different groups coming to this year’s event and that’s exciting. Will be interesting to hear from Linda Goetze from the Blockchain Chamber of Commerce. It’s great that kind of content has been added to the agenda for this year. And I always like to see Sami Badri of Credit Suisse give a keynote. He always has great commentary from the financial side of things. I thought he did a great job at the Northern Virginia conference earlier this year, going in-depth about the developments in 5G with Huawei for example. I’m curious to see what’s going on with that recently and what he has to say.

CAPRE: What kind of compute trends will be top of mind at this event?

Ring: I’m looking forward to talking about migrations to the Cloud. Look at this breach with CapitalOne – will this impact make people rethink where they’re going to place the data they’ve been entrusted with from their customers? Is the Cloud really that resilient, in that regard?

Jake Ring, CEO, GIGA Data Centers

CAPRE: Where do you see demand for compute going in the future?

Ring: If you look at the forecasts for Cloud demand from Gartner, Forrester, and 451 Research, they’ve been revising them upwards. If you do a back-of-the-envelope calculation, you can see that in the NA market, there’s an implied need for 200-250 megawatts per month of new capacity. So if there really is a reworking of the network for the USA, that is going to be spanning the entire country with a 5G roll out starting in major metro areas, then there’s going to be a need for reworking the entire distribution network. With expanded cloud access, being able to store more data, and being able to use higher capacity for analytics or HPC on demand, I can see that there’s the need for more data centers. And certainly demand for upgrading them.

CAPRE: What are you seeing in terms of that – retrofits and new infrastructure?

Ring: One thing I’ve been seeing is that so many companies who are touting liquid cooled racks, are doing so because the data center floor space is constrained by using raised floor designs. In some cases you’ve got a 50 watts per square foot floorspace, that tops out on a 3 kw rack. If someone is trying to put a 20 kw configuration for HPC, they’re not going to be able to do that unless they put a lot of space around it or some kind of supplemental cooling, liquid or otherwise. It becomes a more costly approach, either way. So I think there’s a need for newer infrastructure. Let’s be honest – if we’re going to have 21stcentury technology, we need 21stcentury infrastructure, not data centers that still use designs that were first used in the 80s.

CAPRE: Tell us how GIGA is changing the game at the Edge.

Ring: GIGA is highly mobile and leading the next phase of data center infrastructure. Broadly, the traditional data center space (facilities built with raised floor or on-slab, from the ground up, using economies of scale with 25-40 megawatt structures broken up into 10,000 square feet data halls) are clustered in 7-9 markets. That whole industry has become commoditized, because the differentiation between the different companies is really minimal. And it’s mostly just marketing.

If you look at what’s happening today, what has become centralized is now getting back to decentralized. We need to store and collect data at the Edge – near population centers and where the data is aggregated. So we’re looking at building smaller facilities in more Tier II markets. Certainly not building a behemoth with a large chiller plant, but with our lower cost and highly efficient enclosures, we’re able to bring hyperscale-level performance to the local colo market. It’s still a colocation offering, just at a flexible range of power density and a true PUE of 1.15.

CAPRE: And what about on the tech side? What tech trends are most opportunistic?

Ring: The use of hyperconverged systems is accelerating. These are systems that allow for easier management of the virtual environments, whether for virtual desktop instances, or virtual machines for other applications in a private or public cloud. People like to use this equipment because you don’t need specialists to manage them, and they are a better cost for delivering the capability. The hyperconverged market was being forecast by IDC and others to be 35% of the total converged market in 2019, but by the end of 2018, it was already 48.5%, showing huge adoption.

People think that higher power density is something only needed for HPC or supercomputing, but hyperconverged systems use 1.5 kw nominal per block. That means a typical rack may only support three-to-four blocks, or 6U to 8U of rack space before reaching the limit and needing more racks. Floor space in a data center is fairly precious. It’s something you shouldn’t be wasting. One of the things that GIGA can do, because we can support flexible power densities, we can support the hyperconverged systems in one rack that take eight racks in other data centers. That’s just better for clients, because you never know what’s going to happen your equipment, but you do know that it’s going to change. At some point you’ll need to change out that equipment, and when you do, you’ll want the latest and greatest, and people are seeing these hyperconverged solutions being very effective.

CAPRE: So what’s the bottom line there?

Ring: You always need more storage, and you will always need more compute capacity. If you could support a full rack of equipment without running out of power, rather than having to add racks along the floor, that just saves you more money. That’s going to be a challenge for a lot of data centers, when you’ve got someone who can support greater power densities wherever your data resides, rather than moving your data to some other place. And it’ll be flexible enough to support the configurations you have now and into the future.

CAPRE: Got it. Thanks for your time Jake. We’ll see you at the Georgia Aquarium!

Hear more from Ring at CAPRE’s Fourth Annual Atlanta Data Center & Cloud Infrastructure Summit, on the 9:30 am – 10:30 am panel “State of the Greater Atlanta Data Center Market: Analysis of Demand-supply and Emergence of New Debt and Equity Capital Sources.”

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