New York Data Center Summit Preview: Corning’s Brian Rhoney Talks Virtual Reality, 5G, Conversion of Optics & ASIC

Apr 4, 2018
by Josh Anderson

NEW YORK, NY — Brian Rhoney is the Data Center Market Development Director for Corning. With over 17 years of experience at Corning, Brian has held positions in product engineering, systems engineering and product line management. At Corning, he is responsible for new product innovation. In 2005, Brian received recognition as the Dr. Peter Bark Inventor of the Year and also received his professional engineer’s license. Brian graduated from North Carolina State University with a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He also received an MBA from Lenoir-Rhyne University. He will be a featured speaker at CapRE’s 2018 New York Data Center Summit tomorrow, and in anticipation of his panel “Data Center Management & Operations: New Strategies for Reducing Cost Without Increasing Risk” we connected with Rhoney for a Q&A about his latest observations, perspective and predictions on the industry.

CapRE: Thanks for chatting with us today, Brian. What’s been on your plate lately?

Brian Rhoney, Director – Data Center Market Development, Corning

Rhoney: We’ve been dealing a lot with hyperscale data centers and some of their demand growth. There is some large-scale deployment that will be required. It’s mainly been driven by the applications that will be talked about tomorrow with Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence. Those types of applications are driving this new wave of growth within data centers and beyond, even outside of the hyperscale market.

CapRE: We hear a lot about AI at our data center summits, but virtual reality is a bit more opaque. Tell us more about how that relates to the data center space.

Rhoney: Virtual Reality, or even Augmented Reality, is a typical overlay-type of application, over the real world. Whether it’s a Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality application, I always think of PokémonGo! — in its most simple form, it’s an augmented reality, where we have this real world in front of us, and we overlay technology on it to provide a kind of benefit or experience for an end-user. You can see it overlaid in glasses with weather and directions and messages, for example. It’s an idea where we overlay the digital world with the real world to keep us connected.

CapRE: And how about the technical side of it?

Rhoney: Well with a lot of these applications, as we get more and more, latency becomes critical. And the speed at which we get the data back. Our traditional Cloud data centers are very much delivering information and content to me, but latency isn’t as critical there. As we get applications where real-time decisions are being made, though we have colossal data centers today that will still be required to run those apps, we also have a dispersion of local data center nodes that are very close to the user and are highly software driven. They allow very low latency and very real-time responses. You’ll hear it sometimes referred to as “The Fog” because they are getting closer and closer to the user, just like fog sits closer to the ground than clouds do.

CapRE: What are some topics that you think will be especially buzzworthy at the summit tomorrow?

data center summitRhoney: Well, for the panel that I’m on, power is a big focus. Some of the energy considerations that we were chatting about in our preparatory call were not as applicable to the New York market because of real estate challenges (and the Northeast in general, where solar-type apps don’t really fit). But the things I’m most interested in are the networking and the movement of data within the data center. And trying to do it in a way where Corning, who makes optical fiber to carry that data (kind of the plumbing of the network if you will), can lower power consumption.

CapRE: Tell us more about that.

Rhoney: Our optics can go even closer to the brains of our network, or the switch ASICs of our network, where we don’t spend the 20-30% extra power that we don’t need. We’re not cleaning up that short 15-inch copper trace within our servers. We turn the optical switch directly off of the Switch ASIC itself. It’s a technology that many are talking about at many venues, but it still really excites me as we drive fiber all the way sown to the server level, lowering our overall power consumption footprint in the data center space.

CapRE: So what else are you excited about in our space?

Rhoney: The thing that keeps me curious on the data center side, is that I don’t typically get to talk about 4G and 5G. But some of the promises of 5G, especially how it will influence our data centers, creating new applications with high-bandwidth, high-density nodes within city areas, is something that we will keep our eye on. It will morph our data center spaces from the macro cloud level (or fog level). I haven’t quite wrapped my head around what that looks like yet.

CapRE: And what else are you keeping an eye on as we move farther into 2018?

Rhoney: I would say that, though it’s in its infancy, but how 400-Gigs will roll out to our data center spaces. There’s an inflection point that’s coming, and it’s a great opportunity for a new market. The ASIC and Optics are coming together with photonics-enabled ASIC. It’s been such a segmented market in the past — optics makers and chip makers. And now you’ve got to bring those worlds together with fiber-optic connectivity into one solution. That’s a great opportunity for a company like Corning which very much leads in the optical components, to create new opportunities for themselves.

CapRE: Indeed. Thanks for your time, Brian. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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