Video: Alibaba Site Showcase of Cloud Data Center Design Innovation

Free cooling using lake water, modular deployment, disaggregated racks, PCIe Flash in Chinese e-commerce giant’s latest cloud site in China

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

September 25, 2015

2 Min Read
View of Alibaba's cloud data center in Chun’an County, Zhejiang Province, China. (Image: Alibaba video)

Earlier this month Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba announced the launch of its latest cloud data center on the shore of Qiandao Lake in the Zhejiang Province. From cooling to modules, racks, servers, and management, the facility is a showcase for modern data center design.

One of the most distinctive data center design features is the facility’s use of water from the lake for cooling, which provides free cooling capacity for 90 percent of the time, according to Alibaba. A 2.5-kilometer canal carries warm water to the nearby Qingxi New Town after it has gone through the facility’s cooling system. The plan is to use that return water for comfort heating in nearby buildings in the future.

Inside the cloud data center, Alibaba Data Center Modules are used to deploy new capacity quickly. ADM is a prefabricated aluminum frame that reduces server deployment time by eliminating a lot of onsite engineering work that takes place in traditional data centers.

Modularity is an important aspect of data center design that emerged in recent years. Employed in power and cooling systems, as well as at the building level, it enables faster deployment speeds and greater cost controls.

One “bare” utility feed and one UPS-backed DC feed bring power to the ADM. Bringing DC power directly to the racks brings the power distribution system’s efficiency to 90 percent, according to Alibaba.

Another innovation is AliRack, which is based on Facebook’s disaggregated rack design, where server components share common power supplies and cooling. The disaggregated rack is part of Open Compute Project, Facebook’s open source hardware and data center design initiative.

At the server level, PCIe Flash drives developed by Alibaba engineers to overcome SATA interface bottlenecks achieve five to 10 times more IOPS and reduce latency by 70 percent.

This is Alibaba’s eighth cloud data center. It has cloud sites across China, as well as in Southeast Asia, Middle East, and US. The company established its first cloud data center in the US this year.

Here’s a video tour of Alibaba’s latest cloud data center in China:

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