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DCK Must Know: Top Data Center News This Week – July 16, 2021

Microsoft makes a new bold climate pledge, the Kaseya breach serves as a wakeup call for the MSP-heavy, Digital enters India, and more.

Welcome to the week’s roundup of all the most important news in the data center industry, curated and summarized by Data Center Knowledge.

This week Microsoft pledged to solve the problem of 24/7 zero-carbon energy for data centers, Xilinx unveiled an accelerator that would have the CPU play second fiddle, Digital Realty announced entry into India, and we examined the implications of REvil’s ransomware attack on Kaseya for the increasingly MSP-reliant IT industry.

Microsoft Pledges to Run Zero-Carbon Data Centers

Microsoft has made a new bold climate pledge, committing to powering its offices and data centers around the world with zero-carbon energy around the clock by 2030.

This is the biggest and most challenging problem faced by data center operators that want to neutralize their impact on the environment. The pledge is an acknowledgement that simply buying an amount of renewable energy that equals total consumption – the predominant way companies have become “carbon-neutral” to date – has minimal impact on the problem of dirty energy generation.

  • Google also has committed to solving this problem by 2030.
  • Solving it will require adding a lot of new carbon-free generation to the grid, developing demand-supply matching technologies that aren’t scalable today, and reshaping energy market rules all around the world.
  • This is more than a matter of cloud providers wanting to do good. Google and Microsoft compete for IT budgets of enterprise clients who are increasingly conscious of their own climate impact.
  • Microsoft is starting with technology that allows it to closely track demand for power at a specific data center site – by the hour – and ensure there’s enough zero-carbon energy being generated on the same grid to match the consumption.
  • This is a different pledge from the one Microsoft made last year to remove all the carbon the company emitted in its history.

Xilinx Says CPUs May Play a Secondary Role to Accelerators

Xilinx, the chipmaker that invented FPGAs (reprogrammable processors), is looking to flip the relationship between server CPUs and co-processors (such as GPUs and SmartNICs) on its head. Its new Versal HBM accelerator “is a kind of self-adapting micro-supercomputer for servers and server clusters, cramming onto a single card the same number of processing cores as 14 FPGAs and the equivalent memory of 32 DDR5-6400 modules,” DCK’s Scott Fulton writes.

  • “If Xilinx has its way, Versal HBM will” make its accelerator platform “into the workload processor and demote the CPU to a kind of perimeter security guard.”
  • We’re past the point where we can expect a massive performance boost with each new generation of CPU, a Versal product manager, Mike Thompson, told DCK.
  • There’s also hunger for optimized, workload-specific silicon in the market.
  • This is a bold vision to voice for a company that may soon become part of AMD, which is riding a wave of success in the data center market driven by its new Epyc server CPUs.
  • Versal HBM is aimed at memory bottlenecks in current architectures that slow down AI workloads today. But possible applications also include edge computing in tight spaces for low-latency applications using 5G wireless or for CDNs.

REvil Kaseya Ransomware Attack Places a Wakeup Call

The REvil Kaseya ransomware attack was a wakeup call for an industry that outsources so much of its infrastructure management to managed service providers, writes DCK’s Maria Korolov. By breaching a single software provider whose tool is widely used by MSPs, the cyber gang was able to disrupt up to 1,500 businesses that relied on those MSPs with ransomware.

  • “It’s a highly effective, cascading event," Daniel Clayton, VP of global services at Bitdefender who in the past worked for intelligence services of both the US and UK governments, said.
  • Managed service providers have been raking it in this year and last, thanks to the pandemic, which sent IT departments scrambling to support their companies’ switch to remote work.
  • The Kaseya attack demonstrated that companies need to step up security vetting of their vendors as well as their vendors’ vendors.

Digital Realty Entering India’s Fast-Growing Data Center Market

Digital Realty has formed another joint venture to enter a new market. This time, it’s entering India, which has been a conspicuous gap in the world’s second largest data center provider’s global portfolio.

  • Its JV partner, Brookfield Infrastructure, will not only contribute half of the funding but will also support the venture with its local knowledge.
  • Brookfield Asset Management has been investing in infrastructure in India for more than a decade. Its infrastructure subsidiary owns about 140,000 operational wireless towers in the country.
  • This ain’t Digital and Brookfield’s first rodeo together. Two years ago, they formed a JV to buy the Brazilian data center operator Ascenty, giving Digital a platform to expand in Latin America.
  • India is one of the world’s fastest growing data center markets.
  • American and Chinese hyperscaler cloud platforms have recently stepped up investment in computing infrastructure there, and so have international data center operators, including Equinix, NTT, and ST Telemedia.

Mitsui and Fidelity Go After the Japan Data Center Opportunity

There’s a rush to build cloud data centers in Japan, a market that’s been underserved by digital services, and Mitsui, one of the country’s largest conglomerates, is getting in on the action. This week it unveiled a plan to invest $2.7 billion in data center construction and acquisitions over the next five years, Nikkei Asia reports.

  • Adding to the wind in Mitsui’s sails is Japanese government’s newly found enthusiasm for digital infrastructure. The government has committed to supporting data center construction projects with things like incentives for investors and site-infrastructure development.
  • Mitsui’s first move is to create a 50/50 joint venture with Fidelity Investments, whose subsidiary Colt Data Center Services will design, build, and operate data centers for the JV. The conglomerate will take care of structuring, financing, land sourcing, and marketing to Japanese customers.
  • A new fund Mitsui is creating with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board will fund the Japanese company’s half of the JV.

Google Makes Selecting Low-Carbon Cloud Regions Easier

Google Cloud is making the process of selecting the greenest data center to run your software in as easy as the rest of the customer experience that’s one of the main reasons behind the success of cloud computing.

  • The idea is to show which cloud regions on a customer’s pick list have the lowest amount of CO2 emissions associated with their operations.
  • Google has started adding the “Lowest CO2” label to the region pick lists for its serverless products Cloud Run and Datastream, with plans to roll this out across other products over time.
  • Regions that have the label get at least 75 percent of their power from carbon-free sources.
  • Since last year, Google has been pursuing a vision of powering all its data centers around the world with carbon-free energy around the clock. This new feature is a small step toward that goal, helping to align demand for compute more closely with availability of carbon-free energy.

GI Launches a New Data Center and Life Sciences Real Estate Fund

GI Partners has launched a new investment fund focused on real estate assets for always-on operations, such as data centers, life sciences, and R&D labs. The private equity firm launched the fund, called GI Real Estate Essential Tech + Science Fund (ETS Fund) in early 2021 but announced it publicly only this week.

  • GI appointed its managing director John Sheputis as the new funds head. Sheputis is former president of Infomart Data Centers, a role he took after Infomart merged with Fortune Data Centers, a company he founded.
  • The ETS Fund has already acquired multiple assets on east and west coasts of the US, including data center and life sciences buildings in the Bay Area and an R&D facility in Philadelphia.
  • San Francisco-based GI is the company behind Digital Realty, today the world’s second-largest data center provider.
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