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Customization, Collaboration Help Power A Successful Data Center Operation

ChilledDoor exchangers installed for LinkedIn at the Hillsboro, Ore., data center

More companies are growing their digital reach, and they are increasingly relying on co-location data center facilities to provide rentable space, equipment and bandwidth. 

As co-location needs grow, data center customization is a key requirement for customers, especially hyperscalers who require the most cost-effective solutions due to high bandwidth requirements. To address these burgeoning requirements, data center operators must adapt their business models and infrastructure solutions to a new level of customization and customer collaboration.

Modern data centers must be designed with change and customization in mind. Wholesale hyperscale data centers should also be prepared to increase transparency and collaborate closely with customers to deploy highly customized infrastructure solutions that cater to specific needs and requirements.

This approach can be seen at Infomart Data Centers’ newly retrofitted data center in Ashburn, Virginia. The company transformed the Dulles Technology Center, investing in a complete refurbishment of the facility’s infrastructure and interior to offer mechanical and electrical resiliency as well as up to 18 megawatts of premium capacity to the Northern Virginia market. Beginning with a solid foundation of connectivity and access to available power capacity and power capacity planning, almost every facet of infrastructure in the building has since been replaced or upgraded. This creates flexibility in design that allows the company to tailor its solutions to meet customers’ exact requirements.

Infomart has employed a similar strategy at its other data center facilities in Silicon Valley and Hillsboro, Oregon. The Hillsboro data center was selected by anchor tenant LinkedIn to support its growth as the largest social and professional online network in the world.

Founded in 2002, the online platform operates on a mission to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. But with a global reach of over 300 million members and over 10,000 employees, the company’s storage and processing needs grew by 34% in 2015 alone.

LinkedIn decided to work with Infomart due to the data center company’s ability to customize its offerings to support various data needs. The LinkedIn production engineering operations team worked alongside Infomart to develop a plan that would make this facility the most technologically advanced and efficient data center in LinkedIn’s global portfolio.

The Hillsboro campus, 18 miles outside of Portland, boasts energy-efficient design and financial incentives for operation due to Oregon not collecting sales tax. The Hillsboro facility offers 345K SF of data center space with 24 MW of capacity. It was designated by Uptime Institute as the world’s most efficient data center. 

“The beauty of this location is that we have direct access to green power, which is one of our specific criteria for selecting new data centers,” LinkedIn Director of Data Center Engineering Michael Yamaguchi wrote in a blog post. “Other key factors in our site selection process include network diversity, expansion capabilities, power quality, environmental impact and talent opportunities. We do all of this to ensure that we provide our members with fast, resilient and environmentally-responsible services.”

Infomart data center campus in Ashburn, Va.

Customizing the facility to accommodate a diverse set of needs, LinkedIn and Infomart implemented several features that would serve as a baseline for future data center builds. For instance, the team employed ChilledDoor heat exchanger solutions and a cooling system with outdoor air sensors that rely on Oregon’s naturally cool temperatures instead of using energy to cool the facility. By customizing the data center infrastructure to complement the outside climate and environment, the data center was able to maintain control over the amount of energy it used. 

The data center team also implemented a 415-volt electrical distribution system, which helps the data center systems run at a higher rate of efficiency. Through a process called dense computing, which allows data center operations to make the most of the space provided while minimizing the use of heat, LinkedIn was able to optimize the space throughout the facility to store and process the most data. This helped create an efficient and sustainable operation. 

“The idea behind dense computing is to leverage a low-cost commodity platform to optimize power, space and cost for deployments and scale 100,000 servers,” LinkedIn senior staff engineer and infrastructure architect Shawn Zandi said. “The dense compute project is a necessity to optimize the space, power and cost requirements of LinkedIn’s infrastructure.”

In addition to bringing sustainability measures and innovation to the Hillsboro data center campus, the project had to be completed in a tight timeline. LinkedIn and Infomart collaborated during construction, and the facility was completed and brought to market in nine months. An additional 8 MW of capacity was also deployed under this timeline. 

“The most important thing that I learned through this project is the impact of human communication,” Zandi said. “Just taking intelligent risks and make it happen.” 

As LinkedIn continues to perfect the facility, the team is confident that this customized, collaborative approach will allow the Hillsboro data center to enhance the overall LinkedIn member experience. 

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Infomart. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.