Microsoft announces new data centre region near Atlanta
Microsoft announced on Thursday the creation of a new cloud region for its Azure services in the Atlanta, Georgia area.
In response to “growing customer demand”, Microsoft has said it will establish the data centre region in two counties in the Atlanta area: Douglas and Fulton counties.
The move builds upon the company’s ongoing expansion into the US southwest - with its Arizona data centre region expected to reach completion later this year.
Details of the project, including the scale of the facilities, their locations, how many data centres are planned, and Microsoft’s timeline for completion, are all being kept tightly under wraps for now. However, we can make a few educated guesses.
Microsoft’s Arizona data centre region was originally announced in September of last year, and Microsoft has said it plans to bring the project online in 2021. So, we can probably assume a similar timeline for East US 3, meaning it should spin up some time in early 2022.
Location and Facilities
Fulton and Douglas counties have been earmarked as the general location for the new region, but further details about site selection have not been made available. However, if we look once again at Microsoft’s Arizona project, we see that it also spanned two main locations, Goodyear and El Mirage. The region comprised three data centres facilities and employed around 1,000 construction workers, during the build process.
If we assume Microsoft - much like other hyperscalers - sticks to a rough template for its projects (last year, Facebook’s involvement in a massive build in the Netherlands was revealed due to the shape of a proposed access road and its similarity to those in the company’s existing facilities) then it’s plausible to suggest that East US 3 will comprise three data centres.
As for their proposed locations, various glowing testimonials from local mayors might help narrow that down. Alongside its press release, Microsoft trotted out Rochelle Robinson, Mayor of Douglasville, Clark Boddie, Mayor of Palmetto, and Deana Holiday Ingraham, Mayor of East Point to say things like “We’re honored to have Microsoft in Douglasville,” and “Having a brand name like Microsoft locate in our city speaks to the quality of our community.”
The likelihood that the region will comprise three data centres, combined with the direct involvement of the mayors of three towns within Fulton and Douglas counties, points to the data centres being located in East Point, Douglasville and Palmetto.
Also this week, Microsoft announced the purchase of a parcel of land in the Atlanta metro area. The 90 acre stretch expands upon the company existing presence at Atlantic Yards (the offices there are expected to be finished this year) with the addition of a future campus at Quarry Yards and Quarry Hills.
Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, said in a blog post that “Our biggest question today is not what Atlanta can do to support Microsoft. It’s what Microsoft can do to support Atlanta. And we know it will take a conversation with the entire community to find the answer.”
NUS and NTU launch cooling project for tropical data centres
The National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), have announced a project in an attempt to source and develop new cooling solutions for data centres located in tropical areas. According to the companies, the programme costs S$23mn (US$17.1mn) and plans to research, build and test innovative and sustainable cooling solutions.
The Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT)
The NUS and NTU say that the Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT) will act as a research point and innovation hub for the project. Facebook, along with the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF), is also involved, providing funding for the programme. Further support from other partners includes the Infocomm Media Development Authority, Ascenix, CoolestDC Keppel Data Centres, Red Dot Analytics, and New Media Express.
Commenting on working with the companies, Facebook Vice President of Infrastructure, Alex Johnson, said: “We are excited about the opportunity to partner NUS, NTU, Keppel Data Centres and the CoolestSG community to develop innovative solutions that reduce the carbon footprint and energy consumption of the average data centre, particularly those located in tropical areas like Singapore”.
The NTU and NUS highlight that Singapore houses 60% of Southeast Asia’s total data centre market, and aims to supply 12% of the country’s total energy needs by 2030. This results in the need to reduce the carbon footprints and power consumption of data centres, meaning more innovative cooling solutions are required, the NTU and NUS said.
Professor Chen Thuan, Deputy President of Research & Technology at the NUS, said: “Data centres are a critical enabler of the digital economy, but the average data centre can exert a significant environmental burden. Aligned with RIE 2025, sustainability is a key research focus of NUS, and our researchers have deep expertise in developing integrated solutions for tropical, urban and Asian settings”.
How will the Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT) help to provide cooling solutions?
According to the NUS and NTU, the STDCT will be built using equipment such as a novel desiccant-coated heat exchanger and a StatePoint Liquid Cooling System (SPLC) designed by both Nortek Air Solutions and Facebook. The institutions also say they will adopt chip-level hybrid cooling to ensure servers remain cool.
Furthermore, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) will aim to manage the “smart operations” of the technologies so that the data centres are water and power efficient, as well as able to preserve equipment and servers.
The NTU and NSU said in a joint statement the combination of the cooling technologies could reduce energy consumption “significantly” and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25%, compared to traditional air-cooled data centres. If adopted industry-wide across the entire tropical region, the energy usage of the data centre industry could potentially be lowered by at least 40%”, the companies said.
The STDCT is expected to be operational by 1 October 2021.