A Cool ( ing ) Company Data Center Powerhouse ScaleMatrix has a Message for the AEC Industry: Bring it On. By Richard Massey
Foreseeing the time when AEC firms will face data management issues caused by the mainstream implementation of AI and machine learning, California-based ScaleMatrix says it will be ready. Mark Ortenzi and Chris Orlando, the high-performing masterminds and co-founders of ScaleMatrix, have invented a hybrid air/liquid cooled cabinet built to house virtually any hardware needed for an organization’s computing needs. With built-in logic, the cabinets are efficient, high-density, closed-loop, and fully modular. And compared to the installation of a traditional data center, ScaleMatrix can reduce deployment time by as much as 75 percent, a deployment that is mea- sured in days, not months or even years. If this cabinet is the meteorite, the old data center systems are the dinosaurs. The ScaleMatrix cabinet has the ability to scale from 1kW to 52kW of workload, and it can handle anything an AEC firm can produce, especially as the industry has yet to employ AI and other cognitive technologies on a meaningful scale. However, with AI technology expected to boom in the coming years, that will probably change as engineering firms follow the lead of more progressive segments of the economy. In a nutshell, data growth leads to compute and density increases – more processors – which leads to more power outputs, and thus in- creased heat, which leads to heightened cooling requirements. In the old days, the raised floor, the wind tunnel, and the chilled room were sufficient. Ortenzi and Orlando know all about it, because it was in the data center industry where they cut their teeth and made their names. But even as they flourished in that industry, they also saw the need for disruption. With important partnerships with leading companies like Hewlett Packard Enterprise and NVIDIA – ScaleMatrix is a select partner in NVIDIA’s DGX-ready data center program – and now with data centers in San Diego, Seattle, Houston, Charlotte, and Jacksonville, ScaleMatrix upped the ante with the recent acquisition of Instant Data Centers, a deal that adds ruggedized, micro-data centers that can func- tion on the edge – near the action and in remote locations, like a mine. Even though the technology behind what ScaleMatrix does is perhaps dizzying, the philosophy is quite simple. “Everything we do in this business is power and cooling,” Ortenzi said. “Next to labor, power is the biggest expense. It takes so many amps to cool so many amps. It takes so many watts to cool so many watts.” The cabinets have built-in logic that responds to usage requirements, making the variable system “one big, breathing animal that modulates based on requirements,” Ortenzi said. The ScaleMatrix design includes
From left, Mark Ortenzi and Chris Orlando, co-founders of ScaleMatrix. Photo: ScaleMatrix
full cooling support, redundant power supply, fire suppression, and integrated network support. When one cabinet gets filled up, just add another one. While ScaleMatrix at first offered cloud and colocation services, it has since added another distinct business line, the DDC™ cabinet for companies that want them for their own data centers. While the reaction from the market has certainly been favorable – ScaleMatrix had 2018 combined sales of about $20 million and em- ploys 52 people – it wasn’t necessarily instant and overwhelming. “That’s a great novelty, but who needs that?” Ortenzi said, referring to the initial reaction he and Orlando got when they introduced a system that could handle such a heavy workload. But all that changed about two years ago, when AI and machine learning came in from the fringe and entered the mainstream. Seem- ingly overnight, companies were dealing with more data than ever, and ScaleMatrix started fielding calls from all across the country, and even the world. “All of a sudden, two years ago, all hell breaks loose and no one knew what to do,” Ortenzi said. “We’ve set ourselves up to be in a position to help people. Where else are they going to go?” The Industry A recent M&A deal in the AEC industry, and leading research, says that the ScaleMatrix hunch is probably correct – engineering firms are going to embrace big data and the means to manage it, for themselves and for their clients. Harley Ellis Devereaux, a 400-plus person engineering firm with of- fices in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento, just merged with Integrated Design Group, an architec- ture, engineering, and planning firm with an established reputation in the field of data center design. In the media surrounding the merger, HED leadership recognized the emerging importance of data center design and its relationship to mission-critical sectors like healthcare and higher education.
csengineermag.com january 2020
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