Unlocking Renewable Energy During Lockdown
Bulk Infrastructure AS
Pandemic Impact Project of the Year
Entry Description
The Opportunity

A UK-based Quant hedge fund found itself poised for significant growth in 2020, fueled by artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and smart innovation in automated trading. The amount of data generated and consumed by massive quantitative analysis, based around high performance applications and high density computing, meant they needed to expand beyond their two connected data centers in London. They came into the market looking for more data center space to house their high performance computing (HPC) research cluster but with a keen desire to focus on sustainability and also drive a lower total cost than traditional colocation.

During this time, COVID-19 made the customary travel, meetings and site visits impossible to do in person. After initial face-to-face meetings in London, the rest of the negotiations and planning had to be done remotely. All of the requisite details would be managed without the usual assurance that comes with being there.

Framing the challenge, a company representative told us, “when we set out to look for additional data center space to build our new HPC research cluster, we set ourselves two goals. Sustainability is really important to us and so first and foremost we needed to find a renewable source of energy. Secondly, we had to ensure that the solution was cost effective, especially given the scale.”

The Solution

AI is driving unprecedented IT workloads for financial organizations. This customer builds fully-automated technology to predict and trade electronic financial markets. They have a goal over the next few years to trade all liquid electronically tradable products. Their new HPC cluster would triple the compute capacity of the combined existing data centers in London. It needed an AI server architecture on the high end of current average power usage of 30+ kW per rack and would need cooling strategies that only the latest data center designs can provide. Add to the equation their high expectations for reducing their carbon impact and this firm was facing significant challenges to balance performance, sustainability and cost.

Typically, this type of project would involve a number of in-person meetings, facility visits and a tremendous amount of interaction among team members. With the pandemic in full swing around the globe, the usual engagements needed to be reimagined. Bulk and our partners in Norway arranged virtual meetings and a local team presence to ensure all of the details were managed successfully.

As part of the site familiarization and evaluation process, Bulk created a virtual tour of the facility combining drone footage of the campus, vehicle and site entry procedures. We worked to replicate the complete personnel access experience, including the journey from the parking lot into the data center building and hallways. We used handheld steady-cam footage of all key steps in the process as well as a comprehensive tour of all mechanical and electrical infrastructure elements of the facility.

This allowed the customer to gain an appreciation of all relevant aspects for both their deployment as well as the ongoing set up on site. Nearly 12 months on from the go live date the customer has still not had cause to visit the site.

To move forward, the team consulted with trusted hardware solutions provider Business Systems International (BSI), who was already assisting with hardware and equipment selection in the design process. Working with BSI, Bulk deployed a 1 MW machine learning environment featuring 1,500 NVIDIA GPUs, 10,000 processor cores, a 300 Terabyte RAM lake, 6 Petabytes of tiered, shared storage, 20 kM of cabling and 3,500 network ports. Bulk is becoming a leading provider of HPC and AI colocation services in the Nordics and across Europe. Partnering with NVIDIA through their DGX-Ready Colocation Data Centers program makes AI deployments even faster and easier. Rigorous certification reinforces confidence that Bulk can meet stringent demands for high-specification hosting of advanced AI workloads, network fabric and facilities engineering requirements.

NVIDIA DGX™ systems deliver the world’s leading solutions for enterprise AI infrastructure at scale. With massive growth in AI, HPC and the use of data, scaling data center infrastructure to meet this challenge in a flexible but sustainable way is essential. Driving down the long-term Carbon and Cost impact of Data processing is more important than ever before. Bulk Infrastructure’s tailored solutions help meet these challenges using the Nordics highly resilient grid and renewable energy to power ultra-scalable, green data center solutions.

The Challenges

Initially, Norway was not even on the company’s radar. For Bulk, part of the challenge was demonstrating Norway’s advantages in the face of evolving offers in Iceland and Finland. The customer’s consultants had prior experience working in these alternative markets, so the Bulk team set about making the case. The company was trying to reduce the complexity of setting up a business in the Nordics and needed guidance on navigating Norwegian compliance and tax regulations. Bulk was able to mobilize a network of internal and partner expertise to create a comprehensive approach and solution that would take best advantage of unfamiliar conditions in a new market, saving the company time and money.

The ultimate solution went far beyond the more routine offerings of colocation, dedicated white space, build-to-suit, or powered land. Bulk tapped their network of established partners to reduce complexity and to help plan and execute this project to meet an aggressive timeline. They helped the customer with power procurement analysis and counsel on attractive options using ADAPT. They also provided advice on import tax rules, where Bulk obtained a binding ruling to further simplify the process and help to limit cost. Bulk were able to support the logistics in receiving and managing the equipment and by acting as an importer of record, reducing the cost significantly.

The Benefits

The project would go into Bulk’s Norway Data Center Campus (N01), a 300ha site with up to 1GW of renewable power and 100 percent availability. Located in the lowest cost energy region of Norway and next door to Europe's largest renewable substation, N01 delivers the lowest cost energy and with the highest levels of resilience. Direct connection to the substation reduces electrical losses and grid costs and is supported by over 12 independent feeds.

“Our new HPC research cluster at N01 will triple the size of our existing compute capacity, while the high-density design requires only twice the number of physical servers to accomplish this.”

There was no question of whether the solution would be ‘green’ with the site being directly connected to many of the regions massive Hydro power plants. This 100 percent carbon-free energy was a huge tick in the box when achieving targets for sustainability. However, Bulk was able to go even further by investing in the planting of 1,000 trees by Climate Justice Ambassadors from Plant for the Planet, a global organization engaging children and youth from 74 countries.

Bulk teamed with partner BSI to finalize equipment selection and help with shipping and logistics. The client originally intended to use a UK based contractor for the stock management and full implementation of the rack, containment and structured cabling solution. However, with the logistical challenges presented by the pandemic, Bulk proposed one of our local partners to assist. With an established presence in both Oslo and Kristiansand in southern Norway, local partner Netsecurity was able to meet all the necessary onsite services for the full implementation.

Customer input into the design and sign off of the installation was done using remote and virtual meetings. All was accomplished within the desired project timeline and to the customers specification and satisfaction. This saved complexity and time as well as reduced exposure risk for all personnel involved. Bulk and their partners provided a fully integrated and comprehensive solution against a hard deadline and in the face of unprecedented challenges.

The contracts were signed in June and the customer had a need to be operational by1st November to meet the capacity requirements of the business. Along the way, Bulk had to demonstrate a clear plan on how to achieve the required colocation solution for high density and high availability as well as an implementation program to enable the customer to meet this tight deadline.
Supporting Documents