Why Bulk Data Centers are OCP Ready

In mid-2021, Bulk Infrastructure certified the first OCP ReadyTM data center facilities in Norway and Denmark. The certification, administered by the Open Compute Project Foundation (OCP), demonstrates the same highly efficient design standards embraced by tech giants including Facebook and Google to support the most advanced open infrastructure deployments. Bulk successfully certified all three data center facilities, including the Oslo Internet Exchange (OS-IX), Norway Data Center Campus (N01) and Denmark Data Center Campus (DK01).

We sat down with Rob Elder, Vice President of Bulk Data Centers, to discuss the importance of OCP Ready certification for the facilities, for the company, and for the region.

What is the Open Compute Project and what does it mean to become OCP Ready certified?

OCP was initially started by Facebook, together with a number of other technology companies, to create a data center design that would reduce cost and boost efficiency. The first Facebook facility built in Prineville, Oregon was a big success so the group decided to make the design information available to all through an open source format the same as we see in the software world. These efforts ultimately led to the formation of the Open Compute Project Foundation.

I think the growth in OCP has been very much around vendors and the hyperscalers, building these technology stacks effectively and so enabling them to do things at massive scale in a uniform and repeatable fashion. Most of that architecture sits in their own facilities. As other cloud service providers and companies looking to utilize that technology start to grow, they want to incorporate these designs into their own data centers, or, potentially, into a colocation facility.

The certification program was kicked off by OCP to pre-certify facilities that meet the design and operational criteria that suits that stack of IT infrastructure. Because it’s all open source, we know what a given rack needs to do in terms of size, capability, power, and so on. The operator knows that the data center needs to be designed and laid out in a way that can support that class of equipment.

Ultimately the OCP Ready certification is an opportunity for data center operators like Bulk to demonstrate to the market that an independent body has reviewed the basis of our design. It lends a degree of confidence that state-of-the-art customer technology stacks can be installed and operated efficiently in our facilities.

N01 Data Center campus in Kristiansand

Why did you decide to certify all three Bulk facilities as OCP Ready?

We were confident that all three facilities were similarly capable of achieving this certification. OCP is much more widely utilized in the US, because that's where the majority of the hyperscalers have deployed their infrastructure. But it's growing in Europe and Asia. Globally, we are seeing a major shift toward higher density compute. And we are seeing continuing trends toward standardized architecture. You can deliver on both of these market needs by using OCP.

OCP is like buying or building a pre-designed solution, where everything is pre-configured. Even if you deviate from the exact specification to suit a particular need but you do something similar, then a data center that's OCP Ready is going to be equally suitable for any non-OCP hardware in the design. When viewed this way, the standards offer an inclusive approach that enables, rather than limits, the most advanced configuration trends and research applications.

From Bulk’s perspective, OCP is an internationally recognized organization with considerable validity for global companies, particularly the big ones. The approach is akin to the NVIDIA DGX-Ready certification which Bulk also obtained earlier this year where if you're deploying GPUs for gaming or media rendering, you may not specifically be using DGX-Ready but you'll be using something very similar.

OS-IX Data Center campus in Oslo

Bulk’s mission is all about bringing sustainable infrastructure to a global audience. Where do initiatives like the OCP Ready certification fit into that vision?

Interestingly, in Europe, there's a much greater focus on the circular economy. Within the Carbon Neutral Data Center Pact (CNDCP) that we've joined, one of the stated focus areas is around the circular economy. The basic idea being, you have to mine the minerals and the materials to build servers. Then you manufacture it and distribute it. You install it. That whole value chain has a carbon footprint. These areas within CNDCP incorporate the whole production life cycle. The circular economy takes this perspective to focus on the repurposing and reuse of hardware.

Hyperscalers tend to be at the forefront of buying the latest and greatest IT. And, of course, they represent a huge chunk of digital infrastructure globally. After a few years, a certain percentage of that hardware is no longer fit for purpose for cutting edge applications. An organization like IT Renew actually has a business model where they will repurpose that hardware. They refurbish equipment and you can buy that as a piece of certified infrastructure. This equipment might be well suited to tier two type cloud service providers, growing enterprises or other uses. If it’s OCP certified, the market knows exactly what it’s getting.

From a sustainability perspective, it means that you can demonstrate a much reduced carbon footprint because all of the carbon has already been counted. For European companies, I think this area is a growing interest. More companies are beginning to say they want to evaluate the carbon impact of their digital infrastructure. This makes initiatives like the IT Renew value proposition quite interesting.

Bulk’s interests don’t begin and end with infrastructure. It's also about aligning with this growing interest across the industry. We seek opportunities to align with this whole open source solution. We want to share ideas. We want to improve thinking across the board with initiatives like the OCP, IT Renew, the CNDCP and the Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance (SDIA). We are designing, building and operating facilities which meet the demands of next-generation IT. There are like-minded people here coming together with a common objective. Global tech is about improving performance and driving down costs but doing it in a way that will ultimately have a sustainability focus.

DK01 Data Center campus in Esbjerg, Denmark.

What’s next for Bulk and OCP?

The founding tenets of OCP are around a consistent drive for excellence incorporating Efficiency, Scalability, Openness and Impact and this aligns very well with Bulk.

There are many initiatives across our industry but with our focus for Scalable Infrastructure delivered in a sustainable way we are confident we can continue to work with OCP and their customers to continue to build on this in an open way.