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Firmus benefits from data center powered by grid connected renewable energy

Firmus benefits from data center powered by grid connected renewable energy

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Firmus, the Australian cloud infrastructure provider, has built its sustainable public cloud on Canonical’s Charmed OpenStack and Charmed Kubernetes. 

Cloud data centers are some of the most egregious offenders when it comes to emissions and environmental impact. With demand for cloud computing rising exponentially, overcoming climate challenges requires a fundamental change in data center technology – and Firmus has the answer.

Built around a uniquely efficient immersion cooling system, powered by majority renewable energy and leveraging open-source solutions, Firmus’ Supercloud sets a new precedent for sustainable public clouds.

Challenge

The rise of cloud has led to transformations in computing, business and even our daily lives. Reduced costs, improved agility and enhanced security are just a handful of the benefits that cloud offers, so it is no surprise that demand for the technology is growing every day. However, the price of progress is environmental impact.

Data centers are responsible for a staggering 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions and that number is rising. This is largely due to the inefficiency of traditional data center designs.

The worldwide average for data center energy efficiency is 1.59 power usage effectiveness (PUE).1. This means that for every megawatt that is spent powering computers, the data center requires an additional 590 kilowatts to run ancillary building support systems – mostly cooling – that needs to remove the vast amount of heat that the computing IT load generates.

This value has been stagnant for some time, resulting in inefficient data centers that are costly to operate, costly to access and costly to the planet.

This is the challenge that Firmus is working to solve. Initially, the company set out to develop a more sustainable approach to mining bitcoin – one of the most power-intensive computing workloads in the world.

The project led to the inception of an innovative new immersion cooling solution: submerging servers in a bath of non-conductive, biodegradable fluid that is approximately 1,000 times more effective at wicking away heat than air.

Tim Rosenfield, CEO and Co-Founder of Firmus, takes up the story: “We quickly realized that our immersion cooling discovery had applications beyond cryptocurrency, and we began exploring what the technology could do for the data center industry and for clouds.

“We ended up with a product that is arguably the most efficient data center design in the world, coming in at 1.03 PUE, as well as among the most capable. At 100KW hosting capacity per 45RU immersion rack, Firmus’ technology is uniquely suited to hosting GPU and heavy and power-intensive AI servers that are used with increasing frequency for breakthroughs in science, industry and human endeavour.”

Firmus saw that the efficiency of its Supercloud data center design would enable it to offer a public cloud product at a price point sustainably lower than the rest of the market, and the company immediately set about putting its idea into practice.

“Immersion cooling clearly had a lot of long-term potentials,” said Tim Rosenfield, “But by building a public cloud, we also saw an opportunity to start benefiting Australians right away.”

Solution

Pursuing its vision of a sustainable public cloud, Firmus chose to build its data center in Tasmania, an island powered exclusively by renewable energy. With the data center coming to life, the next step was building the cloud infrastructure.

“From the outset, open source was a must and OpenStack was our platform of choice,” recalls Rosenfield. “Our team is passionate about the industry, and we believe that open source keeps the momentum going in critical projects like this one.”

To help design and deploy its OpenStack cloud, Firmus needed a partner that understood the scope of what it was trying to achieve and possess extensive technical expertise. Of all the vendors that the company evaluated, Canonical stood out as the most impressive.

“We felt that, from a technical perspective, Canonical could grow with us,” said Rosenfield. “And the level of engagement from the Canonical team was remarkable. Even before we entered into a commercial agreement, Canonical offered valuable advice around OEMs and hardware choices. They were dedicated to our project from the get-go.”

This engagement gave Firmus the confidence to choose the full Canonical cloud infrastructure stack – including Charmed OpenStack and Charmed Kubernetes – and tasked Canonical with building and supporting the ecosystem.

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