Applied Digital data centers support high-performance computing industry
Applied Digital is constructing a 5-megawatt facility to host high-performance computing applications
JAMESTOWN – Applied Digital Corp.’s next-generation data centers are being built to support the growing high-performance computing industry, according to Regina Ingel, chief marketing officer.
Applied Digital has facilities near Jamestown and Ellendale. The 100-megawatt facility about 7 miles north of Jamestown became operational in 2022. Applied Digital announced on March 7 that the 180-megawatt facility in Ellendale has been energized.
The total contracted capacity for Applied Digital is nearly 500 megawatts.
Applied Digital, which is headquartered in Dallas, is also constructing a 5-megawatt facility next to its 100-megawatt hosting facility north of Jamestown. The plan is for the new facility to host more traditional high-performance computing applications such as natural language processing, machine learning and other high-performance computing applications developments.
The 5-megawatt facility is planned for energization in the first quarter of 2023.
Applied Digital, formerly Applied Blockchain Inc., designs, develops and operates next-generation data centers across North America to provide digital infrastructure solutions to the rapidly-growing high-performance computing (HPC) industry, according to its website. Customers of Applied Digital include BITMAIN and Marathon Digital Holdings.
“We have customers that come in and they effectively rent, energize space from us,” Ingel said. “So we receive their equipment, we set it up, we plug it in and then we run it, but we don’t mine any cryptocurrency. We don’t own the Bitcoin mining equipment, so that has not changed.”
Applied Digital changed its name from Applied Blockchain to more accurately reflect its services and broader business offerings to serve customers that require large computing-powered applications, according to a news release on its website.
“We felt it fitting to remove Blockchain from the name because really we are more than a one-trick pony,” Ingel said.
Ingel said North Dakota is good for Applied Digital. She said the cool climate was a big factor in deciding to construct facilities in the state.
Being in North Dakota allows the company to save money on installing air-conditioning units and electricity, said Nick Phillips, executive vice president of hosting operations and public affairs.
“Some people also do evaporative cooling which means they use water and they spray water into the air and it evaporates which causes cooling,” he said. “We also don’t have to do that. So we don’t use water or electricity like we would have to in Arizona, for example.”
Philips said North Dakota is one of the more stringent electrical jurisdictions in the U.S.
“It's positive because we end up having to build to a very high standard from an electrical standpoint for what we do,” he said. “From a regulatory standpoint, North Dakota has been great. There’s been a lot of folks in the state who have been very excited to work with us and help us get permitted and deal with all the various issues that happen to come up.”
New Jamestown facility
The 5-megawatt facility will be designed and purposely built for graphics processing units and will be separate from the company’s other buildings. It is Applied Digital’s first HPC hosting facility. The 16,382-square-foot building is designed to provide ultra-low-cost and high-efficiency infrastructure for HPC.
Once the 5-megawatt facility is complete, the project is expected to move to a pilot program with 300 graphics processing units with the initial customer launch expected in the first quarter of 2023, according to a news release on its website. Full-scale operations are expected out of the facility shortly after. The first customer is expected to primarily use the capacity for machine learning.
A 5-megawatt facility that hosts HPC applications is quite large, Phillips said. He said there are very few facilities of that type in the U.S.
The equipment for mining cryptocurrency and blockchain uses application-specific integrated circuits, he said. For mining, he said the application-specific integrated circuits are purposely built for blockchain and validating transactions.
Phillips said the machines in the 5-megawatt facility will be used for different purposes and HPC involves graphics processing units.
“High-performance compute has what’s called GPUs so they are like graphic cards for playing video games so they are really good at doing math,” Phillips said. “They can be used for different things, so they can be used for machine learning, artificial intelligence, neural networks and you name it. There are dozens of different types of applications.”
An application such as ChatGPT – an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI – finds data that is available, feeds it to a computer system like what Applied Digital has and learns from what it reads, he said.
“In the case of ChatGPT, they had it learn from millions of articles out there,” he said. “Now when you ask it a question, … it kind of knows how to answer questions by having read a lot of text out there. … If you wanted to ask a question or have something write for you or interact with a person in some way, all these types of HPC apps can be run on there.”
He said HPC can be used for medical, gene or protein sequencing, drug discovery or other online artificial intelligence systems. He said Tesla’s self-driving cars use some sort of artificial intelligence that learns about video of people crossing a street or a vehicle that is turning to keep individuals safe.
“All those types of systems have to use computer systems that do artificial intelligence or machine learning or other things,” he said.
Ingel said Applied Digital has 37 employees in North Dakota and a large portion work in Jamestown. She said Ellendale is not completely hired yet.
“The pool of individuals who have any background and experience in this particular industry because it’s so niche, it’s very small,” she said.
She said Applied Digital has created an internal training program with an expectation that any incoming employee will need training. She said the company is all about promoting internally.
“We are looking for entry-level positions and we will train you because in our company (at) these facilities, there is absolutely a track in place where you can just keep growing and building your career internally with us,” she said.
Phillips said it has been challenging to hire people for the Ellendale location.
“We have a lot of open positions and they are entry-level positions and we do all the training,” he said. “We have a very robust in-house training program available for folks who would like to apply for our entry-level positions in Ellendale.”
Ingel said working with Applied Digital is being at the forefront of the new era of technology that is emerging.
“Our team is putting the digital infrastructure for these applications of the future in place and that’s pretty exciting,” she said.
For more information on Applied Digital, visit applieddigital.com .