Giving data centers an edge


We’re in a critical moment for data centers. With Corning technology, they can scale up faster and more sustainably, so we can all reap the benefits. 


A data center may look like, well, nothing from the outside – big, boxy, gray, inconspicuous. But inside, it’s a hub for ALL our information. Deposit a check on your banking app? It’s stored in a data center. Send a pic of your grandma to the cloud? It’s in the data center. Tweet? Yep, same place.

As miraculous as that is, data centers have a problem: they need to meet booming bandwidth demand. 

As we’re streaming, using the cloud, and deploying artificial intelligence (AI) at an astonishing rate, data centers underpin our increasingly digital economy and society. But today they need a whole new level of power to store, ship, and analyze our data in real time.

“With the advent of AI and machine learning, we’re looking at data centers within a data center. Theoretically, even hyperscale data centers could double in size,” says Mike Bell, senior vice president and general manager, Corning Optical Communications. 

What’s so hard about expanding these big, boxy buildings? Labor shortages, plus the need for higher-density builds, faster speeds, costly hardware, and lots and lots of fiber. Not to mention the energy required to run and cool data centers – accounting for approximately 1% of the planet’s power consumption.

But it doesn’t have to be so hard, says Aislin Sullivan, sustainability program director, Corning Optical Communications.

“Choice of construction materials and use of renewable energy are important, but the type of network components you choose also makes a difference,” Sullivan says. “The right network solutions are another important component when it comes to expanding quickly and reducing carbon footprints. That’s where Corning’s high-density optical connectivity solutions can help.”  


Speed and simplicity also matter, and Corning has a solution. With Corning’s EDGE™ Distribution System, optical fibers plug into servers with specialized connectors; those fibers are packaged into a single cable; the cables are then organized into trays, which are stacked to the ceiling. The cables are then routed, like orderly information highways, out into the world.  

“If you’ve ever been to a data center where they’re doing this work, technicians are going up and down on ladders, stringing things in crazy places,” Bell says. “With EDGE DS, they just roll it right down the cable tray.”

Chaos in data center cabling adds to installation time and uses too much hardware.

Technicians can now cable a server row in 45 to 50 minutes instead of in three hours, a reduction of up to 70%, which can lower total installation costs by up to 20%. 

And with project timelines and labor freed up, data centers can get online quicker.

“That's very, very critical,” says David Hessong, data center market development manager, Corning Optical Communications. “Because the time it takes to bring that data center to operation, that’s revenue lost.”

One EDGE™ Distribution System assembly can hold 144 fibers in a single main tube.

One EDGE™ Distribution System assembly can hold 144 fibers in a single main tube – cutting down on the plastic jackets needed to protect the fiber. With pre-engineered designs, structured cabling can get denser, leading to fewer cables, less hardware, less packaging, less weight, and less space – valuable for lowering data centers’ environmental impact.  

“Density is everything,” Hessong says. “You need to be able to feed many fiber connections within a small footprint. As governments pass more regulations, and customers set their environmental bar higher, we’re seeing companies do everything they can to reduce their impact quickly.”

A Corning cable assembly (left) consolidates hundreds of fibers to avoid what looks like a mess of spaghetti (right), saving technicians frustration and time.

The consolidation of cables into a single pre-engineered assembly provides up to a 55% reduction in carbon footprint compared to Corning’s legacy solution, according to a third-party life cycle assessment. A single pre-engineered assembly can reduce more than two kilograms of aluminum from hardware, reducing the environmental impact from both materials and transportation.  

“It’s faster, it’s cheaper, and it’s more sustainable,” Bell says. “Customers like that.”

Data center customers aren’t the only happy ones. We’ll all enjoy speedy internet for a myriad of uses – like, yep, even sharing that pic of grandma.

“Fiber connects us all. It expands the bandwidth of human potential,” Sullivan says. “The United Nations calls access to reliable internet connectivity a fundamental right for a reason. At Corning, we get to help data centers expand quickly and responsibly, helping extend that right in a way that pushes the world toward progress.”