Building data centers in specific areas is nothing new. Data centers are large consumers of power. That’s not news either. Typically, data centers are located near sources of low-cost (and hopefully renewable) energy. Energy is a large portion of the overall data center operational costs.
But power isn’t everything. Two other major considerations are connectivity to a variety of major backbone providers and people. Yes, people. How many skilled workers are willing to take the risk and relocate to a rural area? If the job doesn’t work out, where do they go? There is a premium to relocate people, which factors against the power savings.
Two ways to address the people issue are 1) locate the data center in close proximity to other data centers and 2) architect for a truly lights-out operation to limit staffing requirements. It seems that both are not only possible today, but also being encouraged.
Major companies such as VMware, Intuit, Microsoft, Yahoo, Dell along with commercial providers have build data centers in the Wenatchee/ Quincy area of Central Washington State. The combined data centers comprise more than two million square feet of data center space. That’s quite a large footprint for such a rural area. More recently, Facebook located and Apple is locating a data center in the Prineville, Oregon area.
If your company does not have the scale for large data centers, there are still options. Commercial data center providers are locating data centers in the Wenatchee/ Quincy area. There is also a growing trend in the creation of data center “parks”. These are locations that are specifically built to take advantage of power, cooling, tax implications and connectivity options. In addition, they’re close enough to metro areas to attract the talent required for operations.
I would expect to see an increase in data centers popping up in these data center parks and away from metropolitan areas where rent and power is expensive. In addition, cloud computing will only increase the movement of data center functions away from traditional approaches to commercial offerings in remote areas.