Ramble On

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Doubling Down on the Data Center?

A friend recently sent me some news about a prospective new data center in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. A few months ago, when I was researching data centers more extensively, I'd read that there were several counties - all similar economically to Page County, and not doing so well by most measures – who had jumped on this thought that data centers might be a good route for future development. My reading showed that a lot of initiative was focused on the former tobacco regions in Virginia.

The news my friend sent me is summarized below:

Governor McDonnell Announces Microsoft to Locate Major Data Center in Mecklenburg County

  • Will be Largest Investment Project in History of Southern Virginia
  • Company to Invest up to $499 million and Create 50 New Jobs
  • Virginia Beats out North Carolina and Texas for Company’s Most Advanced Data Center
RICHMOND- Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that Microsoft Corp. will invest up to $499 million to locate their latest generation data center (Gen4) in Mecklenburg County, in what will be the largest economic investment in Southern Virginia history. Using modular technology and advanced cooling mechanics, the center will be Microsoft’s most advanced data center. The project will create 50 new jobs and Virginia successfully competed against North Carolina and Texas to secure this sought after facility.

When I think about this news, the first thing I want to analyze is location – which is strategic in Mecklenburg County:  power coming off the Kerr Lake Dam (Wikipedia: John H. Kerr Dam currently produces over 426 million KWh), easy access to Interstate 85 and rail corridors, located between the two state capitals, and positioned between the financial sectors in Richmond and Charlotte. With rail cutting through there, a good communications infrastructure already exists.

The reference to modular data centers is also interesting. It’s an approach that makes the building as flexible as possible, allowing for easy changes to technology. In fact, as I read the press releases, the only potential negative I see is the use of modular data centers in a hurricane prone area. Then again, it's Microsoft, and they'll have that figured out.

This news once again brings to mind some rhetorical questions about Page County as the potential location for a large scale data center:

• What's our current communications bandwith at Project Clover?
• What is the power capacity, and where does the power come from?
• And mechanical capacity (water for cooling)?
• What major roads get us there?
• What data intensive industries are nearby?
• This $500-million investment in a Gen4 data center will create 50 jobs...how will the Page County Data Center, a Gen3 facility, create 96 jobs?

The headline in the Page News and Courier said something our data center project doubling down. Call me a skeptic, but until we see more information, basic math applies: two times zero is still zero.

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