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Summary:

When data centers can be built anywhere and accessed from anywhere, how much does location matter? CentriLogic’s Jim Latimer identifies four key characteristics needed for a cost-effective data center location and suggests five places to build.

Facebook Data Center

Facebook Data CenterFuture data center expansion will be happening in developing markets like China, Brazil and Argentina, but such locations may not meet the requirements of data centers today and the requirements that will be necessary in the future. In fact, these five regions may not be the most obvious places to build a data center, but they might save your company a lot of expense.

Data center requirements have changed over the last 10-15 years. A decade or two ago, the two top criteria to consider when choosing a location were network accessibility and access to skilled talent. Fiber networks that connect data centers to the rest of the world were concentrated around metropolitan areas like New York City and San Francisco, but that is no longer the case. Sure, there will always be distance and latency concerns to consider, but the proliferation of high-speed network infrastructure means it is no longer the driving factor it once was. Additionally, data center talent was also limited to where the data centers were. That still holds true, except data centers have spread considerably and so has the skills base. In addition, remote monitoring and management solutions now make it possible for IT administrators to do most of their data center work remotely.

Today, largely because of remote access capabilities, data centers can be built anywhere in the world and be accessible from anywhere there is an Internet connection. As businesses have become more cost-conscious and more concerned about the environmental impact of technology, their data center location criteria have changed considerably. The top four key factors that need to be considered when choosing a data center’s physical location are:

  1. Access to power today and in the future. Power consumption is on the rise, and brownouts and blackouts are becoming more common in areas that have poor power infrastructure. Data centers require enormous amounts of power, and failures can cause unexpected downtime.
  2. Cooling and climate. Everything about a data center generates heat, and cooling the facilities can be expensive and challenging. Data centers built in cooler climates can reduce costs because outside air can be used to chill the data center.
  3. Proximity to risk. Data centers aren’t indestructible. Building them on fault lines, on flood plains, below sea level, or in the path of air traffic create unnecessary risk for the facility.
  4. Data security. Privacy concerns and compliance regulations require certain types of data (in particular, customers’ personal data) be stored within the region or nation that it’s collected. National legislation like the USA’s Patriot Act may also put data at risk because of the broad powers it grants governments for seizing corporate data. Political instability also causes concern regarding data security.

With these four criteria in mind, there are five regions that stand out as ideal locations for data centers:

New York State

Data centers have been migrating out of New York City, where real estate costs are high, to other areas of the state, in particular western New York. The state provides tax exemptions for data centers, has a solid power infrastructure, and offers excellent access to various metropolitan areas, including New York City and Toronto.

Ontario, Canada

Forbes recently named Canada the best place in the world to do business. The Province of Ontario (in particular, southern Ontario) in central Canada has one of the strongest infrastructures and the largest international airport in the nation. A strong networking and power infrastructure, low risk for natural disasters, and little government interference in corporate data (there is no Canadian equivalent to the Patriot Act) make Ontario, in particular the Golden Horseshoe around Toronto, an ideal location for new data centers.

Eastern Washington State

On the west coast is eastern Washington, which provides a good power infrastructure, plenty of skilled technology workers, and a tech-friendly environment that has been encouraged by technology vendors like Microsoft (headquartered east of Seattle in Redmond).

Colorado

Although data centers are still found in major American cities, increasingly data centers are being built in the Midwest. Colorado is becoming a data center hot spot. It provides power in abundance, a skilled pool of educated workers, availability of government-approved training programs, and low risk of natural disasters.

The Netherlands

As the only European region in this list, the Netherlands plays an important role in the data center world because of its ease of access to the rest of Europe and its friendly environment. The Netherlands provides a strong, clean power infrastructure. For North Americans, it’s also the only mainland European country where you’ll find that everyone speaks English. The Netherlands’ northern European location also provides excellent climate for natural air cooling.

This list identifies five of the top regions out of many that are proving to be excellent locales for data centers. With advances in equipment that runs effectively in hotter conditions and innovation in cooling and climate control, warmer areas (including in the middle of both New Mexico and Nevada as well as Singapore) are rapidly increasing in popularity.

Jim Latimer is the chief strategy officer for CentriLogic, an outsourced data center services provider that provides cloud computing, hybrid hosting, and managed service solutions in the US Northeast and Canada. Prior to joining CentriLogic, Jim was the founder of Fort Nocs Networks and a member of the founding management team of Cyberplex.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Tom Raftery.

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