I found one phrase very interesting in this post on Rich Miller’s excellent “datacenterknowledge” blog:
“…just blocks from the cityâ€™s major Internet connectivity hub.”
In military parlance this is called “fighting the last war.” Connectivity was the largest issue facing those of us who were building datacenters a decade ago. Getting onto “the wire” was really the hardest part and the availability of fiber-optic networks was by far the premier consideration when seeking a site for a datacenter. Back then, bringing fiber into the facility from even moderate distances was very expensive. A datacenter is a place where electricity is transformed into bits, on an industrial scale. Power goes in, bits go out over those fiber-optic networks. A decade ago getting to those bits was the hard part. It was expensive, and time consuming.
How times have changed. Today’s premier consideration in datacenter site selection is even more basic: electricity. How much and how cheap? Even a large facility’s output can be handled with a couple of bundles of fiber-optic cable, but the electrical input needs have grown enormous. Moore’s Law has a downside, and that is power consumption. Today’s servers burn up Watts at a rate their forebears a decade ago could only dream about. Today’s datacenter needs at minimum 5X the power it required in 1999, ideally much more. The rate charged for that electricity is even more critical when it comes to site selection. This is why those at the leading edge of this business are building in places like the Columbia Valley. Home to more than just great vineyards, it is also where “green” hydro & wind power can be purchased at well under 1Â¢â€”3Â¢ per kilowatt-hour. Contrast that with rates in Illinois averaging 7Â¢â€”9Â¢ per kW/hr. Over the useful life of the facility that difference could be hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.
Digging a little deeper in the story is seems that this facility was originally planned a decade ago, and was delayed when datacenter oversupply stalled facility building projects in 2001. Datacenter demand kept growing, and continues to grow at a healthy rate. Healthy enough to fill this Chicago facility when it is complete, I’m sure. The smart money however, will go to the places where operations costs are the lowest, which is next to a dam somewhere. Wenatchee, Quincy, The Dalles. Those places are the future of the datacenter industry.