Data Cowboys

More than a dozen states have made themselves attractive locations for large data center projects, primarily by offering targeted incentives and lower-cost electricity.

data centersThe rapid proliferation of data centers across the country makes ranking the top U.S. data hubs a challenge because it’s a moving target. However, in recent months, the leaderboard in the competition for data centers increasingly has come into focus.

Three of the nation’s leading data hubs are well established and where you’d expect to find them: California’s Silicon Valley; the Virginia suburbs north of Washington, D.C.; and the New York metropolitan area (including northern New Jersey). But a rapidly rising contender for the data center crown is a place made famous by oil wells and cattle ranches:

That’s right, the Dallas-Fort Worth metro and its surrounding counties in Texas have become a magnet for new data centers. They’re pulling in data facilities so fast we may have to replace the 10-gallon hat with a 10-gigabit version as one of our favorite icons for the Lone Star State.

Rising in the middle of the 18,000-acre, multi-use AllianceTexas complex north of Fort Worth, TX is Facebook’s new $1-billion data center. In the suburbs of Dallas, where 20 data centers already are up and running, ground will be broken soon for four more of these high-powered server farms. Down the road in Garland, TX, RagingWire Data Centers is building a 1-million-square-foot complex.

A report this week in The New York Times says data centers are “spreading as fast as springtime wildflowers” in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. According to the Times, the business-friendly climate and abundant sources of water and dependable energy have made the Lone Star State a prime destination for data centers.

Nationwide, the data center market across North America experienced robust growth in 2015. A report from real estate services giant JLL says multitenant data centers in the U.S. earned $115.3 billion in revenue last year, a 6.1-percent increase over 2014. While tech giants like Facebook and Google (which is building a $600-million data center in Huntsville, AL) have large, dedicated data centers, multitenant data facilities are driving the growth curve. According to the Times report, many companies are outsourcing their data center needs to concentrate on core businesses, spurring the proliferation of multitenant data centers that can provide a high level of security and expertise to numerous clients.

A New York-based firm that analyzes information technology trends, 451 Research, says the Dallas-Fort Worth metro now ranks fourth in the nation in square footage for multitenant data centers (with 2.8 million-square-feet now being utilized by data centers). There are an estimated 200 enterprise and multitenant data centers in the 13-county Dallas-Fort Worth region.

An early player in the data center market was Richardson, TX, which has trademarked itself as the “Telecom Corridor.” Richardson is home to Digital Realty, an expanding data center complex that soon will encompass 1.1 million square feet. Plano, TX-based Aligned Data Centers offers a “pay-as-you-go” program enabling clients to reduce power costs, the Times reports.

Fort Worth secured the Facebook deal after a yearlong, 220-city competition. The deal includes $146.7 million in tax abatements for up to 20 years, but a major factor in Facebook’s site selection choice was the availability of renewable energy to power the new data center. The Facebook facility, set to be completed in June. will receive all of its electricity from a 202-megawatt wind farm being built 100 miles northwest of Fort Worth. The social media giant has been a leader in the development of sustainable data centers, openly sharing its data center designs with other companies through its Open Compute Project.