Some sources say that it’s helpful to be near multiple sources
of fiber optics. Again, that’s because, for data centers, it’s all
about redundancy. There is even a separate industry group, the
Uptime Institute, which sets tier performance standards and
established a four-tier classification approach to redundancy.
Under the strict Uptime Institute Standards with Tier I you
have one generator, one Uninterruptible Power Supply, one set
of batteries, one main Switchgear and one set of Data Center
air condition/ CRAC units serving the Data Center, Cafferty
explains. “You then increase with the redundancy, being N,
as the industry standard. Under Tier IV, Uptime Institute does
not absolutely require four levels of redundancy, technically
the description of Tier IV is a minimum of N+ 1, which means
every component of the Data Center’s infrastructure, the
Switchgear, batteries, UPS, generator, all must have at least
one level of redundancy.”
Few buildings qualify for Tier IV, says Cafferty. “In the state
of Virginia, there may be three buildings that are Tier IV. It’s
hard to achieve.”
Some companies such as Amazon achieve redundancy by
having a cluster of data centers in one infrastructure area,
Cafferty notes. “Amazon has become a very large player in
our market having bought or built 10 separate data centers
in the last three years. That’s millions of square feet of data
It’s also helpful to be near a good water source. Data centers
require a lot of cooling capacity given the computer equipment,
which creates heat, so the buildings also need to be cooled
or “chilled” and that requires significant water. Some data
centers require as much as 16 million gallons per month.
When Newman was doing site location work for Capital One,
it had specific water requirements mostly tied to cooling.
Water was a significant factor for selecting a site.
“You have these massive cooling towers and they suck up a lot
of water but they don’t discharge a lot because it evaporates,”
says Newman. “That said, you do get into issues with counties
about how to sub-meter water as most municipalities are
under the assumption that if you are using 16 million gallons
of water per month, they assume you are discharging, but that
is not the case.”
Another thing that is nice to have is a well for back-up. A lot
of times a data center will have dual water coming into the
site, and then run a ring around the building, so if it loses
water from one source, it is going to get a continuous stream
from another source.
“I’ve done some deals where the local municipality requires
an on-site detention pond for storm water management, which
to a data center is great because they can capture the water that
is being retained, circulate it to and from the retention pond
and still satisfy municipal codes,” says Kasselman.
Finally, Greenberg points out, “There are neighborhood
issues. You have to have multiple chillers on the roof, or
aside the building, for the air conditioning, which are noisy
and throw off water vapor. More importantly, you have to
have back-up generators that have to be tested weekly and
can be noisy. None of that sits well when you have residential
neighborhoods close by.”
Data centers are complex to understand and often expensive
buildings to create. Most people in the business rely on a
small group of specialists in the field and for good reason. The
commercial brokers who know this esoteric world understand
the structural complexities of the physical data centers, the
power and online issues, the need for redundancy and, equally
as important, the politics of getting one built.
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