On Tour: Austin Data Centers

16 May 2014 by Datacenters.com Technology

"Austin is often known as the liberal mecca of Texas, but it's cementing its status as one of the premier American tech centers as well.Google recently named Austin as a North American tech hub, a distinction it shares with nine other cities around the world - seven in North America, as well as London and Tel Aviv. The honor comes with some sweet perks for Austin, including access to Google products and support, as well as connections to its sister tech hubs. It also boosts visibility for Capital Factory, Austin's ""entrepreneurial center of gravity,"" and encourages startups to consider opening shop there.

""Google is recognizing Austin as well as Capital Factory as one of the most important up and coming tech areas in the country,"" said Joshua Baer, the executive director Capital Factory, according to KEYE TV.

These accolades are far from the only support Google has thrown behind Austin's rising tech profile. Texas' capital was also the second U.S. city to receive Google Fiber, the tech giant's high-speed broadband Internet service.

Google Fiber is also one of the infrastructure developments that bodes well for Austin's potential to draw leading data center companies, as well as game-changing tech startups, to the area. The time is ripe for a profile on Austin's rising data center industry star. Let's take a look at some of the major data centers in the city, as well as some of the reasons Austin's data center future looks so bright.

Austin's Major Data Centers
Digital Realty Trust: We're talking about Texas here, so it makes sense to start with the biggest. With four data centers totaling 340,472 square feet, Digital Realty Trust boasts an appropriately Texas-sized commercial data center footprint, larger than any other provider in the city. Its initial investment of twin data centers on Metro Center Drive, a stone's throw from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, account for 75,000 square feet and 50,000 square feet of space, respectively, and were erected in 2000.
Digital Realty Trust expanded its Austin footprint significantly in May 2013, when it made a $31.9 million deal to acquire a six-building portfolio in the MetCenter Business Park adjacent to its Metro Center Drive holdings. It added 337,000 square feet of operational data center and flex space. As the world's largest data center company, Digital Realty has earned high marks from customers for its custom data center and colocation offerings, and range of facility management services.

""This acquisition adds inventory to a market where we have already seen substantial absorption at our existing facilities, as well as strong demand from enterprise customers,"" Michael Foust, chief executive officer at Digital Realty, said at the time. ""It is a continuation of our strategy of growing a world class data center portfolio in markets where our customers want to be located.""

Data Foundry: With two facilities comprising 290,000 square feet of space, Data Foundry has a large footprint not far from its headquarters in San Antonio. It opened its Austin data centers in 2003 and 2011, respectively, and has earned a reputation for colocation and disaster recovery services on the wholesale and retail data center level. In April, field services platform WeGoLook announced that it selected Data Foundry's 250,000-square-foot Texas 1 data center as its disaster recovery facility. In a statement accompanying the announcement, WeGoLook chief technological officer Benjamin Hudgens highlighted what many companies have found so appealing about Data Foundry:
""When we started evaluating data centers for disaster recovery services, Austin was a natural destination because it has a very low risk for natural disasters. Beyond that, Data Foundry's Texas 1 facility is a purpose built data center that is ultra secure with multiple levels of redundancy.""

CyrusOne: The third-largest commercial data center provider in Austin, CyrusOne offers 115,000 square feet of space across two data center facilities. As once of Texas' biggest data center providers, CyrusOne links its Austin facilities with an on-the-ground presence in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, providing flexibility to companies with a multi-city state footprint. In January, it announced that it purchased 22 acres in the MetCenter business complex, boosting its Austin colocation space and increasing the backup and high-density computing services it offers its customers.

Why Data Center Companies Are Choosing Austin
Besides Google's resounding support, Austin offers a bevy of potential benefits to data center providers and their customers. It has a low incidence of natural disasters, lying at a sweet spot 100 miles from Tornado Alley and 200 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, as Data Foundry pointed out. It's also the second-safest major city in the U.S., according to the FBI's Unified Crime Report. Texas is also a smart economic choice; it is pro-business and its chief industries have been immune to some of the economic recession hitting other major metropolitan areas fairly hard in recent years.

Austin also offers best-in-class power grid availability, according to Data Foundry. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas manages Texas Interconnect, the state's independent power grid. It is the only state with areas that operate outside the purview of the Eastern and Western interconnections which supply energy to the other 47 contiguous states. Additionally, the city's energy company, Austin Energy, was the first energy provider in the country awarded with an International Organization for Standardization ISO-9001 certificate. In meeting this high standard, the energy company had to comply with stringent construction, maintenance and operation procedures for electric transmission and energy distribution. So it's not a stretch to say that data centers in Texas have power-related disaster recovery support that can't be found anywhere else.

Texas Governor Rick Perry has also aggressively pursued tax breaks and other incentives to bring large businesses - including data centers - to his state in recent years. Currently, data center companies can receive a 10-year sales tax exemption with a $200 million five-year investment and job creation; with a $250 million investment, the sales tax exemption extends to 15 years. Owners, operators and tenants are all eligible to receive this refund, according to Texas Insider. They took effect in September 2013."


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