What it takes to build a data center

Ever wonder what it takes to build one of those massive data centers you hear so much about?

Well, we can’t tell you everything, but today Fed Cloud Blog gives you a bit of an inside look.

Bruce Hart is chief operating officer of Terremark Federal.

The company recently opened its third 50,000-square-foot datacenter — the Network Access Point (NAP) of the Capital Region in Culpeper, Va.

The facility is still in the process of being built, and he gives us an idea of just how massive it’s going to be when completed.

BH: We have a flagship product that we call the Network Access Point of the Americas — or NAP — that was built in Miami several years ago. We are in the process of building, on a lateral scale, a similar facility in Culpeper, Virginia . . . and we’re putting it up one pod at a time. A pod represents a raised floor data center . . . between 50,000 and 60,000 square feet.

Pod A was built in 10 months, filled in 6 months, and is now pretty much done. There’s not much room for more in there. Pod B opened for storage a few weeks ago, but is already sold out. . . . Pod C — we have broken ground and are putting up the foundations. . . . Pods D and E remain to be built. That will pretty much fill up the current campus, along with a 72,000 square foot office building and campus headquarters.

FCB: How does this fit in with Terremark’s overall plan to help the federal government when it comes to cloud computing, data centers and privacy and security.

BH: One of the reasons that our CEO first decided to build this facility in Culpeper . . . was to make it federal-facing — to give it a proximity enough to federal decision makers so they could get there if they needed to, [but] be [far enough away] that it is outside of the blast zone.

It is very, very secure. It’s a level 3-plus facility from a physical security, multi-layer security perspective. . . . It’s a place where you’d have to score a direct hit with a really large bomb. We have been able to fill it up not only with federal customers that require that kind of physical space for their missions, which are absolutely critical — we began with DoD and Intelligence Community kinds of missions — but now we are also moving into the civil sector of government.

We also have a number of Fortune 1000 companies that have availed themselves of that space for the same reasons that their federal brethren do. We don’t just sell co-location there. It’s also the foundation of a whole host of services, which we integrate as needed by federal customers to provide what amounts to one-stop shopping solutions for [IT] problems.

FCB: We don’t know if you can give us absolute numbers, but have you found as you’re doing this that the federal government is ahead of the curve, or are they lagging behind the private sector?

BH: I guess it would depend upon the particular product line. I think the government is moving to external and privately managed co-location, privately owned data centers like ours, because they can’t really find ways within the government’s funding process to recreate these on their own.

It’s very difficult to interest Congressional decision makers and Congressional committees in the basic problems of infrastructure, and one of those pods is $60 million or more. It’s a capital investment that can cause a gulp if you’re not in that line of work. So, for them to be able to avail themselves on a monthly, recurring rate basis — or [look at it] as an operational expenditure, rather than a capital expenditure, sometimes makes their lives a little easier. They get to share the costs with other federal organizations . . . and that’s a business model that makes sense both commercially and in the federal space.

In the area of managed services, and, specifically, the area of enterprise cloud services, the federal government is definitely in the lead. From the time Vivek Kundra and President Obama took office, the federal government has created a position of leadership and vision. I’m very proud of them — they don’t often do this in the sphere of information technology, and it’s not just about things [like] economy. They also, at the very highest levels, understand the power of the cloud and its differentiators in a variety of ways.

So, yeah, I’d say they are in a leadership position at present.

Also, today on Federal News Radio, The Federal Drive gets details about a new survey regarding data center consolidation.

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