Data center giant opens first of five spaces in Hillsboro
Data centers are really in the business of selling electricity. Think of them as a large charging brick with lots of outputs.
On Feb. 25, NTT Global Data Centers opened part one of a planned five data center campus on 47 acres in Hillsboro.
The first space is a retrofit of the former SunPower solar panel factory, but the next four will be new construction.
The companies that need data centers — everyone from the tech giants like Amazon and Intel to mid-sized companies that have outsourced their computing needs to the cloud — need stable power. No spikes, and certainly no interruptions.
Service providers offer the nines of availability, meaning the percentage of time that the network will be up and running. Seven nines, or 99.99999%, of uptime is better than five nines, or 99.999%. (Those annual downtimes would be 3.15 seconds and 5.26 minutes, respectively.)
As well as electricity, a data center provides staff on-site to keep the heating and cooling systems running and fix things.
The uninterruptible power supply, better known as a UPS, typically looks like a truck container. It smooths out the power supply and contains a giant battery for five minutes of power backup, while the UPS instructs the diesel generators to kick in.
Streaming from undersea
Bruno Berti, vice president of Product Management, told the Pamplin Media Group that Hillsboro was selected for its reliable and moderately priced power.
Along with Southern California, northwest Oregon is one of only two places, or landing stations, where undersea data cables come ashore in the United States from Asia. (There are approximately 406 submarine cables in service around the world. The Pacific Crossing 1 is the one that comes to Oregon. From here, it is split up and runs up and down the coast, bringing data to the West.)
According to NTT, cloud services, content, games and mobile device communications drive 95% of global internet traffic through undersea cables. Demand is only growing as more people turn to web browsing, e-commerce, online gaming and streaming video.
Berti explained that the global pandemic increased the demand for bandwidth.
"Increases in people working from home, distance learning, e-medicine, video streaming, online shopping and gaming are creating unprecedented data demands," he said.
As online gaming and movie streaming has burgeoned, data centers have become less centralized. Ping speed is everything to series online games, and moving centers physically closer to the big cities save milliseconds, even when data travels at the speed of light.
"Some of these gaming companies have distributed their servers across multiple data centers," Berti said. "The ones that are latency-dependent, and ping-specific, they'll have some in Hillsboro, they'll have some in Los Angeles, they'll have some in Santa Clara, they'll have some in Chicago, instead of just one data center.
"We sell electricity, basically megawatts of capacity. The conditioned power, the cooling, the security, and the connectivity around that."
Meet in the lobby
Information technology infrastructure has changed at work due to the convergence of computers, storage and networking.
Many companies no longer own computers, instead choosing to rent computing power by the second from data centers and storing files.
NTT provides 10,000 square feet of office space where companies can base their tech workers with access to the servers. The company also offers live, in-house tech support if a remote company needs someone to physically change out a configuration without sending their staff. There's also hoteling space, conference rooms and break rooms.
Berti said what they do is provide a "hotel" for tech infrastructure.
"We provide space for the company's infrastructures," said Berti. "We provide power to make sure their equipment servers network the appropriate power in an uninterruptible fashion. We provide cooling because those computers and equipment get hot. We provide physical security around the environment, and connectivity for the clients."
Companies might choose the public cloud, as provided by Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Oracle, or build their own in data centers.
NTT offers a consulting service that will do that part too — "soup to nuts," as Berti puts it.
"(We'll) put all their equipment, all their servers, all of their applications into a nice package, and put it in one of our data centers," Berti said. "So, although it's a private cloud, it actually is housed in one of our data centers. Some of those companies put some of their applications in a public cloud like Amazon, but they'll also put some of their other applications or maybe their financial system, they'll keep them in a data center themselves and manage that themselves, a hybrid environment."
He likes going into a data center and seeing all the lights flashing.
"It's not just a big box that sucks a lot of power. It's actually providing photos for families, retail for businesses," Berti said. "Uber and those types of companies use data centers to not only manage where the drivers go, but also take orders and do a lot of the interaction that happens."
Hillsboro is a data center-friendly place. Some clients were looking for alternatives to California and Virginia. (Northern Virginia has by far the greatest concentration of data centers in the United States.)
NTT also likes Washington County's green power options — the promise from Portland General Electric that windmills and hydroelectric dams generated the electricity.
"From a cost perspective, it's pennies on the kilowatt-hour," Berti says.
Oregon businesses usually pay less than a dime. During the Texas power outage earlier in February, some customers in the Lone Star State were billed at $9 per kilowatt-hour, up from the usual 12 cents.
Hillsboro also has no sales tax and an "enterprise zone" property tax abatement for new data centers for up to five years.
NTT is hiring locally for physical security — that is, guards and staff responsible for everything that happens on the campus; as well as for critical facilities technicians tend to the mechanical and electrical infrastructure, including the cooling and power systems; and trained information technology professionals to help customers with their environments, called remote hands and eyes.
Most of the jobs are college or community college-graduate level.
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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