Traditionally, the wholesale data center market hasn’t placed a great deal of control into the hands of the customer. Due to many of their business models, the options available to customers typically culminate in the question, “How much?” Think about it, a customer’s choices as to location are typically limited to five or six cities, all support space (like loading docks and storage) are shared, and you have to use the provider’s operational personnel. Heck, you don’t even get to choose what color to paint the walls. Fortunately, this provider centric dynamic is shifting, placing a higher degree of control into the hands of customers. A key by-product of this new data center relationship is that you, as a customer, have an increasing number of options open to you. Of course, to paraphrase Spiderman’s Uncle Ben, “With increased opportunity comes great responsibility”. In other words, in order to get the data center you want, you need to ask the right questions. In this first installment of our new series, “Are You Asking the Right Questions” we will focus on what you should be asking about locating your new data center.
Question: Can I get my data center in Bismarck, North Dakota, or anywhere else I need it?
Although there are still a large number of providers that will look at you like you have a third eyeball when you ask this question, there are an increasing number of that will say yes. However, this inquiry actually has multiple layers. Many providers will look at your request from two perspectives:
1) Can this be a new market for us: Since the majority of wholesale providers use a business model that requires them to build large facilities to achieve economies of scale, a potential new market must have at least 2-5MW of potential to added to their roster. If you’re looking for a 1MW site in the Roughrider state, your chances of receiving a yes to your inquiry from providers using this lens to review your request are, shall we say, low.
2) Is this worth our while to do as a build to suit: This line of evaluation has two prongs. First, although a number of providers advertise this capability, only a couple of them have actually built one. Second, ‘worth our while’ comes with a pretty high price tag. If your proposed data center isn’t big enough to merit a price tag north of $50 million, you’ll find that although a new data center is worth your while, it’s not worth theirs.
A number of pre-fab and container-based providers will be happy to place their solutions in the Roughrider state but you need to have a building, or build a facility, to house them. This is kind of like buying a new toy and finding that the batteries aren’t included.
Fortunately, a new breed of providers has emerged that can deliver a geographically independent data center product. These solutions feature a hardened shell (able to withstand environmental considerations like wind and seismic factors) and a standard design that provides data center capacity in fixed increments below the thresholds required by most modular solutions providers.
By asking the right questions customers can find providers that will build their data center where they need it. The availability of this new capability does come with caveats in some instances, and it will require customers to clearly understand their requirements and a provider’s ability to address them.