Salesforce.com is rapidly expanding its infrastructure to manage its growth, and plans a significant expansion of its colocation footprint in the next several years. The company expects to add 100,000 square feet of colocation space next year, and is contemplating what its long-term growth may require of its data center infrastructure.
Frank Guerrera, Vice President of Technical Operations at Salesforce.com, discussed the company’s data center infrastructure Thursday at the DataCenterDynamics New York conference at the Marriott Marquis. He said the company’s rapid growth places a premium on planning for data center capacity.
Seven Data Centers
Salesforce.com currently operates seven data centers around the U.S. and Asia spanning about 76,000 square feet of space, with two data centers apiece in Chicago and northern Virginia, along with facilities in San Francisco, San Jose and Singapore. The company is preparing to open a new data center in Japan, and expects to open a facility in Europe next year.
That’s part of an expansion which will see the company add about 100,000 square feet of colocation space next year, Guerrera said. “We have buildouts planned in colo facilities around the world,” he said.
Salesforce.com’s focus on efficiency is reflected in its ability to support 93,000 customers generating $1.8 billion in revenue using just 3,000 servers in a colocation footprint that, while distributed, is the equivalent of about one medium-sized data center facility.
“We spend a lot of time looking at what’s going on in colo facilities and how we can do it better,” said Guerrera. Salesforce is on a two-year refresh cycle for its server equipment, and buys in bulk so that servers can be pre-racked in a cabinet and roll into place in the data center.
“One of the key things we needed to to was be more flexible,” he said. “We have to deploy equipment quickly. We’re constantly evolving as a company. In the data center, we have to understand these trends and build to them.”
Cloud As a Data Center Driver
Salesforce.com describes itself as the “original cloud company.” Many proponents of cloud computing see the technology as an opportunity to escape the overhead involved in operating a data center. That may be true for customers, but the rapid growth of cloud computing is pr0mpting major providers to build their own data centers. Facebook has shifted from leasing wholesale data center space to constructing its own huge facilities, while Twitter has shifted from a managed hosting model to dedicated data center space.
Salesforce.com is also pondering what ts long-term growth will require. “We are a software company,” said Guerrera. “We don’t have a desire to build our own data centers. As a data center manager, I’d rather not be building new facilities ourselves.”
But he said the company was in early evaluations as to whether it will need to build its own facilities. Within two to three years, the growth of the company’s service might reach a point where operating its own data centers might be the most cost-effective approach, he said.
Guided by Network Density
As it expands its data center space, Salesforce.com is unlikely to consider remote areas where power and land are cheap.
“We look for peering points, so we can’t build in some of the cheapest places,” he said.