Twitter continues to grow, and its infrastructure is growing along with it. The popular microblogging service recently surpassed 100 million active users, and is once again expanding its data center network to keep pace. This time, Twitter is looking East.
After an extensive search in which it considered multiple East Coast sites, Twitter has settled on Atlanta as the location for its next data center. The company will move servers into an enormous data center operated by QTS (Quality Technology Services) in downtown Atlanta, industry sources say. The 990,000 square foot Metro Technology Center, owned by QTS, in downtown Atlanta is one of the world’s largest data centers.
Twitter Data Center Hubs on Both Coasts
In adding infrastructure in Atlanta, Twitter is pursuing an East-West strategy, with server hubs on both coasts. It’s an approach followed by Internet-scale companies like Facebook and Apple, which have each supplemented their California server farms with huge data centers in North Carolina. This East-West approach places infrastructure closer to more users, which Twitter is hoping can improve delivery speed for the more than 230 million Tweets sent daily.
Up until 2010, Twitter used managed hosting services from NTT America, housing its servers in NTT data centers in Silicon Valley and Ashburn, Virginia. In 2010, Twitter announced that it would operate its own data centers, starting with a new facility in Salt Lake City. Earlier this year, the company leased data center space in Sacramento, Calif. with RagingWire Enterprise Solutions. The company apparently continues to maintain colocation space in Salt Lake City, but there are conflicting reports about its usage of its space at C7 Data Centers.
Massive Data Centers
QTS operates 3.1 million square feet of property in 12 data center facilities, which include more than 1.5 million square feet of raised-floor space. The Metro Atlanta site isn’t even its largest facility, as QTS recently opened a 1.3 million square foot property in a former semiconductor plant near Richmond, Virginia.
The huge Atlanta space offers plenty of room for expansion for growing tenants, which is a consideration for Twitter. QTS also offers flexible pricing on power usage, which can be attractive to companies facing rapid growth. The provider’s PowerBank plan allows large customers to scale their available power up and down as their requirements change.
That allows companies like Twitter to gradually expand their data center space and power costs over time, rather than purchasing a larger amount up front and seeing some of the capacity go unused as it ramps up its operations in the new site. QTS’s huge data center footprints in Atlanta and Richmond give QTS unusual flexibility in how it partitions its data center space for easy expansion within these buildings.
More Growth Ahead
Twitter is clearly preparing for long-term growth in its IT infrastructure. The company reportedly scouted a number of sitesand providers in Ashburn, Virginia, where Twitter has previously had servers through its use of NTT America. Northern Virginia is a historic meeting point for major fiber networks, and home to peering centers that allow companies to connect to a large number of networks from a single data center.
One of the new entrants in the northern Virginia market is RagingWire, which already hosts Twitter’s servers in its Sacramento facility. There’s been speculation in the industry that Twitter could take space in RagingWire’s new East Coast facility once it opens for business. Other companies bringing new data center space online in northern Virginia include DuPont Fabros Technology, Digital Realty Trust, Latisys, CoreSite, Sabey and Equinix, among others.
It’s not clear whether Twitter opted for Atlanta instead of Virginia, or will eventually seek space in both markets. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo recently projected that the company will add another 26 million users by the end of 2011, meaning that there’s likely more data center expansion ahead for Twitter.