Selecting the Best Location for a Colocation Provider

Seismic Risk

In conjunction with weather patterns, make sure to evaluate the seismic history of a given region to ensure the lowest seismic activity risk. Many times this variable is overlooked because of price, data center availability, or in hasty colocation decision-making. There are regions in the USA which are much more prone to seismic activity than others. Some data centers place more of an emphasis on equipment seismic bracing and/or improving their building’s seismic stability. Remember, even a small seismic event can have serious repercussions on a live data center.

In the United States, there are a few major seismic hotspots that should be considered. Seismic activity measured within these hotspots can actually occur frequently. As a whole, California experiences a number of small quakes with magnitudes ranging from 2-5 on the Richter scale. In Northern California, for example, recent data published in Data Center Knowledge says that there is a 63 percent chance of a  magnitude 6.7 earthquake occurring in the next 30 years, a 67 percent chance in Southern California, and a 99.7 percent chance in California as a whole. However, not all of California is at risk to earthquakes. For example, some data center providers are locating in the Sacramento area, where seismic risk is quite low yet the location is within driving distance of San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Seismic risk exists broadly in the United States as well. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 38 US states have regions of moderate to high seismic hazard and 60% of the U.S. population lives in an area of moderate to high seismic risk.

Power Grid and Redundancy

Another variable in the colocation decision process is the regional power grid infrastructure. Just because a geographic area has access to a good amount of power doesn’t mean that the power is delivered to the data center. Look for the location of power stations, substations, and feeds to the facility as well as redundancy throughout the delivery system. Also, research recent area outages to understand the time-to-repair for the utility provider. When working with a colocation provider, it’s important for them to understand the security and redundancy metrics of their local power grid. Many times, this can span at a national level. Take the time to understand the local power utilities, their capabilities, and how that ties into the colocation provider you are selecting. Remember, in emergency situations, you need to plan for redundancy and the availability of power.

Weather patterns also play a big role in how power is distributed. Areas which require more cooling due to heat constraints may have a stressed power infrastructure. Make sure that the data center you choose has multiple power sources in a location capable of handling those power needs. There are numerous locations where power is sufficient and will meet the demands of the average data center consumer.

Regional power considerations must be taken into account when selecting the right colocation data center. Check where the power is coming from and where there are available redundancies. Ensure that there are no major power constraints in the area to allow for maximum data center operation. (Please download the Data Center Knowlege Guide to Colocation Selection and review the Power Grid / Plant images on page 7).

Accessibility – Routes, Roads and Airports

According to the National Highway System (NHS), highways in the United Sates represent only about 4 percent of the nation’s total public road miles and 6.6 percent of its lane miles, but carry about 50 percent of the travel. In selecting a data center colocation provider, take the time to analyze a map of the region to ensure that there are easy ways in and out of the area. Look for routes in and out of the facility that do not require major roads or highways. Ensure that there are several ways to access the data center and that there are redundancies built in for easy access.

Another important factor is the availability of an airport. In some situations, equipment and personnel will have to be flown in for support. Ensuring that your data center has a readily accessible airport facility may be an important requirement. Furthermore, take the time to learn where international and regional airports reside. Since there isn’t always the need to be around a major airport, regional locations may serve the function as well.

Next week, the article in this Colocation Selection series will help you evaluate the colocation facility. If you prefer, you can download the entire Data Center Knowledge Guide to Colocation Selection, compliments of RagingWire.

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About the Author

Bill Kleyman is a veteran, enthusiastic technologist with experience in data center design, management and deployment. His architecture work includes virtualization and cloud deployments as well as business network design and implementation. Currently, Bill works as the Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at MTM Technologies, a Stamford, CT based consulting firm.

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  1. "Remember, even a small seismic event can have serious repercussions on a live data center." Conversely, some quite large seismic events can have little or no impact on datacenter operations - ie: the 7.0 Nisqually Earthquake between Tacoma & Olympia, Washington which didn't cause any facility in the Pacific Northwest so much as a dropped packet. I've always thought that seismic fears are overblown, and the simple risk of severe weather (thunderstorms, and severe snowstorms) which has a far greater impact on local power delivery, are under appreciated in the colocation site selection process. Humans fear the spectacular (airliner crashes, earthquakes, terror attacks, etc.) because of their visceral nature - far more than the mundane (car crashes, thunderstorms, ladder falls, etc) even though death, injury, and in our case outages, are statistically far more likely from the mundane.

  2. @Chuck - Absolutely great feedback! If you get the chance, check out the official Colocation Selection Whitepaper. Aside from seismic activity - I cover weather patterns, grid infrastructure, and so on. But you're right, seismic activity isn't the end-all in the data center selection process.

  3. Great points made in this post. Along with road accessibility, I would also suggest to look for a data center with ample parking. Some downtown data centers are notorious for bad parking options. Some downtown data centers are located in bad parts of town as well. It can get really scary trying to get to your vehicle at night time. We have seen more and more data centers address this issue as of late - some now even offer parking inside the complex. That is a nice benefit in wet, colder and snowy climates!