DataSite is adding an additional 18,000 square feet of purpose-built data center to its Marietta, Georgia facility, where it's offering a product it calls hybrid colocation. The company has invested $19 million in the current phase of expansion, with future phases bringing the total investment to $30 million.
The company’s two properties are DataSite Marietta and DataSite Orlando, which each have their own unique evolution. While DataSite has been offering wholesale colo for a while in Orlando, the 73,000 square foot Georgia project offered an alternate approach.
“Marietta was a canvas upon which we could paint the data center we wanted to build,” said Jeff Burges, CEO of Burges Property + Company. “With this, we’re announcing the next iteration: the colocation footprint.”
The new space at DataSite Marietta is designed to provide a minimum of 2 megawatts of UPS load in a standard footprint, and is scheduled to begin accepting customers this month. DataSite is carrier and vendor neutral and has designed its offerings to be flexible enough for clients with specific data center requirements.
What is Hybrid Colo?
The hybrid colo offers customers options in how they provision four key infrastructure components: The main utility (switch gear and utility service), the generator plant, the UPS plant and the cooling plant. This approach was developed to address users that didn’t want to be a colo customer, allowing them the option to own and control the pieces they want, even with their money.
“We dedicated and delivered exclusive use of UPS and cooling for a particular user at Marietta,” said Burges, citing one example of a hybrid arrangement. “It was one case where I said: I’m going to build you your own UPS and cooling plant. But generator and switch gear, that’s an expensive proposition – so you’ll share, and then get your own UPS and cooling.”
A customer can eventually able to take over the management, operations and service levels of the cooling, or they can elect to have DataSite team to maintain it.
The company plans to announce 1-2 more facilities this year in undisclosed locations, which will also feature a flexible product model. "You have to be able to accommodate 40 watts a square foot, and 400 watts a square foot," said Burges. "We’re trying to be as broadly flexible as we can.”
Tracking the Industry's History
Burges' career tracks the growth and evolution of the data center industry. As CEO of Burges Property + Company, he started out with a commercial real estate background, operating large office complexes, which included some laboratory space. "The experience in labs gave me background in specialty real estate,” said Burges.
The company’s first real foray into IT facilities was the acquisition of 274 Brannon Street, a long distance hub building in San Francisco. “We did not go in on purpose, it was luck," said Burges. "We brought great improvements. We took that model and became arguably the biggest telecom owner in the country. We got in, and then we got out, very healthy and very happy. We were stingy about what we bought and we were careful. The telecom hotel evolution over 4-5 years gave us unique insight heading into the data center business.”
The company was wise to take advantage of the Exoduses and Abovenets and Worldcoms, companies that expanded too fast and built top-quality facilities that were largely empty when the bubble popped. “We started to acquire these beautiful, empty data centers in 2004-06,” said Burges. One such facility was 1920 East Maple in El Segundo, Calif., which it sold one year later in 2005 to Equinix.
“Perhaps the finest building was the ATT facility in Orlando in late 2004," said Burges. "We bought it and sat on it for a while. The most difficult thing is to capture that low basis if you can. If you can acquire something well engineered it is a vastly better proposition.”
During 2005-2007 Burges says the nature of customer requirements began to change. “Then, we were still in that 'I need to own and control UPS and cooling system' stage," he said. "That is changing now. In 2009-10, there was a move to trusting the colo operator.
“DataSite Marietta represents a history book of that evolution," said Burges. "We went ahead and recapitalized our Datasite Marietta and Orlando. We opened both buildings in 2009 with vastly different models."
Matching the Infrastructure to the Customer
DataSite Orlando is a wholesale data center, with the company entering its third phase of build-out. Orlando has 8 megawatts of critical load. DataSite Marietta was built to suit. Half of DataSite Marietta is occupied, and with the other half, the company is building out its Hybrid Colocation offering.
The company believes that there is a gap between the cutting edge designs touted by many providers and the needs of most data center customers.
“There’s a lot of talk about efficiency and low PUE, but what we see the market wanting is boring and typical," said Burges. "What we’ve been successful with is heat exchangers and managed chilled water. The majority of the clients are still air cooled, under 200 watts per square foot. We go cautiously into the high density world. I fear the future for some of the folks who have gone mechanical enclosure, 20kW (rack density), because it comes down to the almighty dollar.
"Our customer base is a vast array of meds, feds and eds," said Burges, referring to healthcare, government and education tenants. "They all have their own way of doing things, but we find that static UPS is the way to go. Continuous power systems have too many points of failure.
“We’re practical. We have tremendous redundancy and a terrific uptime record. Customers are able to grow by the rack and not have to decide what the footprint is going to be 10 years from now,” said Burges.