The Rise of the Worker-Friendly Data Center

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The recreation area at the new CyrusOne data center in Carrollton, Texas features a spiral slide between stories, fitness machines, a rock climbing wall and a putting green. (Photo: Rich Miller)

CARROLLTON, Texas – As you walk through the new CyrusOne data center near Dallas, the tour winds through a modern cafeteria with a stylish eating area, an annex housing foosball tables, and a gaming nook with an advanced video game system. This opens onto one of the most unique spaces in the facility – a two-story recreation area featuring a climbing wall, putting green, and a spiral slide allowing a speedy trip from the fitness machines on the upper level.

The recreation area at CyrusOne reflects a new focus on the data center as a work space for busy professionals, complete with amenities to help them be more productive and unwind a bit. Data centers are designed primarily to house thousands of servers, but the nondescript concrete bunker of the past is giving way to campuses optimized for humans, complete with comfortable offices, conference rooms, theaters and gaming areas.

“We are pairing all our next generation facilities with industry-best office space so it’s a uniquely comfortable experience for our customers,” says Kevin Timmons, CTO at CyrusOne. “They will have ample room to relax, connect, or grab an espresso in an environment a short stroll away from their infrastructure.”

Differentiating Multi-Tenant Facilities

It’s a trend seen primarily in multi-tenant data centers, where customer amenities offer an opportunity to differentiate a facility in a competitive market. This has meant more attention to the needs of data center staff, a unique breed of workers that historically have had to labor in 100-degree hot aisles, work on laptop carts, and traverse man-traps and biometric security just to get to the restroom.

CyrusOne, which offers both colocation cages and wholesale suites, is among a growing number of companies seeking to create more comfortable working environments for data center staff.

  • At Vantage Data Centers, office space and other customer amenities account for about about 20 percent of the space in its new 60,000 square-foot facility in Santa Clara, Calif. In addition to two 20,000 square foot (3 megawatt) data halls, the building includes 12,000 square feet of conference rooms, kitchenettes, locker rooms with showers and Class A office space.
  • The hallways of the RagingWire Enterprise facility in Ashburn, Virginia, are lined with original artwork, including some pieces created by RagingWire staffer Julie Bjorgum from recycled materials from the construction of the facility. The data center also features abundant office space and conference rooms, as well as a colorful break area and dining space, and a separate area for gaming and video.
  • The SuperNAP in Las Vegas also features many visual flourishes usually seen in enterprise office space and includes a plush theater that is available for customer events.
  •  IO has nearly 80,000 square feet of office space at its huge IO Phoenix data center, which also includes meeting rooms and several amphitheaters.

CyrusOne’s Timmons says the focus on amenities was driven by demand from customers, who have quickly snapped up all the available office space in the company’s Texas facilities. When Timmons and his team set out to design new facilities in Phoenix and Dallas, they included a generous office component in each project.

The Phoenix facility features 96,000 square feet of Class A office space and conference rooms, complete with a glass atrium and facade. In Dallas, CyrusOne has 30,000 square feet of office space for its headquarters operations, and another 30,000 square feet of office space for customers, plus the cafeteria, conference rooms and recreation areas.

These customer-friendly flourishes have their greatest value in the premier data center markets – including Silicon Valley, northern Virginia and Dallas – where customers can choose between a number of service providers. But they also hold appeal for enterprises that operate data centers at their headquarters buildings or on a corporate campus, where the servers are within walking distance of office space for IT staff. These companies with on-premises data centers are a key target audience for multi-tenant data centers, and the availability of office space and amenities could ease the decision to shift gear to third-party facilities.

Here’s a look at some of the other amenities at the CyrusOne Dallas facility:

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The data center features a cafeteria and dining area with a sleek modern design. (Photo: Rich Miller)

A vending machine is fully stocked with a variety of cables and connectors that customers may need, provided at cost by CyrusOne. (Photo: Rich Miller)

Not your ordinary vending machine: This unit is fully stocked with a variety of cables and connectors that customers may need, provided at cost by CyrusOne. (Photo: Rich Miller)

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor-in-chief of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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