As Jordan Lowe walks the lengthy corridors of a facility near Chicago, it takes time to navigate the expanse of data center space operated by his company, ServerCentral. Deep inside a new section of the building, the colocation and managed hosting company is creating a "monster pod" of data center space, combining two data halls to create a raised-floor environment supported by 2.6 megawatts of power.
When the new space opens in the first quarter of 2012, ServerCentral will operate more than 40,000 square feet of raised-floor space and 5.5 megawatts of critical power within the multi-tenant data center operated by DuPont Fabros Technology (DFT) in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.
That's a huge change from the days when ServerCentral was running off a server in Lowe's college apartment. That's where ServerCentral got its start in 2000, when Lowe was building web sites and seeing huge demand. "We said 'why don't we sell servers?'" said Lowe, now the CEO of ServerCentral. "We just grew and grew, and the last couple of years things have exploded."
The company now operates acres of space filled with servers in several of the world's largest data centers. ServerCentral is an example of a local company bootstrapping its way to growth in a capital-intensive industry, moving up the value chain in the process to emerge as a significant regional player in the Chicago market. The company has expanded its service offerings along with its data center footprint, and now offers colocation, managed hosting and cloud computing services.
From Domains to Managed Services
In its early years, the ServerCentral grew quickly, boosted by offers that bundled hosting with cheap domains. In 2003, the company leased colocation space with Equinix in downtown Chicago at 350 East Cermak, the immense Internet hub on the shores of Lake Michigan. Within 18 months, it was running 150 racks of gear at Equinix.
The ServerCentral team got into the network services space with nLayer Communications, which owns and operates its own global OC-192 infrastructure. The company also spun off its shared hosting business as Wing Six, which was later acquired by UK2.
In 2009 ServerCentral leased 10,000 square feet of wholesale space in a new data center built by DuPont Fabros Technology (DFT) in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. The company became one of the anchor tenants in the first phase of the facility, serving as the primary retail colocation provider in the building - a status that often results in referrals of customers who may need colo space but not be large enough to lease an entire pod directly from DuPont Fabros.
In August, ServerCentral expanded its space in Elk Grove Village, adding a 2,000 square foot room for high-density cabinets and taking 20,000 square feet of space in Phase II of the building. The company now has 60 employees, with more than half focused on engineering. It also operates colo space in northern Virginia, Amsterdam, Silicon Valley and Tokyo to support international users.
Growth in The Cloud, and the Enterprise
Lowe says ServerCentral is experiencing strong demand, and sees an opportunity in the growth of cloud computing. "We have some interesting cloud ideas," says Lowe, particularly involving private clouds.
"We think cloud is a complementary technology to our colocation and managed services," said Peter Berg, ServerCentral's vice president of sales and marketing. "We think that in the next 24 months, it could be 30 percent of our revenue." For now, Berg says, colocation inquiries predominate in the company's sales pipeline.
"We've now got some marquee customers," said Berg. "We're not just the hosting companies. We're squarely in the enteprise space. The secret is getting out."