The pool of wholesale data center providers in the Houston market has expanded with the arrival of Skybox Datacenters, which breaks ground today on an 86,960 square foot facility in the area, optimized for the data-crunching requirements of Houston's energy sector. The facility's design is geared for supporting high-performance computing workloads.
Skybox will offer wholesale data center space, allowing customers to lease turn-key data halls to house their IT equipment. The facility will feature four to six data halls, depending on customer requirements. The 20-acre site in Katy, Texas (right outside of Houston), can support a second facility of a similar size.
Skybox Datacenters is based in Dallas and is a joint venture between the investment firm Rugen Street Capital and real estate developer Bandera Ventures. The company sees an opportunity in the growth of "Big Data" in the energy industry, which uses 3D seismic imaging to identify promising oil and gas deposits. These applications require intensive data-crunching in high-power-density environments.
As these datasets grow larger, they become unwieldy to move over the network. Skybox believes its site in Katy offers some of the lowest-latency data transfer from the nearby "Energy Corridor" along Route 10, allowing customers to easily move data between their corporate offices and the data center.
"This is the energy capital of the world," said Rob Morris, managing partner of Skybox Datacenters. "Companies in Houston are changing the way they look at their data center portfolio. The strong preference for these energy companies is to have their (data analysis) teams within their offices rather than at the data center. That's why they really want a data center that's close."
Market competitive, but demand strong
Skybox enters a competitive market in Houston, which has been a historic hub for both CyrusOne and SoftLayer (now IBM) and is home to a total of about 30 data centers. But market watchers say supply is tight, and the large footprints of recent deals in the energy sector suggest continuing demand.
"Houston has become a very dynamic data center market over the past two to three years," said Bryan Loewen, global data center practice leader at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. "We expect the requirements for local data center product to only increase as the reliance and dependence on technology increases for all companies in the greater Houston market."
The Skybox Houston One site offers users up to 12.4 megawatts of power and is located next to a 300-megawatt power substation. Skybox is providing feed A/B utility power feeds in underground concrete-encased duct banks. The building's sturdy infrastructure is protected by a concrete roof deck designed to resist 190 mph hurricane grade winds. The data halls will be column-free, with dedicated power and cooling equipment housed in adjacent distribution galleries.
“Data center users in the Houston market are very sophisticated and require robust infrastructure to withstand the elements," said Morris. "Our ability to provide both 2N and N solutions to our customers in a secure, robust and reliable operation will provide great flexibility and value in their overall data center portfolio.”