The Raub Report- Data Center Danger Zones

June 28, 2018

Datacenters are basically warehouses for “1’s” and “0’s, the cyphers that make up the entire world of data, and generated by either an “on” or “off” switch of electricity. It’s all that simple and that complex.  It’s called binary code for you non-nerds in the audience.  Now the interesting thing about 1s and 0s is that they don’t care at all where they live, so long as it’s dark and cold and have lots of power. Their cottages, known as computer servers, don’t work well in the heat, and they generate tons of heat, because they are continually being jammed in closer and closer together, I mean like, really dense housing.  But that datacenter warehouse can be in Reykjavik, Iceland or Reynosa Mexico, just as long as it is dark and cold and they are hooked to the internet.   However, as these datacenters must be on-line 24 / 7 / 365, every second of every day, they need to be located in geography that is free from dangers that would interrupt their power supply, such as, volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, hacking by international terrorists, floods, mayhem, etc.

Well, if you overlaid all of these danger zones on top of each other, as datacenter developers want to do, you would discover that the Alamo City is one of the few places on the face of the earth that is outside all of these zones.  You didn’t know how great it is to live here, did you!  You are just like the 1s and 0s – you want to be safe and in the cool air-conditioned indoors, too!

Know what else makes our fair city an excellent datacenter locale?  We have good electricity: 1) CPS has one of the lowest energy rates in the country and low cost energy is a key for data center location selection.  2) We are on ERCOT, the Texas energy grid that is separate from the rest of the United States’ energy grids, providing us some protection from outages that might occur in other regions, say from hacking or brown outs.

The big data users and thus the companies that need the most data centers are Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Google, Apple, NSA and Facebook.  Microsoft is the big dog in San Antonio, to wit: They built one large data center in Westover Hills, then bought Chevron’s own data center across the street, then partnered with Cyrus One REIT and Stream Realty on 3 to 4 more. Then, they bought 158 acres from Texas Research and Technology Foundation at the western edge of Bexar County and are now building 1-million square feet of data center space. I believe this makes San Antonio the largest Microsoft data center location and certainly the largest user by far in San Antonio.  I don’t know whether this will attract the other big operators, or make it less likely for them to build here, as this is Microsoft’s town.   Having a concentration of high caliber datacenter engineers in San Antonio is a really good thing for us, though.

Technology is continually changing and advancing, as we all well know. So, centers need to be “refreshed” every 3 to 4 years, that is, tear out all the innards, the huge mass of old servers, and replace them with newer ones. The designers have even figured out how to submerge servers in oil for better cooling and reducing a bit the excessive electricity requirement.  One thing we know – there will never be an end to storing human interactions on computers, so there will be no end to data center expansion.  Autonomous Cars will be huge data hogs, for example.  The other thing we know is that technological innovation will never cease making last generation’s datacenters obsolete as newer and better ones are invented.   As soon as I figure out how to make money out of this for you, I will let you know.