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Data Center Building Boom In Silicon Valley 96

Posted by kdawson
from the if-you-build-it dept.
1sockchuck writes "Data center developers are building like mad in Silicon Valley, with seven active projects in Santa Clara alone. The building boom includes the resumption of several stalled projects that prompted concerns of a shortage of wholesale data center space in the Valley. The flurry of construction activity is different from the overbuilding during the dot-com boom, which was characterized by too much funding and too few customers. This time, industry experts say, the end of a funding drought has created a situation in which construction is struggling to stay ahead of demand from companies like Facebook — which just scarfed up an entire new data center in Santa Clara."
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Data Center Building Boom In Silicon Valley

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  • sure sure (Score:4, Insightful)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:13AM (#32344902)
    "The flurry of construction activity is different than the overbuilding during the dot-com boom"

    thats what they all say.

    what about when the next fad comes along and facebook is forgotten over night?

    • Exactly what I was thinking
      • Re:sure sure (Score:4, Informative)

        by davester666 (731373) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:43AM (#32345056) Journal

        Um, I would be more worried about electrical capacity.

        It's not like California is overloaded with the stuff...

        • by Kymermosst (33885)

          You left out earthquakes, rising taxes, bankrupt state gov't.

          I'm not sure why anyone would want a data center in California when there are other locations that don't have these disadvantages.

          Put 'em near the Columbia river here in Oregon and you get cheaper land, cooler air (meaning you can economize on cooling), cheap hydro power, lower cost of living (meaning smaller payroll), and (if you do it right) no sales tax when you buy equipment.

          Or, keep putting them in California and pay a premium for land, hotte

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Surt (22457)

            The main reason to locate in CA is latency.

            • Re:sure sure (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot&hackish,org> on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:52AM (#32345922)

              I hear that argument, but is CA really some sort of global optimum for latency of a data center? It's a reasonably well connected location, but I can't help but think it's being somewhat overvalued because many of the engineers are in CA, and it lowers latency to them. But most users are not in CA, and isn't latency to the end-users the main issue?

              • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

                by Anonymous Coward

                Exactly, I think somewhere on the east coast, Atlanta especially, NYC or Chicago would be best as far as latency to users is concerned.

          • ... then build one. What's stopping you?

            Until then, quit telling others how to conduct their business.

            • by Kymermosst (33885)

              How you managed to read that I was suggesting that there weren't any and I was somehow lamenting that fact is beyond me. How you turned my post questioning the choice of location into "telling others how to conduct their business" is mystifying. You must be great fun in person when someone asks "why?"

              To summarize my post and possibly increase your reading comprehension: I questioned why anyone would build a data center in California. I provided an example of an alternative that I was familiar with.

              Since

        • by Agripa (139780)

          I am sure they can just buy more electrical power from Arizona. Oh, wait . . .

    • Re:sure sure (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nacturation (646836) * <nacturation@ g m a i l . c om> on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:22AM (#32344950) Journal

      what about when the next fad comes along and facebook is forgotten over night?

      If you subscribe to the theory that Facebook has built demand, then that demand (with the corresponding need for servers) will shift elsewhere. If it ends up being that a large part of the demand simply vanishes, then yeah... they will have overbuilt.

      • It probably won't make any difference. The smart money says they'll all be supported from Bangalore, anyway.

        Good for real estate developers, yes. Good for the local IT industry - probably not.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Its just the NSA adding their Room 641A's during the downtime.
      When the US green digital economy picks up, packet inspection tools can start as the doors open.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      "The flurry of construction activity is different than the overbuilding during the dot-com boom"

      thats what they all say.

      what about when the next fad comes along and facebook is forgotten over night?

      Maybe. But it could be true as well, if you kind of believe in Gartner's hype curve [gartner.com]. I do, because, I have seen many things going through that phase of disillusion and pick up again when time comes. Maybe dot com is going to become part of steady growth.

      my 2 cents.

  • customers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by seanadams.com (463190) * on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:21AM (#32344944) Homepage
    During the dot-com boom, as I recall there was no shortage of customers for data centers, and every one I visited was filling up new space as fast as they could equip it. Mostly with expensive servers that were underutilized. The problem was those customers were ultimately not viable. They weren't building "on spec".

    Still I agree that this rising demand on the tail of the recession is a good sign, for the valley in particular.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by oldhack (1037484)

      "The problem was those customers were ultimately not viable. "

      But Facebook is completely different.

      Hehehe.

    • by WarJolt (990309)

      I hate the be a pessimist, but one could argue we aren't out of the woods yet on this recession. Those customers could go out of business tomorrow.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by the_humeister (922869)

      What I don't understand is why build the data centers in Silicon Valley? Why not build somewhere cheaper, like the midwest, and have the sales office in Silicon Valley?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Because the customers are in Silicon Valley.
        • Re:customers (Score:4, Interesting)

          by An dochasac (591582) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:57AM (#32346388)
          Yes the engineers and customers are in Silicon Valley, that's fine. But we have this thing called the Internet [wikipedia.org] which means it is no longer necessary to put data centers anywhere near the customers or engineers. And if it's not necessary, it makes absolutely no sense for servers to compete for space in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world when there are billions of acres of wasteland that would work just as well for a server farm. I've used a thin client desktop with the servers hosted over 3000 miles away and the latency was better than it was when the server was hosted only 8 miles away. Only video games and the kind of hyperactive trading that led to this month's stock crashes have latency requirements which would be significantly impacted by having your server in central valley or the Midwest or Iceland [icelandreview.com] or Offshore [datacenterknowledge.com] and you will save an enormous amount of real estate and energy costs. I'm convinced that high-level corporate decisions are still based on inertia and nineteenth century factory-whistle mentality.
          • by Surt (22457)

            You're assuming all of the machines involved in a service are located in the same place, and that latency and bandwidth between machines doesn't matter. For example, I bet facebook has a small number of really monster databases, and the latency between those databases and from those databases to their application servers matters.

          • But we have this thing called the Internet [wikipedia.org] which means it is no longer necessary to put data centers anywhere near the customers or engineers.

            Gee that's sure Interesting but sometimes physical access to a server is cheaper, or is part of the business model, or is required by law. At the last place I worked, one major customer demanded they administer some servers inside a locked cage to protect sensitive information on hard drives.

      • Re:customers (Score:4, Informative)

        by TheKidWho (705796) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @03:04AM (#32345522)

        Because the engineers are in Silicon Valley.

      • Notice, it's not just *anywhere* in Sili Valley -- it's in the city of Santa Clara. Santa Clara has a municipal power company, with cheap (some would say under priced) electricity. They would not build the same thing in Sunnyvale or San Jose, at PG&E prices.

        • Santa Clara's city council has been pushing heavily to build a ballpark to steal teams from San Francisco and maybe Oakland, and it's looking like the voters will approve it this fall. They're not a big enough town to afford the few hundred million dollars of city money it'll take, so it's going to get squeezed out of something.

      • by soupd (1099379)

        Like Apple, who are building in North Carolina.

  • by parallel_prankster (1455313) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:22AM (#32344946)
    Nobody wants to pay the ridiculous land prices for storing machines and blowing cold air on them. If you come to Silicon valley you will see that there is so much space everywhere. But real estate is crazy expensive. They could totally build data centers a little away from here, it may just be easier for them to have data centers closer for reliability/availability etc etc purposes.
    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Real-estate has been a lot cheaper in the area after the mortgage meltdown.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by rachit (163465)

        Real-estate has been a lot cheaper in the area after the mortgage meltdown.

        Yes. From too-bloody-expensive to merely still-too-bloody-expensive.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Surt (22457)

          Well, it was nice for me in that it went from looking like my savings would never catch up with the rising down payment requirement for a decent house, to I'm living in one now.

          And having spent years wishing I could afford a house as they were bid up by people with nonsense jobs, it felt rewarding to buy a short sale at a 45% discount.

      • by harl (84412)

        It's still higher than most of the country.

        Not only did the expensive real estate drop in price but the cheap stuff too.

      • Sacramento's two hours away if you avoid rush hour, 1ms by fiber, doesn't have earthquakes, and if you stay out of the flood zones it's pretty safe, and real estate's less outrageously priced. So your engineers and suppliers can be in Silicon Valley, but still go into the data center when you need them to, and your infrastructure's more reliable as long as you consult with a bunch of fiber providers first.

  • Strange move (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sunderland56 (621843) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:27AM (#32344964)
    So, people are constructing new data centers on some of the most expensive real estate in the USA, in an area with highly paid IT workers with zero company loyalty, and an area of high electricity rates. Note to self: do not invest in these companies.
    • Re:Strange move (Score:4, Interesting)

      by uniquegeek (981813) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:33AM (#32344996)

      ... and how far from a fault line? Seems about one of the dumbest place to build one to me as well.

    • Who said anything about using the local IT workers? More than likely they'll all be supported offshore.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by timmarhy (659436)
        so who builds the systems, designs the floor layouts, maintains the hardware?
        • And they're all right there in the Valley, even though they're building the stuff in China or Malaysia. You'll need a few rocket scientists and a bunch of managers, but you're going to farm out most of the construction and setup work and have a smaller staff for ongoing hands-on operations.

    • Re:Strange move (Score:5, Insightful)

      by evilviper (135110) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @03:00AM (#32345508) Journal

      So, people are constructing new data centers on some of the most expensive real estate in the USA, in an area with highly paid IT workers

      The price of the land is pretty trivial, as relatively little is needed, and lots of money will be made with it over the next few years.

      IT workers are highly paid as a side-effect of being the most highly skilled people available. Put a data center in Oklahoma, and you'll find some nice cheap IT workers, who have very little idea what they are doing. In a competitive market, the employees have to be just as competitive as the employers. The ample supply of highly-skilled labor is exactly why companies want to be there.

      with zero company loyalty

      See above. "Company loyalty" is actually a negative symptom. All those I've seen who have been employed at a company for a decade or more, do so because they are sufficiently incompetent to not find better pay or challenges elsewhere, but are just good enough to provide some value to the company.

      There have been many papers written on the fact that, as pay increases over the years, the relative cost/benefit to employees goes down. Short-term employees is actually a preferred option. And frankly, if companies needed or sufficiently wanted employee loyalty, they just need to reverse the past 20+ years of taking away all benefits, but they'd rather not do that. Only a fool is loyal to a company in this day and age.

      and an area of high electricity rates.

      We're talking, what, 50% more expensive than the cheapest reliable electricity in the country? While it's not the cheapest, it isn't terrible.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Trepidity (597)

        There are more total tech employees in Silicon Valley, but I haven't noticed any higher average quality as compared to Boston, Altanta, Austin, Seattle, Portland, or other such places.

        • by Surt (22457)

          I don't think you're looking hard enough. The quality of the people in CA is definitely a step up. Think about the huge volume of incompetent techies in the medical field in Boston for example. They are pulling the average there way down.

      • We're talking, what, 50% more expensive than the cheapest reliable electricity in the country? While it's not the cheapest, it isn't terrible.

        While it's not quite 50%, it's pretty significant (see here [doe.gov]). It may not sound like much in general terms, but it's going to add up.

        As an example, here in NC, one can get power for around $0.08 per kwh compared with $0.12 per kwh in California. Let's assume a data center using 5000 KVA on a constant basis (data center loads are pretty static). Let's also assume a .8 Power Factor. So

        5000 * .8 = 4000 KW.

        Now let's extend that 4000KW per hour out for the month:

        4000KW * 24(hours) * 30 (days) = 28

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tompaulco (629533)
        Put a data center in Oklahoma, and you'll find some nice cheap IT workers, who have very little idea what they are doing.
        I think you will find that there are plenty of well-educated, intelligent IT workers in Oklahoma who choose to be here because they are willing to trade off 25% lower salaries for being able to buy a home for less than 1/4 what it costs in larger markets. Plus Oklahoma City was voted by Forbes as the most recession proof city.
        I enjoy living in Oklahoma. Relatively balmy winters, a litt
        • by evilviper (135110)

          I think you will find that there are plenty of well-educated, intelligent IT workers in Oklahoma who choose to be here because they are willing to trade off 25% lower salaries for being able to buy a home for less than 1/4 what it costs in larger markets.

          Just so you know, I chose Oklahoma specifically because I have some first-hand experience. Now, I have no doubt there are a few world class people available there, but they would be the exception rather than the rule. My experience may be anecdotal, but n

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by masterwit (1800118) *

      "Zero company loyalty"

      Well most ignorant investors, well invest in talent. But honestly I think this is very intuitive... I have an MBA and decided that was not for me. (now a math / programming, but judge all you want idc) you nailed the business perspective my friend and well, I will still invest. But in the same sense, because I must be the devil's advocate: you can never know the market. Name a better place? Where else will you find talent on demand, I'm sure there is a place, but add infrastructur

    • by King_TJ (85913)

      That's probably why Apple just put together a new data center in North Carolina:

      http://digitaldaily.allthingsd.com/20100222/that%E2%80%99s-apple%E2%80%99s-new-data-center-where%E2%80%99s-the-giant-glass-cube/ [allthingsd.com]

  • A lot of commercial real estate in Silicon Valley sits empty: just drive around Santa Clara, or N 1st St in San Jose. Why cannot it be converted to the data center space ?
    • by WarJolt (990309)

      It's too expensive there. They pick cheaper commercial space. They would have to convert them back when the economy bounces back and the rent goes up.

    • by bezenek (958723) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:54AM (#32345110) Journal

      Several former office-space buildings are being converted to data centers.

      In a regular commute from West San Jose to the Google-plex area in Mountain View I have seen these changes. An existing office building has its windows removed/covered and then a sign goes up showing data center space available or the name of a data warehousing company.

      This conversion seems less wasteful as far as materials, but I am not sure how using an existing building compares to building a data-center-specific one for long-term energy efficiencies.

      -Todd

      • Power density?!?! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mcrbids (148650) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @01:36AM (#32345272) Journal

        Don't know if you've ever taken a look outside a data center, but they often have multiple, high-voltage power feed dead-end at the building. At my current colo, the excellent Herakles data center [slashdot.org] in Sacramento, CA, they are literally located directly under a major set of power lines.

        So you take some office building that was burning perhaps a couple hundred watts per 100 SqFt during mid-day, and colocate 42U racks within, raising energy density from maybe 200 watts/100 SqFT to a few thousand. To give some idea, I personally oversee about 3,000 watts in a single 1U rack at my colo, well over 200 cores, and many terabytes of data. And that's in a single 1U rack, maybe 24" wide and 36" deep, with some allowance for aisleway... and my situation isn't even mildly unusual.

        We're not talking 3,000 watts capacity, we're talking 3,000 watts 24x7 continuous draw, of redundant, backed-up power - the most expensive kind. Whole houses usually don't draw this much. And this is a *single* 42U rack.

        This is feasible? That's a *lot* of power...

        • I'm not impressed (Score:3, Interesting)

          by syousef (465911)

          We're not talking 3,000 watts capacity, we're talking 3,000 watts 24x7 continuous draw, of redundant, backed-up power - the most expensive kind. Whole houses usually don't draw this much. And this is a *single* 42U rack.

          This is feasible? That's a *lot* of power...

          What are you on about? 3kW is nothing and many 2 story houses running an airconditioner run 5 times that! Sure it's not backed up and unless then owner is rich or insane it's not running 24x7 so you may have some point on expense, but to put things in perspective 1000W vacuum cleaners are relatively weak. Again I'm not suggesting these are run 24x7. But we're not talking the power out put of the sun at 30 paces when we're talking 3kW.

          Similarly "many terabytes" is unimpressive when I can get 2TB drives for w

          • by ricky-road-flats (770129) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:21AM (#32346012)

            What are *you* on about? 3kW is a lot, when it's 24x7x365. Add it up. The house you mention is very unlikely to add up to anywhere near 3kW constantly for the whole year. The comparison (and your other about the desktop PC) is insane, and here's why:

            His is one rack, in a row of dozens, with (unless it's a very small datacentre) dozens of rows.

            All the customers in all the racks are trying to maximise their utilisation of the rack (extra racks cost more), and the utilisaton of the systems in those racks (more computers cost more). Each of those hundreds of racks needs multiple kW (some more than 3, not many less than 2 or so), with huge reliability.

            Now add nearly the same amount of power again to cool all those racks, to keep air passing over them all. As well as powering the chillers, and driving the air down many channels to get it to every intake fan in every rack, all of which needs to have very good filtering (usually HEPA), and add on dehumidifying on top.

            Multiple feeds into the building from the grid, UPS protection, surge protection, switching between live feed 1, live feed 2, and UPS power all has to be seamless enough to not bother a nodern computer - it all adds up to a very hard job. Yes it's an established process, but that doesn't make it easy.

            Your midrange desktop with 4 cores - you couldn't get more than around 20 of those in a single rack, and you would be drawing way more than 3 kW to drive them. To get 200 cores and storage (and presumably some network kit too) into a single rack is still impressive now - and for it to draw only 3 kW is impressive - they must be very efficient units.

            Add in the hard drives, RAM, fans, lossy power supplies, chipsets, switches, etc.

            Oh, and very few professionals would use 2 TB SATA drives in a datacentre setting. Most units nowadays use 2.5" drives, and in the SAS world that limits you to 300 GB fast ones or 450 GB slow ones - 600 GB has been announced but it takes a while to become actually used. You need more though, as you need RAID to protect against failures. That frequently means installing double what you need in terms of raw storage. Then, you throw in a few hot spares for good measure. It all adds up.

            • I love how this was modded up. Slashdot has gone to the fucking dogs.

              You're telling me to add things up for 24x7x365. Right there you fucked up because there aren't 7x365 days in a year. There are just 365 (and a quarter to be more exact).

              So it's 365.26*24....now multiply by 3 and that's the number of kilowatt hours you're talking about. 8766 kilowatt hours.

              Now have a look at the average household usage here:
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Electricit [wikipedia.org]

              • by syousef (465911)

                Never mind didn't multiply by 3 in the end. So my math at 1am is as bad as yours. Point is still that the figures aren't impressive. That doesn't change.

            • by bezenek (958723)

              ...and add on dehumidifying on top.

              Recommended relative humidity in data centers is a range centered at about 50%. In California, this is going to mean adding moisture if anything.

              -Todd

          • We're not talking 3,000 watts capacity, we're talking 3,000 watts 24x7 continuous draw, of redundant, backed-up power - the most expensive kind. Whole houses usually don't draw this much. And this is a *single* 42U rack.

            What are you on about? 3kW is nothing and many 2 story houses running an airconditioner run 5 times that

            You noticed that 3kW is for a single 42U rack that would have around an 8 square foot footprint? You could fit several hundred 42U racks into a 2 story house. Unless you know of houses with a 1MW power feed, your being unimpressed is, well... unimpressive.

          • by identity0 (77976)

            Read his second paragraph, he says he is talking about "per 100 SqFt"

            >So you take some office building that was burning perhaps a couple hundred watts per 100 SqFt during mid-day, and colocate 42U racks within, raising energy density from maybe 200 watts/100 SqFT to a few thousand.

            So he is probably assuming 3000kW/SqFt averaged over the whole building, so many tens of thousands of watts for a office-sized building.

            A small house is about 1000 SqFT, btw.

          • by mcrbids (148650)

            What are you on about? 3kW is nothing... YATTA YATTA SNIP

            I guess you missed the point. My own situation is fairly modest. But my own situation is in a very small amount of space, and my 42U rack is actually not that full, most of the racks around mine are much more utilized than mine. Multiply that by THOUSANDS and your "piddly" 3kW becomes a very big number. And, this power IS backed up, IS fully redundant, and IS running 24x7.

            Similarly "many terabytes" is unimpressive when I can get 2TB drives for well un

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Obviously, you build a new power entrance, transformers set, etc.

          Which is cheap, compared to the generators and UPSes to switch over to in case the mains go poof.

          The AC system and chillers will cost more than the mains feed, less than the UPS / generators.

          Raised floor isn't cheap, but it's cheap enough.

          Once you've done a bunch of datacenters with multiple thousand systems per building, it's just a question of statistics.

        • by Trepidity (597)

          That's not that big a problem for commercial real-estate that previously housed a tech company, is it? We're not talking about buildings wired for residential use, but buildings that were previously wired for a combination of cube farms and server rooms. The power density is going up, yes, to being basically all "server room", but it's not going up from a super-low baseline. Surely the connections are either adequate or can be upgraded?

  • Just out of curiousity, what sort of job experience, schooling, certification etc. would they be looking for for jobs at these data centers?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      cisco certification, MS certification (not just MSCE...). work experience in another data centre is an obvious plus, but any experience managing large networks and server would do.

      it's more about who you know nto what you know still

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Negative on MS cert(s), no one cares about that especially in an IaaS environment where you're more interested in providing Infrastructure as a service rather than Software or Platform(s). More virtualization technologies experience and a shitton of Cisco knowledge. (CCNA is a start and no one will look down on it)

        VMware Certified Professional, maybe?

  • by Whuffo (1043790) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:36AM (#32346062) Homepage Journal

    One thing that the commenters here have overlooked is the availability of direct connections to the Internet backbone. The biggest nexus of end and peering points is right there in Silicon Valley so hooking into huge bandwidth is much less expensive than it would be in other locations. Is the property cost too high? It used to be, but these days there's plenty of vacant space and the costs have gone down substantially thanks to the recession. There's plenty of electrical power available and it's in close proximity to a very large population of internet users. What's not to like?

    Those who see this as a boom that will produce jobs that are worth moving to Silicon Valley for are best advised to stay home. The recession has hit the IT folks there very hard and there's about 30% unemployment in that field. Data centers aren't places that require large staffs; one or two people to monitor the systems is about it and they'll do it all from moving servers around to fielding support calls. There's nothing there for people coming from out of state and nothing for the folks that are already here. Many of those H1B workers and illegal aliens have already left for home and more are leaving every day; even the slaves are bailing out.

    Facebook has already jumped the shark, so their build-out in Silicon Valley will become even more vacant space in the near future. Green energy was planned to be the next boom but it's stillborn so the hard times in the valley are going to continue for now.

    Really - if you're thinking of moving to Silicon Valley from out of state - stop now. The chances of employment are very slim and the expense of living there is very high; the best you could do is submit resumes until you run out of money. You're better off almost anywhere else.

    • Like the Toyota-Tesla deal--and a thousand animated Starbucks conversations that I hear every day, where only depression and silence ruled last year--this is sign that the Valley is not only heating up but poised to drag the entire world economy out of the doldrums. Facebook is only one customer of bandwidth, and I doubt that it will vanish off the planet any time soon. Yeah, I'm a bull on this town (mine), but history is with me on this. It's the highly-educated people, stupid.

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