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Yahoo! Technology

The New Data Center Capital of America 162

crimeandpunishment writes "Move over Silicon Valley, here comes... Buffalo. Where the weather might actually be a big advantage. The recent opening of Yahoo's state-of-the-art data center, which uses the region's cooler climate and a high-tech 'chicken coop' design to dramatically lower energy costs is getting a lot of attention in the industry."
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The New Data Center Capital of America

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  • by pepax ( 748182 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @02:53PM (#33777904)
    not being hosted in the state-of-the-art facility, has its server on fire
  • Silicon valley.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by catbutt ( 469582 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @02:55PM (#33777914)
    was never really known for being a "data center", it's more known for where engineering and development happen.

    Data centers don't really need that many highly skilled employees working on site. In the future data centers might have no one employed but security guards and (relatively unskilled) maintainance. In that case it doesn't really matter where they are located, at least in terms of helping the economics of the region.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mjwalshe ( 1680392 )
      and a region subject to earth quakes is not a good place to put a Data centre
      • by Trepidity ( 597 )

        There are actually quite a lot there anyway, though. One of the two main Amazon EC2 datacenters in the U.S. is in the Bay Area, for example (the other one is in Northern Virginia). There's a ton of other data centers in San Jose and Fremont as well.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mjwalshe ( 1680392 )
          Yes always struck me as odd that. When I worked at BT we had a duplicate dc the other side of London in case the thames flood barrier failed.

          Ironically an IRA bomb almost took out this alternate DC - luckily an empty building took most of the blast.
          • Ironically an IRA bomb almost took out this alternate DC - luckily an empty building took most of the blast.

            I think what would have been more ironic is that when the Thames flood barrier broke, the resulting tidal wave put out the burning fuse of the IRA bomb.

      • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:03PM (#33778280) Homepage

        Compared to hurricanes, mudslides, snowstorms, and other natural disasters, earthquakes are pretty tame. They happen once every few years, and rarely knock out the power. The snowstorms in the Pacific Northwest caused much more extensive computer outages than the occasional earthquake in California.

        Really, the only problem is that you're shaking active hard drives for about 30 seconds, which is never good. But most are good enough to park their heads, and it rarely causes a real head crash.

        • you have Jinxed us sir! the Earth Quakes COMETH!

        • its the "Big one" that id be worried about.
        • by afidel ( 530433 )
          Actually when I was talking to the head IT guy at a particular large bank in California he said that the Northridge earthquake knocked out everything at that campus except for one POTS line, they had power from the two turbine generators but no telecommunications, no AC for the worker areas, and most importantly no water. It took weeks before things were back to normal.
      • by dosius ( 230542 )

        Niagara County (Lockport is a bit into Niagara County, it's not "Buffalo" or even in the same county as Buffalo though it's in the same metro area) is not immune to earthquakes, though it doesn't tend to get the big ones like San Francisco.

        We've had a couple little bumpers in the 15 years I've lived here.


    • Hehe (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by TheMidget ( 512188 )
      Visit the mighty goat []!

      Beware: it's not what you might think it is...

    • For guarding these (not that I like the idea):
      "South Korea's Machine Gun Sentry Robot" []

      And see James P. Hogan's "The Two Faces of Tomorrow" (1979) for a good depiction of maintenance drones that repair and extend a computer network. [] []

      So, in the long term, there are even fewer jobs from this than yo

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      It seems to me that a data center needs tax breaks for building it, and then cheap electricity for running it. The cool climate cuts down on electricity costs.

      I think maintenance requires some skill, and requires a number of people on site, or at least close to it. It will help with the job situation, especially since low skilled jobs are the ones that are not be being created right now. Skilled educated labor has jobs, for the most part.

    • by sorak ( 246725 )

      I assume you're exaggerating. You would still need some people in there to replace failing hardware to diagnose network issues that cannot be handled via ssh, and doing plain old testing (simulating network congestion, outages, load testing, and doing so in an environment as close to the deploy environment as possible).

  • They should think about into north dakota too. I mean let's face it it's cold as sh!@ there as well and that whole state could use some jobs.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 03, 2010 @03:06PM (#33777976)

      So, per my subject-line above? Yes folks: We "upstate N.Y.'ers" can thank the GREAT Nikola Tesla for his creation of the Niagara Falls power turbine system (sends power as far as to NY City too, afaik/iirc)...

      That cheap power? It was "part of the package" they used to attract YAHOO & others, along with tax incentives & plenty of cheap land: CHEAP electrical power via "hydro-power"!!!


      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        North Dakota has a not insignificant hydro dam on the Missouri River, and is in the midst of an energy boom. Buffalo, however, has suffered de-indistrialization at such a tragic amount that it is likely they have excess capacity easily available.

        North Dakota does not need jobs. The unemployment rate there is the lowest in the nation in the low single digits while the national rate is . . . much much higher. Poster "i-c-electrons" saying North Dakota needs jobs is facile and ignorant. They don't need jobs, t

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by freesword ( 229791 )

        So, per my subject-line above? Yes folks: We "upstate N.Y.'ers" can thank the GREAT Nikola Tesla for his creation of the Niagara Falls power turbine system (sends power as far as to NY City too, afaik/iirc)...

        That cheap power? It was "part of the package" they used to attract YAHOO & others, along with tax incentives & plenty of cheap land: CHEAP electrical power via "hydro-power"!!!


        I grew up in Buffalo. I know first hand that electricity there is anything but cheap. Most of the electricity produced at Niagara Falls goes east to NYC and points in between. This is because those areas will pay a higher premium for that "cheap" electricity. If YAHOO is getting cheap electricity it's because they aren't paying the going market rate for the area.

        • Datacenters don't get power like consumers.

          I work at a (relatively crap and smal) datacenter, and we have two "main" feeds from two separate substations. You know, the transformers the size of a car? Yea, we have two on our property for out exclusive use.

          You can tell our customers are really into Intel. -rimshot-

  • Buffalo, New York (Score:3, Informative)

    by iYk6 ( 1425255 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @02:57PM (#33777928)

    For those who are curious, the article is about data centers in Buffalo, New York, and not one of the other many Buffalos in the USA.

    • Re:Buffalo, New York (Score:5, Informative)

      by catbutt ( 469582 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @03:06PM (#33777972)
      Buffalo NY has over 250,000 population. The next highest I can find is about 4000.

      So I'm confused as to why you think anyone would be confused.
    • by skine ( 1524819 )

      The rest of the Buffalos in the US have a combined population of about 1/10th of Buffalo NY's population, and the second largest is in Minnesota, with a population of 10,000 (ie 1/30th Buffalo NY).

      It being by far the largest (and the only one with professional sports teams) is why they didn't feel the need to specify state.
      Similarly, when somebody mentions Boston, it assumed to be the one in Massachusetts, and not the Bostons Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania or Texas.

  • Well, why stop at Buffalo? We have lots of cheap land in Northern Canada where you would need no cooling for most of the year!!!!
    • by Jaime2 ( 824950 )
      Buffalo is near cheap power. The current data center proposals are all to the north of Buffalo, where Niagara Falls is.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Nimey ( 114278 )


        Slowly I turned. Step by step. Inch by inch...

      • by cgenman ( 325138 )

        Buffalo is also relatively near New York city and Boston, MA. If you need to go visit your datacenter by spending a weekend in New York City, things aren't so bad. And it's not too much of a stretch to draw graduates from MIT.

        Good luck drawing people to Northern Canada. All you have up there is cows and land.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by GreenTom ( 1352587 )
          I dunno, that's a bit of a stretch. New York State is bigger than many people think, and Buffalo's really far west. For comparison, Buffalo is closer to Detriot than it is to NY City, and closer to Cincinnatti than to Boston. Buffalo's an 8 hour drive from NYC, so plan on losing two days if you try to visit Buffalo via the city.
          • Syracuse area might be more realistic. Tons of excess infrastructure due to de-industrialization. Plenty of cool temperatures, and a nuclear power plant 30 miles up the road in Oswego.

            Shaves 2 hours + off trips to Boston and NYC
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by mcornelius ( 1007881 )

          Umm, no. NY State is about the size of England and half of Wales. You don't casually go to the opposite side of the state. (I live halfway between NYC and Buffalo; I don't go to either on the weekend.)

          • Hey, maybe he lives in the middle of Montana, and drives to other states on the weekend for fun....

            For the record, I-90 between Albany and Buffalo is one of the roads which I see in my nightmares. Too many long drives on that depressing stretch of nothing. Worst drive ever was from Ohio to Springfield, MA on 90. That drive never seemed to end. But yeah, parent had no idea what the hell he was talking about. 400-500 miles of driving, 6-8 hours depending on route and destination. That's not quite "relatively
            • I don't think anyone drives on the 90 to get to NYC from Buffalo (perhaps go as far as Batavia or Rochester). Adds quite a bit of distance to go that way, not to mention the outrageous toll, and the endless speed traps in every little town along the way.

              That said, it's relatively near if you take a flight to see your data center, and that one-hour flight it won't cost that much more than driving would.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jeff4747 ( 256583 )

          NYC and Boston are 7 and 8 hours away from Buffalo. You wouldn't be traveling to NYC to visit your data center in Buffalo.

  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @02:59PM (#33777936)
    It used be that having people build data centers in your community meant lots of good jobs. These days, though, with advances in lights out management, you can build a huge data center and only need a few low-pay button pushers and forklift drivers on site. All of the high paid engineer and admin positions can be staffed anywhere, and usually end up being primarily existing staff who remain wherever they're already living.

    Sure having some jobs coming in is better than no jobs coming in, but data centers alone are not going to transform a community into a high tech mecca any more than building a bunch of warehouses will.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jaime2 ( 824950 )
      It still might help. It should give us a better communication infrastructure and cause the big hardware vendors to locate more distribution centers and technicians in the area. The only reason the Apple was built in California was the locals had access to chips that weren't available to hobbiests elsewhere. Internet access and cheap servers are the foundations of the next generation of inventions.
      • It still might help. It should give us a better communication infrastructure and cause the big hardware vendors to locate more distribution centers and technicians in the area.

        If you don't have good communications infrastructure, they aren't putting the data center there in the first place. If the data center needs parts, that's what UPS/FedEx are for - it would take a huge data center (something like an order of magnitude or two larger than anything ever built) to make it worth time for a major hardware v

        • by Jaime2 ( 824950 )

          If you don't have good communications infrastructure, they aren't putting the data center there in the first place.

          We don't, but they are. I live three miles from the new Yahoo data center (I'm closer to the city, not further) and Verizon laughs at me when I ask when we are getting FIOS. There are very few places in the area that you can get communications or electrical service from two different last mile providers. When you upgrade to four hour on-site service from a major vendor, half the time they say it's unavailable here. I hope all of these things change. A few big tax-funded data centers will get things off

        • by Cylix ( 55374 ) *

          Your major brand name server components are going to have cache depots throughout the united states to allow for servicing of equipment which has same day or next business day service contracts.

          You are also incorrect on staffing from hardware vendors onsite. There are several types of arrangements that can be made and in some situations it can be a free service depending on the size of the facility or cluster. Generally, this type of arrangement typically accompanies a fairly large purchase and the onsite p

          • by afidel ( 530433 )
            Google's model of fail in place is the way forward, why pay for expensive service contracts and expensive people when you can just design the algorithms to handle failures gracefully (a necessity at those scales anyways) and just buy an extra 20% initial hardware to account for the losses until you reach you're real expected workload. Heck by the time 20% of your servers in a rack fail it's probably so power inefficient that it's time to replace them with newer components anyways. This doesn't apply to the
        • If you don't have good communications infrastructure, they aren't putting the data center there in the first place.

          Back during the height of the dot-com era, NY installed a bunch of fiber all over the state. Most of it is dark now, but it's still there.

          I'm in a craphole of a former-city-descending-into-minor-town, but I'm a mile from a ton of OC-48 lines.

        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          Dell has a service warehouse in Rochester and HP has one about an hour outside of Buffalo as well. So that is pretty much covered

    • by FuckingNickName ( 1362625 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @03:22PM (#33778056) Journal

      These days, though, with advances in lights out management, you can build a huge data center and only need a few low-pay button pushers

      This explains why 10 years ago the admin helped you out, and today you help out the admin.

      Remind me not to host any nontrivial systems where your philosophy manages the data centre. I want skilled people working quickly where the problem is going to happen, not slowly by trying to troubleshoot 1000 miles away.

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        These days, though, with advances in lights out management, you can build a huge data center and only need a few low-pay button pushers

        That confirms my belief that America has turned into Soviet Russia.

      • by coryking ( 104614 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:02PM (#33778276) Homepage Journal

        If you are running a massive data center that hosts a webfarm, cloud cluster, or some other large horizontally scaled computing project and require highly technical staff troubleshooting individual machines onsite, your process and application is completely screwed up. A well designed, horizontally scaled app should not fail if multiple machines go down.

        At the scale of Yahoo, Google or facebook, they probably dont even bother to troubleshoot a machine that is even hinting at questionable behavior. They just yank it off the load balancer and have some unskilled dude take the machine, dump it, and put in a new one.

        If you have a massive failure of your system, short of a natural disaster it ain't a hardware issue or a server issue. It is an application bug that require software engineers to fix. They don't have to be at the datacenter, they just create a patch from the comfort of their normal office (or home) and push it out to production.

        • by Cylix ( 55374 ) *

          You would probably be wrong....

          Sure, no single systems should be the source of any business outage, but service owners can and do fuck things up.

          There are also instances where a database application serves in a tier 1 role and while redundant configurations exist no one wants to run in degraded mode for very long.

          Yahoo, Google, Facebook and many others employee technicians which service to complete repairs and perform advanced troubleshooting on the host. Typically, these environments operate with technicia

        • Yanking individual machines off a rack? Nah, they'll just ship back the container of servers to a repair center when it reaches 30%-50% failure.

      • by cgenman ( 325138 )

        You want highly skilled people working quickly on the operating system and router configurations. It's less common to swap out a RAID HDD, than to deal with hacked accounts.

        Some of the best IT personnel I know have worked from the beach in Asia. They could do that, because A: beaches in Asia are cheap and beautiful, and B: they were able to zoom in on problems and fix them quickly from a command line. Why do you need physical access to a virtual machine? Especially when the best a GUI is going to do for

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by echucker ( 570962 )
      Trust me, Orleans County will take anything it can get. It's a rural county, and Albion isn't exactly a thriving metropolis.
      • Roger that. I live further south, in Cattaraugus county, but have to commute weekly to Westchester county - 20 miles north of NYC - to work.

    • by hadesan ( 664029 )
      Low skill labor, button pushers, forklift drivers - sounds like they need to hire the Buffalo Bills players and staff to do the job.

      The Bills sure as hell can't play football so they should be doing something useful... (Go Jets!)

    • While there is an international border there, it should be pointed out that Buffalo is also about 100mi from Toronto and Waterloo which are reasonably large tech centers in themselves. Sure, data centers alone these days do not require a lot of high-skill labour , but it creates the conditions under which Western New York can better integrate with and leverage its proximity to the richer and more populous region across the border.

      For eg. we in Canada are often forced to contend with inferior services sim
  • Buffalo? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Soul-Burn666 ( 574119 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @03:01PM (#33777944) Journal

    Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo?

    (Yes, I have karma to burn)

    • by skine ( 1524819 )

      So you're saying that confused people from Buffalo who confused people from Buffalo confuse confuse confused people from Buffalo?

      Seems straightforward to me.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Actually it's confused buffaloes as the animal, not Buffalonians.

        On that matter, I hate confusing people.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by skine ( 1524819 )

          A buffalo can be defined as either the animal, or a person who is buffaloed - hence a confused person.

    • by kindbud ( 90044 )

      Data center negotiations:

      Yahoo yahoo Buffalo yahoo buffalo buffalo Buffalo yahoo.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 03, 2010 @03:21PM (#33778054)

    Cheap hydro power, no summers ( well actually that is not true we had summer last year, it happened on a Thursday). You can also use the excess heat to warm up the parking garage of the employees because the cars will blow their frost plugs even if they are plugged into block heaters and the batteries will freeze if they don't have an electric blanket around them. -60c (-100c with wind chill) is horrible, most people run their cars 24/7 when it gets really cold.

    • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @03:42PM (#33778156) Journal

      Sounds good! All you need is for somebody to dig through that permafrost to lay some fiber-optic cables...

      After all, a data center needs some way to actually, I don't know, deliver data...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Winnipeg would be perfect. Google should build a server farm so big it would produce so much heat that the snow in the city would melt, forcing them to open up the floodway in the winter.


    • We had a long hot Summer this year in Toronto, It's only really cooled down in the past couple of weeks.

      Not sure where the "no Summer" business comes from. Even Winter only lasts 4 months in TO.

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        Since the OP mentioned battery blankets and block heaters, I very much doubt he's from Toronto. He's likely one of us real Canadians who roll our eyes when someone says how cold Canada is and someone from Toronto says "no, Toronto isn't that cold!" ;)

    • Ok, having lived in WNY for years - was around for '77 blizzard - I know what you're talking about, but even _I_ would say this hyperbole goes a wee bit over the top. I think it was Wednesday _and_ Thursday.

  • Any picture of this"data center" available on a website ?
  • by ( 1590643 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @03:27PM (#33778088)
    Geographically speaking, I think Buffalo is better than Silicon Valley for a server -- if you have European customers. My server in Buffalo had good latency for users in both North America and Europe. My server in Silicon Valley had worse latency for my European users. I'm surprised there aren't more data centers in the New York area.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Did you know that some MAJOR fiber runs through this area? One of the original ARPAnet backbones runs directly under Transit Rd. in Lockport en route to UB where they are doing a lot of human genome crunching. UB was one of the original 5 ARPAnet sites. In Buffalo itself, the financial services and medical sectors are boming, along with insurance. There's *plenty* of IT and internet here. Most of my packets go through there and then get zinged out to NYC via Rochester. They go from Rochester down to Washing
  • Yeah, right. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @03:38PM (#33778138) Homepage

    First off, where did they get that picture of a bunch of mini-tower machines on steel shelving, each with one Ethernet cable, one power cord, and one console connection, sitting on raised floor? That looks like clip art of some data center circa 1998. Here's the actual Yahoo data center in Lockport, [] which, as you'd expect, is a big farm of 1U rackmounts. The "chicken coop" design is simply a low-cost prefabricated metal building with lots of ventilation grills. Looks like something ordered out of the Butler Buildings catalog.

    Yahoo got $9 million in grants and 10 years of no taxes for this. Yet it will employ only 125 people. Probably less, once it's running.

    Lockport is desperate. The big employer in town, Delphi Harrison Thermal Systems (formerly Harrison Radiator) had 6000 employees a decade ago. Now it has 2100, and has been threatened with closure several times.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by slashkitty ( 21637 )
      Is that actual open air? Wouldn't dirt and water in the air start causing problems?
      • Re:Yeah, right. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:46PM (#33778678) Homepage

        Is that actual open air? Wouldn't dirt and water in the air start causing problems?

        It's probably not open air. My guess is that they have air-to-air heat exchangers [] behind all those grills, so the heat is dumped into the cold ambient air. Mostly the same air goes round and round in the data center, which keeps the humidity in range. So there's not much work for the chillers; mostly it's just fans.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by guruevi ( 827432 )

      125 people in a town of 20,000 is huge. Each of those people needs housing, pays income tax (which NYS is probably the highest in the US), pays sales tax (8%) need office supplies, phone lines, cell phones, gets married, has children, goes out to eat etc. etc. That's roughly $4-6m/year of extra cash flowing into the local economy.

      Besides, Yahoo probably wouldn't pay taxes anyway because they're incorporated somewhere else and claim towards the local tax man that they made 0 profit and have a huge loss into

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by afidel ( 530433 )
        No, they would normally pay property tax which is based on the book value of the physical assets at the site. For a large datacenter that's a LOT of capital and hence lots of taxable land value.
  • better link (Score:3, Informative)

    by hex0D ( 1890162 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @03:54PM (#33778220) [] although the original link does a great job of showcasing local boosterism in a rust belt town feverishly hopeful for a better future ('Yay! 100 jobs! Some interest! The town is saved, paw'!), this link actually has details more likely to be of interest to a slashdot reader. The long and narrow design placed in consideration of prevailing winds seems clever, sure, but I don't get the big deal over it. Maybe using common sense really is so rare as to be considered innovative.
    • 100 jobs may not seem that much, but for small town it is significant. It means, 100 people plus probably another 50 to 90 spouses + another 20 to 100 kids (all numbers pulled out of my ass) will either continue to stay there, or better, move in. That's at least another 200 people extra. This means that schools, shops, petrol stations, the post office etc. can still remain open and the town won't turn into a one garage ghost town. Most of them will also want their own houses, so that's another benefit to th
      • by hex0D ( 1890162 )
        I totally agree, I was just trying to point out that TFA seems too exuberant about future prospects, and while happy for them, that isn't the aspect of the story myself and the majority of /. readers care about.
  • by b4upoo ( 166390 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:17PM (#33778402)

    Skilled help may be needed by these new data centers. So all they have to do is talk high quality employees into the joys of living in Buffalo. If the cold doesn't kill you and boredom doesn't finish you off the state income taxes may have you wander about hoping that you will freeze to death.

  • Again? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nanospook ( 521118 )
    So Eastman Kodak misses yet another opportunity?
  • The data center is not actually in Buffalo but rather some distance to the East in Lockport. In additional to the climate advantages, I'm sure Yahoo is getting some nice tax rebates considering the depressed economic situation of the area and the production at the local Delphi plant which was the biggest employer in the salad days.

  • Locating near any power plant, whether it be coal or hydro, will get you huge discounts in power costs, because the utility doesn't have to support a grid to get it to you, and your demand load is pretty predictable.

    Any northern climate will do better in terms of natural air cooling, but Buffalo is a poor choice on that front, because all the weather sweeping in over the Great Lakes makes the air quite humid. You want dry cold air for maximum cooling effectiveness.
  • ...Upstate NY weather recognized as an advantage.
    Obnoxiously hot always did seem to bother me more than obnoxiously cold; I suppose that would hold even more true for servers that needed to be cooled as well.

  • 1 data center gets built and they are calling themselves the data center capital of the country? Well, Salt Lake just opened EBAY last summer and has Oracle, Twitter, and a 1.3 Billion dollar data center for the NSA under construction and we don't feel qualified to make that statement. You don't see NC claiming that because of the apple one... with the tax rate of New York I hardly see that many businesses moving there!

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