The World's Top 7 Data Centers

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Intel Free Press

In this blog post, we are going to discuss data centers and their role in an organization and highlight the world's top seven data centers.

What is a Data Center?

Data centers are buildings or facilities that companies rely on to centralize and house their information technology equipment, most commonly servers used to store and handle data and traffic from network activity.

Two of the primary functions of a data center involve Internet-related functions - think Web servers and Web hosting - and enterprise-level functions, which are used for application and software-centric purposes within an organization (think Web applications).

Because of the role these data centers play in an organization's IT infrastructure, security, reliability (uptime, response, and so on), power capacity, and cooling capability are crucial and are key selling points when an organization looks to employ their service or product offerings.

The size and range of each data center - and even their purpose in some cases - can vary greatly, with some data centers being so large they consume more electricity than small towns. In this post, we are going to look at what many consider to be the world's best and probably largest data centers.

Lakeside Technology Center

Owned by the Digital Realty Trust, the Lakeside Technology Center is located in Chicago and weighs in at an astounding 1.1 million - you heard that right - square feet. By comparison, the White House is a measly 55,000 square feet. While this pales in comparison to the Sears Tower (4.56 million square feet, or roughly 16 city blocks) - the sheer size of the Lakeside Technology Center makes it a marvel to behold.

It houses around 70 tenants and probably the world's largest carrier "hotels," providing the backbone for many of Chicago's financial institutions. It relies on three power feeds to fuel its four fiber vaults, making it the second-largest energy hog in all of Chicago - the O'Hare airport greedily ranks at number one. It also uses 50 generators to feed its lust for power, part of which is used for its massive cooling units.

QTS Metro Data Center

Coming in at a paltry 990,000 square feet, the QTS Metro Data Center is named after its owner, Quality Technology Services, which purchased the facility in 2006 and expanded it by another 150,000 square feet, with plans to add another 130,000 square feet of space sometime soon.

The data center touts its ability to house high-efficiency, high-density Blade Servers, backed by powerful cooling systems, to provide high-end managed data center services to clients in the United States and abroad.

NAP of the Americas

Located in Miami, Florida, and standing tall at 750,000 square feet, NAP of the Americas was a golden lion, standing tall above the competition during the final days of the dot-com-era bubble pop, showing its resiliency during difficult times. What should have sunk the data center only made it more powerful. Currently, the high-tech hub provides services to such bigwigs as the United States military and the global domain system.

Because of its location and clientele, NAP of the Americas is structurally sound, able to withstand even Category 5 hurricanes. It houses more than 160 networks and sports three giant satellite dishes on its rooftop that act as a backup connectivity system in the event of a fiber feed failure, meaning companies that rely on their services will never find them taking a NAP behind the wheel (get it?)!

SuperNAP

Speaking of naps, I would be remiss if I did not add Las Vegas' SuperNAP - owned by Switch Communications - to my list of the world's top data centers.

While the SuperNAP is not the biggest data center - it's roughly half the size of the NAP of the Americas at 407,000 square feet - it makes up for that lack of size by its ability to handle huge power densities, upwards of 1,500 watts per square foot. That is a lot of power!

They can handle so much power thanks to two key pieces of technology - their custom cooling system, dubbed the Wattage Density Modular Design (WDMD for short), which supplies the cooling mechanism for the facility, and the Thermal Separate Compartment in Facility (T-SCIF), which functions to create space and house hot and cold aisles, helping to regulate the temperature needs for the SuperNAP.

Microsoft Chicago Data Center

Tech giant Microsoft wisely owns several data centers, as you might suspect, and the Microsoft Chicago Data Center, located in Illinois, is almost a test ground for what Bill Gates' company hopes will change the way data centers are designed, with an architecture and setup aimed at reducing both the cost and energy efficiency of data centers while serving the needs of its clients and its own Microsoft Live products.

Instead of relying on just hot and cold aisles like the SuperNAP and other current data centers, they also feature a ground-level floor where 40-foot shipping containers containing upwards of 2,000 servers are double-stacked - for a total of 112 containers - or a capacity of 224,000 total servers on just the ground level.

Phoenix One

Rising from the ashes (Phoenix pun intended), Phoenix One also hopes to change the game in the data center world with a unique design feature. The center, located in Phoenix, Arizona, is hoping to use some of its natural environment to power its operations. The rooftop of the Phoenix One sports a huge array of solar panels to energize its servers and cooling system.

Devoted to conservation and green tech, the data center also uses such neat features as LED lighting and floors made out of recycled tires to reduce its carbon footprint. Given the size of its 538,000-square-foot facility, that's quite a footprint to fill, but at least the company is making the green effort, and hopefully other data centers will pay attention.

DuPont Fabros CH1

Last, but certainly not least, on our list of data centers is DuPont Fabros Technology's own DuPont Fabros CH1 facility, located, as many data centers are, in Chicago. The data center works within the communication industry, supplying its services to some of the bigwigs in network solutions, including hosting and server giants Rackspace Hosting and ServerCentral.

The DH1 is not DuPont's only data center, as the company also runs several in the Virginia area. In fact, DuPont is a REIT - or real estate investment trust - that focuses on acquiring real estate for the sole purpose of building data centers (many REITs specialize in real estate for specific purposes, such as shopping malls, etc).

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