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Internet Data centers expand to keep up with demands



Technology Services Range in Size and Scope

Despite what’s happening on Wall Street , or perhaps because of it , more and more companies across the United States are now making use of Internet data centers.

These state-of-the-art, ultra-secure facilities offer a cost-effective outsourcing alternative for clients ranging from large corporations and e-commerce businesses down to individuals with their own Web sites.

Although each data center provides its own unique services specific to a company’s needs, their services may include providing connection to the Internet and access to e-mail, providing a site for a company’s computer server, or hosting a Web site.

Users rent as much data center time and space as they need in return for which they are guaranteed levels of systems access, security and technical quality they could never realistically afford to duplicate themselves.

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Demand for Internet data centers is said to be increasing sharply and in response Relera , a new data center firm headquartered jointly in San Diego and Denver , is opening a string of 11 facilities over the next few months.

One is coming to San Diego. A 40,000- to 50,000-square-foot center is expected to open here in late May or early June, according to Relera’s vice president of marketing, John Pitek.

Others should be operating by then in Sacramento, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver, San Antonio, Cleveland and Richmond, Va.; Memphis, Tenn.; Charlotte, and Raleigh, N.C. Long term, the company plans 25 centers nationwide, occupying close to 1 million square feet of office space.

Relera reports the initial 11 sites are part of a strategy focusing on what it calls “edge-of-the-Internet” markets, defined as cities that are growing fast but remain under-served in terms of technology resources.

Relera aims to restore the balance with a network of centers offering highly sophisticated, fully redundant infrastructure for power and environmental systems, carrier-diverse managed bandwidth, Internet security, data storage and content management.

“We’re planning to bring the best of Silicon Valley technology to these smaller markets,” Pitek said.

He quotes a recent report by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter supporting the advantages of outsourcing, which included faster time-to-market, greater efficiencies and up to 90 percent capital savings over in-house hosting.

Relera is entering a busy marketplace: Internet data centers have been around for several years and a number are already well established in San Diego.


– Demand Has Grown Recently

Thomas Owens, district sales manager for Inflow, said data centers began taking off in 1998 as companies came to appreciate the importance of an affordable, fully protected environment for their mission-critical systems.

Inflow has ridden the wave of increasing demand and today operates 17 centers in the United States, including San Diego which opened last March, plus another in Dublin, Ireland.

Owens said Inflow spent between $7 million and $10 million building its 20,000-square-foot Sorrento Valley data center which has fully redundant Internet connectivity, high-tech security and fire systems, and offers clients a suite of management services.

One key to the stable environment provided by Inflow is the guaranteed uninterrupted power supply, something which customers have come to appreciate even more in the wake of California’s energy crisis.

Owens said in the event of the main supply going down, the center is covered for up to 20 minutes by a battery system though in reality diesel generators kick in after just a few seconds.

The same attention to detail is evident everywhere. The facility’s air-conditioning unit maintains temperatures between 68 and 72 degrees while humidity hovers between 30 and 50.

And all the equipment sits on a platform raised 18 inches above the floor. Owens said this design feature, besides providing additional, protected space for wiring, also allows room for the important separation of electrical and communication cabling.


– Service Center Expands Facility

CTSnet Internet Services is expanding its facilities in Kearny Mesa by another 5,000 square feet in response to its evolving role as an Internet data center, said Morgan Davis, senior director of operations.

Davis said e-commerce companies in particular cannot afford the loss of revenue and potential data corruption which results if they suddenly go offline, yet equally many cannot afford to build their own fail-safe environments.

The answer is to move servers, routers and other equipment into a data center which, in the case of CTSnet, uses half a dozen different carriers and multiple Internet service providers, so if one goes down there’s always a back up.

In addition, the solid carrier-neutral Internet backbone and excess bandwidth opens the system to load balancing and other management techniques aimed at optimizing the speed, efficiency and reliability of data traffic.

Davis said companies are also turning increasingly to the co-location solution when looking for a technically and physically secure environment in which to extend their intranet and extranet systems.

He said it’s a simple procedure for customers to bring in and install their own equipment which bolts into purpose-built frames and can be plugged into the network.


– A $1M, One-Stop Outlet Opens Locally

Barry Diamond is the CEO for Internet Express which opened a new, $1 million data center at Aero Drive about two months ago , part of what he calls a “one-stop shop for the Internet.”

The center provides round-the-clock security access for customers. It’s also easy for clients to monitor their own equipment online and use remote management for everything from trouble-shooting to network diagnostics to billing review.

Internet Express staff also supervises the facility 24 hours a day, provide content management such as designing and updating Web sites, and offer restricted data storage through automatic 60-day back-up tapes.

Diamond said the availability of secure, robust broadband capacity is an attraction for e-commerce operators, some of which might choose to spread their business between two or more centers in different locations for maximum protection.

“People have almost zero tolerance of any Web site being down,” said Diamond, adding that even the shortest online break risks disappointing and frustrating cyber-shoppers, which can prove disastrous in the world of e-commerce.

He said charges at Internet Express are flexible with customers paying only for what services they need , for example, simple Web hosting starts at $9.95 per month while the monthly cost for a dedicated server would start at $99.

Pearson is a free-lance writer for the San Diego Business Journal.

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