Last year delivered plenty of wakeup calls to corporate real estate executives, but perhaps none bigger than this: Your site selection process for your company’s data center operations now carries more importance than your site selection for your corporate headquarters.
In a world where remote work has become the norm for most non-industrial jobs, the headquarters facility has become a ghost town. Taking its place in critical importance is the data center, the lifeblood of your company’s entire global operation.
The data center is what keeps you connected to your employees, your employees connected to each other, and your company connected to your suppliers and customers. Take it away, and you’re out of business. Slow down or interrupt its performance, and you’re non-competitive. Worst of all, place it in the wrong location, and you’re fired.
If the new 2021 Cushman & Wakefield Data Center Global Market Comparison Report taught us anything, it is that your data center is now the single most mission-critical facility that your company owns or leases. Here’s how C&W puts it: “Data centers, once an afterthought for global enterprises, are now a cornerstone of the information economy.”
More than $100 billion has been invested into this asset class over the past decade, according to the C&W report. The study evaluated 1,189 data centers around the world and used a unique weighted methodology to rank 48 global markets and produce an Overall Top 10 ranking. Key emerging data center markets were also identified as 10 Markets to Watch.
Among the report’s key takeaways were these:
Dave Fanning, executive managing director and data center advisory group leader for Cushman & Wakefield, says there were several trends highlighted by the new study. The biggest markets grew even bigger, several emerging markets inched closer to top-tier status, and the overall trend toward more data usage is forcing companies to place a “bigger priority on their digital footprint than their physical footprint now,” he says.
As the big got bigger, no place capitalized more on that in 2020 than Northern Virginia, notes Fanning. “Northern Virginia, anchored by Loudoun County, is continuing its dominance and getting even more dominant as the No. 1 overall data center market in the world,” he says. “The demand simply does not subside in this market. It remains a very business-friendly region for developing and building data centers with very reasonable power costs and high-level connectivity. It has the most robust fiber connections in the world. Every major and mid-sized cloud services provider in the business is located there.”
Secondly, Fanning notes, several emerging markets are well on their way to joining that top tier. Among them, he says, are Toronto, Montreal, Portland-Hillsboro, Phoenix, Atlanta and San Antonio. “Atlanta is a market that has always been full of promise,” he says. “2020 was a very strong year for Atlanta. San Antonio is getting there too. Government-driven data centers are driving a lot of this.”
Finally, he adds, your digital footprint will ultimately determine your success as a company, particularly if your stock in trade is information. “More and more data is being created in order to make intelligent decisions,” says Fanning. “This data needs to be collected, transmitted and processed. As AI, machine learning, remote learning and remote work become ever more prevalent, we will see increasing demand for data centers.”
Another report, this one put out by Cisco, quantifies it. In 2021, daily internet traffic will reach 7.7 exabytes — the equivalent of 7.7 billion GB or 1.9 billion DVDs, marking a 50% increase compared to daily usage in 2020.
Get ready to see a lot more data centers coming soon to sites near you.
Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.