Off-Site Options for Mission-Critical Data

September 29, 2010
By Henry Kenyon

The trend to house information technology infrastructure off site moved a step forward recently when Philadelphia Technology Park opened in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Despite the name, the area is not a collection of buildings where people experiment with scientific ideas. Rather, the complex offers a secure, redundant data center to accommodate technology from multiple groups including companies, universities and nonprofit organizations.

"We offer IT [information technology] real estate," Corey Blanton, president of Philadelphia Technology Park, explains. Organizations that choose to use the 25,700-square-foot facility maintain their equipment and mission-critical data without the need to build their own data centers. Blanton estimates that such facilities run from $2,000 to $5,000 per square foot , and the smaller the facility, the higher the price.

Philadelphia Technology Park cut costs by leveraging an economy of scale, combining many infrastructures in one location. Blanton believes this type of arrangement will become more common in the future. "Co-location will be a primary solution for most companies moving forward just because of the sheer cost of building out the infrastructure to take care of this equipment," he explains.

The park also helps organizations address the problem of limited electrical capacity in older cities. Many of the buildings in Philadelphia were built before the massive surge in electrical devices took over workplace environments. Such edifices are ill-equipped to supply the electricity needed for the basic technological equipment in use today, let alone the huge power draw necessary for multiple servers.

Other benefits the park extends to customers include a raised floor, temperature control, a carrier-neutral fiber network, disaster recovery expertise and full redundancies. Blanton says that the service agreement customers sign guarantees them a 99.999 percent uptime. Location at the Philadelphia Navy Yard also ensures robust physical security, especially when coupled with the park's safety measures. "We're locked down here like Fort Knox," Blanton says. Features include biometrics verifications, card access areas and 24-hour monitoring .

Philadelphia's co-located data center builds off a similar technology park in Baltimore, owned by the same company, Enterprise Technology Parks LLC. Officials chose to branch out to Philadelphia for several reasons, including its 100-mile distance from Baltimore. This enables the new location to serve as a viable data-recovery facility for companies already using the other facility and vice versa. Customers can secure their resources against a major disaster in one of the areas by using the other as a backup location, but the relative distance between the two facilities is still short enough for customers' to feel comfortably close to their equipment. "Most companies require contingency plans for their data," Blanton says.

Another reason for choosing  the city is its dearth of raised-floor facility space. Unlike some other metropolises, Philadelphia lacks the necessary space needed by local organizations. In addition, park developers liked obtaining space in the Navy Yard, which comes with tax benefits for the facility's owners and users. Baltimore's technology park also is located in an enterprise zone, but Blanton says choosing those types of areas is not part of Enterprise Technology Park's core strategy.

Despite the complexities and considerations involved in ensuring the proper functioning of the data centers, Blanton says the basics of the business concept are simple: "At the end of the day, we house people's mission-critical IT infrastructure."

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