Twitter takes down 50,000 square feet at QTS Atlanta

The Atlanta Business Chronicle (ABC) is reporting that microblogging giant Twitter has started moving servers into 50,000 square feet at the Quality Technology Services (QTS) data center at 1033 Jefferson Street, Atlanta.  Twitter conducted an extensive search before settling on QTS to provide data center space.  A number of factors are cited as contributing to Twitter’s decision to choose Atlanta and the QTS facility.  These factors include:

  • Twitter East Coast/ West Coast data center strategy that places infrastructure close to the majority of customers.
  • Geographic diversification
  • Twitter’s desire to improve reliability and speed to East Coast and European markets
  • Plenty of room for growth in QTS facility
  • Flexible power pricing structure by QTS
  • Plenty of available power at QTS facility.  120MW substation on site.  Plans for expansion to 160MW
  • Relatively inexpensive power from Georgia Power
  • Extremely reliable electrical grid
  • Potential Georgia State Tax incentives on locally purchased IT gear.  Twitter plans to spend $100M on servers and other IT equipment to stock the data center.

Twitter has experienced amazingly rapid growth.  Twitter started from scratch in 2007.  Four short years later,

  • Twitter CEO Dick Costolo pegged the number of active Twitter users at 100M. (Sept, 2011) 
  • Costolo also noted that growth is expected to add 26M users before the end of 2011. 
  • Twitter users publish 230M tweets/day
  • Twitter is ranked the third largest social networking site
  • Revenues of $140M (projected 2010)

During major sporting events and following major pop culture events Twitter traffic spikes dramatically.  For example, during the 2011 FIFA World Cup Final between Japan and the US, 7196 tweets per second were published.  During these high traffic events, Twitter’s data center infrastructure is sometimes unable to keep up with the volume.  For example, following the death of Michael Jackson users updated their status to include the term “Michael Jackson” at a rate of 100,000 tweet/hour.  The resulting spike caused Twitter servers to crash.   During crashes such as this, Twitter users are greeted with an error message featuring an image of a whale supported by 8 orange birds.  Unfortunately, there are few regular Twitter users that have not at one time or another experienced this dreaded “Fail Whale”

The Jefferson Street QTS facility that Twitter will be occupying is a truly massive data center.  Coming in at just under 1M square feet, the facility is the second largest data center in the world.  Following an $85M expansion that wrapped up last year, around 330,000 square feet of the 1M square foot total are white space/raised floor.  That leaves plenty of room for growth and QTS plans to double the available white space to a staggering 600,000 square feet in the near future.

The presence of Twitter represents another major victory for the Atlanta data center marketplace.  Twitter is a major, Internet scale consumer of data center colocation space and IT gear.  The presence of an Internet scale client in Atlanta will likely be used as a sales tool to bring additional large data center customers to the region.  The ABC quotes a Colliers International analyst as saying, “Georgia Power and the state’s economic development groups will likely leverage this kind of a client to sell the region to other data center users.”  

This is terrific news for the Atlanta data center marketplace.  The city and the region continues to solidify its position as one of the fastest growing markets in the US.

Follow my Twitter feed at @eric_gallant

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