Microsoft looking for data center property in Atlanta?

The Atlanta Business Chronicle is reporting that Microsoft may be scouting the Atlanta area for a new data center campus.  It appears that Microsoft is seeking 50-60 acres in the Lithia Springs area just east of downtown Atlanta. 

Lithia Springs is already home to a number of large data centers including Google, Synovus and Savvis

50-60 acres is huge chunk of land for data center development and indicates that Microsoft may be considering a very significant development in the Atlanta area.  


Important Nuclear Power Meeting Today in Atlanta

Representatives from the Southern Company are meeting with US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) officials today in Atlanta.  The NRC is expected to give its final verdict on a critical (pun intended) construction license for two new reactors at Plant Vogtle in South Georgia.

Plant Vogtle following construction

If approved, the reactors at Vogtle will be the first new American reactors in 30 years.

Protesters have started gathering outside the Federal building in Atlanta.  Fears that arose as a result of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster (follow the link for some amazing NatGeo pictures from inside Fukushima) 11 months ago are at the top of the protester’s rhetoric.  The protesters include at least 9 groups that intend to challenge the project in Federal court. 

The new reactors will be Westinghouse’s Generation III+, AP1000 design.  The long term plan for America’s fleet of aging nuclear reactors includes the replacement of the pre-1970’s era General Electric boiling water reactor design with the advanced safety and technology package found in the AP1000.  The Vogtle project will be a significant first step in the badly needed technology refresh for American nuclear power.

One would think that protesters with Fukushima fears would be eager to see these new safer reactor technologies deployed.  Even the most ardent environmentalists have started to see the light that nuclear power has advantages over fossil fuel power generation technologies.  These warming views on nuclear power have been reinforced in recent weeks by controversies surrounding hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for natural gas and Federal roadblocks to use of oil extracted from Canadian tar sands.  

If approved, Vogtle Units 2 and 3 could be a major boon to economic development throughout the Southeastern Region.  According to Georgia Trend Magazine, “Site construction employment is expected to peak at 3,500 jobs during 2013 and 2014, with 800 new permanent employees needed to staff the new units when they begin operation in 2016 and 2017.”

In addition, the availability of plenty of electrical power will be an attractive feature for all types of industrial and commercial enterprises looking for new location.  Data center site selection criteria, in particular, values the availability of cheap, reliable and plentiful power very highly. 

Hopefully, the NRC will approve Southern Company’s construction license and the construction of Vogtle Units 2 and 3 will move forward.  This will lead to:

  • High paying construction jobs
  • Long term employment opportunities for nuclear trained personnel
  • New incentives for employers seeking to locate in the Southeast
  • A favorable environment for future data center construction
  • More reliable and safe nuclear power technology deployed in the US
  • And (of course) reduced dependence on foreign oil          


Digital Realty purchases another Atlanta Data Center

The Atlanta Business Chronicle is reporting that wholesale data center giant Digital Realty (DLR) has completed the purchase of “a 334,000-square-foot data center near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in a $63 million sale leaseback transaction…”

DLR and the Atlanta Business Chronicle were careful not to release too many specifics about the data center.  However, if you have worked in the Atlanta data center market for any length of time you know they are probably talking about the Delta Airlines Data Center on Doug Davis Drive down in Hapeville.

According to the Business Chronicle, the seller was a ““major airline” that will continue to use 167,000 square feet of space in the building. The rest the data center facility is leased to a “leading provider of critical transaction processing solutions to companies operating in the global travel industry.””

If the acquired data center is the Delta Airlines data center, that leading provider of “critical transaction processing solutions” would be Travelport.  Delta and Travelport have shared the Hapeville data center for some time.

This acquisition should be good news for everyone involved.  Digital Realty is a top tier data center firm that intimately understands the role of data centers in the success of a business venture.  Their expertise and experience should ensure that the Delta data center is efficiently and expertly operated.  In addition, the sale of the building should provide Delta with a fresh injection of capital for technology upgrades.

This acquisition is the 3rd Atlanta data center owned by Digital Realty.  The others being:

  • 375 Riverside Dr, Atlanta
  • 101 Aquila Way, Atlanta

Digital Realty’s portfolio of properties includes nearly 100 data centers in North America and 12 more in Europe and Asia.  Their construction practice has built “over $2.5 billion in data center facilities for companies ranging in size from small collocation firms to Fortune 500 corporations.”

Go West?

If you were to map out the major data center activity in Atlanta (trust me. I’ve done this.) you’d see a big cluster in midtown, a scattering of facilities heading due north up the GA400 corridor and another big cluster in the Alpharetta/Windward Parkway area.  Other northern ‘burbs also have some very strong activity.  (I’m talking about you Suwanee, Johns Creek and Marietta!)  There is little doubt that the geographic center of Atlanta data center activity is on the north side. 

So, I was a little surprised last week when a customer asked me to “go west” of town to look at a site for a potential new data center.  I found myself way out in Carroll County, Georgia.  It turns out that there’s a new technology park nearing completion off the GA166 highway.  Known as Buffalo Creek, the park is a collaborative effort between the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce and a public/private partnership called Carroll Tomorrow.

There are a number of features that make this site potentially a good one for data center development:

  • Cheap land
  • Cheap power
  • Cheap, plentiful water
  • Area not prone to natural disasters
  • Equal distance between Atlanta, GA and Birmingham, AL
  • Dual electric substations
  • Two fiber backbones (SONET and Internet2)
  • Job and Investment Tax Credits
  • Local government eager to work with technology developers
  • Pad ready sites from 2 acres to 12 acres

In recent years, the Carroll County Chamber and Carroll Tomorrow have been doing a good job spurring technology investment in the area.  They have successfully lured an Airtran Airways call center, Southwire Co. and retail data center newcomer, Fogo Data Centers has set up shop in Carrollton.

It’s a small step but the technology center of Atlanta may have just shifted a smidge to the left.