With dozens of these centers, once-rural Loudoun County has remade itself into an information technology powerhouse.
Data center building is surging in the county as existing firms expand and newcomers from outside the region plant their flags in the ground. A company called Equinix in late July announced plans to build its 10th center locally. Seattle-based Sabey Data Center Properties said in June it would build a 490,000-square-foot campus, while RagingWire said in May that it has bought a 140,000-square-foot facility, marking its move to become a national player. The county is also home to centers run by coveted firms such as Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon.
For Loudoun County, the boom has provided an economic boost. Those in the industry say the centers are a perfect fit for an outer suburb cautious about growth but in need of tax revenue. Data centers typically employ few, meaning they don’t increase traffic, but take up plenty of real estate.
The county now claims about 40 centers comprising roughly 4 million square feet of space — equivalent to 22 Wal-Mart Supercenters. Another 800,000 square feet are either planned or being built. Loudoun officials said they expect 6.5 million square feet in data centers by 2021.
“We don’t really see any end in sight,” said Buddy Rizer, a business development officer at Loudoun County’s economic development office.
The area also has become a critical one in the data center world. Carpathia, which provides hosting services, last year moved its headquarters to a larger office in Sterling to allow for growth and be more visible. The firm started with a single facility in Ashburn in 2003, but now has seven data centers in the area — five of which are based on Equinix’s campus.
“The Dulles corridor is a premiere corridor in the technology industry,” said Mike Clemson, Carpathia’s senior director of facilities. “It was definitely a statement from the company.”
Loudoun County became a focal point for data center growth in the second half of the 1990s, when AOL established its Dulles campus and major telecommunications players relocated operations nearby to manage Internet traffic. Much of that data had previously passed through a Tysons Corner site, but an increase in traffic demanded more space.
The Loudoun site, known as MAE East, became a nerve center for all East Coast Internet communications, acting in effect as a doorway to the Internet. As a result, the area attracted firms that saw a new market for managing all that data.