A look inside Fort Worth’s QTS data center

Fort Worth and Dallas are growing quickly in the data center world.

But what are these large data centers that are becoming a key part of the North Texas landscape? QTS, which operates 26 data center locations, recently invited reporters to tour a Fort Worth location.

The 53-acre campus houses a 260,000-square-foot facility with five levels of security, according to the QTS website. When fully built the QTS data center will be a 30-to-75 megawatt center, QTS public relations officer Carter Cromley said.

While data centers aren’t novel in the tech world, mega data processing centers for hyperscale data processing and companies outsourcing to private data centers are relatively new developments in information technology.

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“The world’s changing from something that was tangible to something that’s ethereal,” said QTS Chief Technology Officer Brian Johnston. “The world is changing, the economy is changing; here’s a group of data center users that are driving that.

“There are about 15 to 30 [of them], depending on how you group them or classify them. Those are the hyperscalers, those are the largest search engines, those are the largest social media outlets, those are the largest internet of things or software-as-a-service providers in the world,” Johnston said.

QTS Realty Trust (NYSE: QTS) operates 26 data centers encompassing more than 5 million square feet of space, more than 500 megawatts of critical power deployed, and access to more than 500 networks including connectivity on-ramps to the world’s largest hyperscale clouds. QTS has data centers on three continents and in nine states, but its Texas locations in Irving and Fort Worth have geographical advantages.

“This is one of the most dynamic data center markets in the country, quite possibly in the world. It’s fast growing; it’s not the second-largest in the nation,” Johnston said. “What makes [D-FW] so uniquely qualified, number one, is its positioning in the United States. You can reach the West Coast and the East Coast so you’ve got viability to both markets. That plays into the type of applications you’re serving up or if you have latency sensitive application like Hulu or Netflix.”

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The 21st century ushered in the big tech boom, spurring the idea of useful technology that assists in everyday activities. Streamlining app services and storing digital content in “the cloud” as opposed to directly on devices is made possible by data centers.

There are three fundamental ingredients to the cloud: the data center, CPUs and applications such as search engines and social media sites.

“[The data center’s] whole job is to move electrons, move protons and dissipate thermal load – everything this building is optimized to do and do it as efficiently as it possibly can with enough security and enough reliability that it can be fault-tolerant. If something happens, you don’t go offline; you can still get to your email and all of those things,” Johnston said.

The cloud

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“You don’t want your information getting out so we want to make sure we’re doing a good job of securing it, but at the same time people want to understand where their stuff goes. ‘What is this cloud thing?’,” Johnston said.

While the 20,000-square-foot data halls are reminiscent of Hal 9000’s systems in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the cloud is actually a white room with raised cooling floors and a ceiling ventilation system. Companies that need to store data to serve their customers rent space.

“Any data center on the planet, you could look on Google Earth or a map and find out very quickly where it is, so the days of trying to be secretive in terms of where your data centers are is non-existent. Part of it is the reality of the access that people have to information,” Chad Giddings, QTS vice president of marketing, said.

The newest trend in data centers is hyperscale data processing, which is used for things like the cloud and applications that perform functions that are unique to each user, such as social media sites.

“Hyperscale is almost like a land grab by these large companies that need this capacity. It’s growing exponentially. There are statistics that show the need is growing from tens of millions to tens of billions over just a few years, and that’s a big part of what’s driving Dallas-Fort Worth’s data center growth as well,” Cromley said. “These companies are looking to this area as an ideal area for the ability to provide that.”