One might think data centers would need to be located in places like Silicon Valley or Redmond. Not so. In fact, North Central Washington has become a magnet for data centers because of the region's abundant supply of cheap, “green” hydro power generated by Columbia River dams and extensive high-speed Internet networks.
One of the earliest to set up shop was Sabey Corp., which completed its Intergate Columbia project, a massive 430,000-square-foot data center near Pangborn Memorial Airport in Douglas County, in 2009. Tenants today include Blackrock, T-Mobile and VMware.
Others who have built "server farms" in the region include Microsoft, Yahoo, Ask.com and Intuit.
The main lure for all has been power rates. Electricity can be had for about one-fifth of what it would cost in Silicon Valley.
Sabey Corp. considers its power rate in Douglas County to be among the lowest in the world. It helps that the center receives its electricity from a nearby grid, which means little line loss. And during the winter months, the climate supports free cooling – the use of fresh air instead of chilled water to cool the servers, which drastically lowers the power bill.
One of Sabey's tenants, Blackrock, a Wall Street financial services firm, estimates the Douglas County location saves the company about $3.5 million a year.
“We scratch our heads about why more financial firms don’t go there,” says Joshua Vallaria, Backrock’s director of global data center operations.