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Chicago Embraces the Data Center
“A lot of cities were pushing back against data centers, while Chicago tried to understand what they needed,” said Lyne. “We had a bit of openness to working with data centers.” The local power company, Consolidated Edison, has helped by supplying all the power that data centers need, he added.
When Boeing was looking at Dallas, Denver and Chicago as possible relocation sites in 2000, one of the issues it raised was the city’s strategic approach to broadband services, since the headquarters communicates with facilities around the world.
“Boeing operates in a real-time communications system globally -- they were dealing with telepresence a long time before the rest of the world and they wanted to know what Chicago’s strategy was going out 20 years,” explained Lyne.
The solicitude appears to be paying off. Google’s Open Source development group is located in Chicago, with 600 to 700 staffers, along with NAVTEQ, the largest provider of maps for digital information companies like MapQuest.
In financial services, most senior executives like to have their data centers close enough so they can drop by and see the blinking lights of servers at work, said Richard Cotten, director of data centers for Arnold & Sheridan, an engineering firm based in Madison, Wisc. The glass fronts on data centers might not be great for efficiency or security, but they make business executives pleased to see what they’ve got for their big expenditures on servers.
Lyne agreed, especially when it comes to finance; executives want to be close to the data centers they are relying on to run their business.
Cotten explained: “CIOs feel pressure to do something meaningful and with blinking lights there is a perception you are doing something from a security or operational efficiency view.” He recalls a discussion between a CIO and a CEO who wanted to paint the inside of the data center so it would look nice.
“The computers don’t particularly care what it looks like.” He didn’t say what color was eventually selected.
Good communications networks, like those flowing into Chicago, can make a huge difference in price, he added. He worked with a data center in Indianapolis that wanted a fiber connection to Las Vegas. One carrier quoted $10,000 a month, and another offered it at $2,000. The second already had fiber installed into the city. A city like Chicago with approximately 300 carriers can offer a headquarters excellent connectivity to manufacturing plants, whether they are in Singapore or Brazil. And exchanges like the CME can offer similar fast connections to investors from Tokyo to Dubai.
Another advantage to Chicago is the location, said Cotten. It doesn’t have the lightning storms which hit Florida, it appears to be far from the geographical focus of terrorists, and it doesn’t have earthquakes or hurricanes.
“After the Twin Towers in 9/11, 90 percent of the companies that lost data for more than two weeks went out of business; Katrina had a similar failure rate,” he added.
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