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February 01, 2018

Data Center Regional Spotlight: Ashburn, Virginia

With over 4.6 million square feet of data center space representing 616 megawatts of power and more growth on the horizon, Ashburn, Virginia is just getting started. Ashburn handles up to 70 percent of the world’s Internet traffic and is home to more than 65 data centers.

How a town of 43,000 people in the sprawling D.C. metro area became one of the world’s data and internet hubs is a story decades in the making. When AOL moved there in 1997 at the height of the dot-com bubble, many other companies followed suit, creating an early hub on top of MAE-East, the Internet’s first major interconnection point. That enterprise and infrastructure presence allowed Ashburn to become what it is today: Data Center Alley. As QTS nears completion of a new innovative Ashburn campus, we are reminded of three reasons this area has lefts its mark on the international data center market. 

Connectivity

As Americans’ insatiable desire for the web content and interactions continues to grow, so does the network of Internet-connected services and devices, including video and music streaming, virtual reality, self-driving cars and the Internet of Things. Ashburn represents ground zero for the population’s foundation of network connectivity, where hundreds of thousands of servers provide the infrastructure necessary for the world’s largest Internet entities. One of the major elements of Ashburn’s success is that it sits on the world’s densest intersection of fiber networks, making it an ideal location to process data. Another element is the ‘network effect’ hosting a cluster of data centers creates, in which each new addition to the system increases the value and desirability of that network. With over 70 megawatts currently under construction, the network effect will only continue to grow.

Economics

A growing number of states--23, including Virginia--are attempting to capitalize on the value that data centers have to offer through various incentive programs. In Ashburn, qualifying  data centers are exempt from Virginia’s sales and use taxes-- provided they create between 25-50 jobs and spend at least $150 million. Combined with inexpensive energy costs, relatively low rent and an skilled labor force, building data centers in Ashburn provides clear cost advantages. In return, Virginia sees a healthy return on investment, with Loudon County receiving $9.50 in tax revenue for every $1 in data center expenditures.

Location

Geographically, Ashburn is an ideal location for a data hub. Just 30 miles from Washington, D.C., it has quick proximity to some of the world’s most important  data. Interestingly, while government agencies make up a portion of the demand for data space, the majority of the booming market is made up of other industries including the financial, technology, telecommunications and aerospace sectors. Northern Virginia is also home to a highly skilled workforce that can supply big data’s growing demand for IT workers without excessive relocation requirements. And as a seismically stable region that experiences few natural disasters while being close to a coast, Ashburn provides the peace of mind data providers require for their infrastructural investments.

While QTS has had a presence in Northern Virginia for years, the opening of QTS Ashburn later this year will mark an expanding, preeminent presence in this area. As development continues on our groundbreaking new campus, follow along with regional blog, updating you about construction, trends and events, or explore our immediately available hyperscale solutions today.