How geography, energy costs and local resources are critical to site selection

Tony Fazackarley, IT Project Manager, Cisco

When Cisco was looking to move its production data center facility out of San Jose, Calif., it considered more than 140 locations nationwide.

The clear winner was Allen, Texas, says Tony Fazackarley, IT project manager in charge of the Cisco data center in Allen.

“There were a number of factors that were key to selecting a site for our data center, including the availability and cost of power, the availability of high-tech staff and the availability of carriers for carrying data around the rest of world,” says Fazackarley. “There were also geological considerations, the temperature around the year and a whole host of other factors that fed into that calculation.”

Smart Business spoke with Fazackarley about how the Allen Economic Development Corporation helped Cisco settle on Allen and what the company is doing in the community.

What other things factored into the consideration to move the facility from San Jose to Allen?

San Jose posed a number of challenges, including geological challenges. The San Andreas fault is not a good environment in which to have your production center, and Texas is far more stable from a geological perspective.

The cost and availability of power was also a factor in both the move out of California and the choice of Allen. San Jose constantly has rolling brownouts, and the cost of power is very high. In addition, there were more and more regulations coming out about how you can operate your facility, and regulations generally equate to adding costs to your business. Cisco is fully behind being corporately responsible, but if you have the opportunity to save costs for your business, you owe it to yourselves to do so.

In Allen, power is more abundant and less costly.

Another factor is that we had an existing campus in Richardson with a shell building that we were able to convert into a high-tech data center. Once we selected Richardson as the first data center, we chose a greenfield site in Allen for our production data center facility, where we consult and assist customers in building data centers that are of the standard we built in Allen. The facility allows us to show best practices for building a modern data center and show how others can optimize their data centers and maximize their energy uses.

Why is energy use such a concern?

At some point, there is going to be regulation around data centers. We’re already seeing it in areas of California. If you build a data center in San Jose, you have to have the ability to generate your own power on site. We know those regulations will roll out as the energy squeeze becomes more constrictive. What we’re trying to do is anticipate what those regulations are going to be and put into place best practices to not only meet those regulations but also to be as corporately responsible as we can. As a result, most of the new technology we’re showcasing in the Allen data center is around energy savings.

How did the Allen Economic Development Corporation facilitate Cisco’s move?

It was very key to our decision to move to Allen. They were very helpful not only on the economic side of things but also in giving us assurance on how the land around us would be used. When you have a facility that is running your top applications that run your business, there are some businesses, such as a munitions factory, that you don’t want going up around you. Getting those assurances out of the city was vital.

You need support from the local area, and that was a big part of what went into the short list for selecting a site. And having an ongoing relationship with them, speaking with them regularly and keeping abreast of what is going on is vital to us, as well. They work to keep businesses happy

How do you work with the community?

One of the things we do in Allen is have a lot of customers come into the facility, where we showcase Cisco’s data center products. Most of the Fortune 100 companies have come through that facility, as have companies from around the world. And when they come through, they stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants and use local facilities. My project manager deals with scheduling those resources and works with local businesses, restaurants, hotels and catering to support our needs.

We also do tours with local school districts. Most of those who come through are never going to build a data center like ours, but if they can take away even one best practice, we’ve done our job.

How does the data center impact the environment?

The Allen data center is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold-certified building, one of very few in North America. At the moment, the LEED program is a general building program; if you build an office, garage or stadium, you build to the same categories for certification. But LEED is working on data center-specific specifications and we believe we can improve on the gold standard that we have for the building. Once data center specific LEED criteria become available, we hope to be able to meet the platinum standards.

Also, we hope to be part of the EPA Energy Star program, but you need to have 12 months of continuous operations data, and we only went into full production in March. But we are collecting that data to that end.

Tony Fazackarley is IT project manager in charge of the Cisco data center in Allen, Texas. Reach him at (408) 894-4149 or [email protected]

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by the Allen Economic Development Corporation, strategically positioned in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro.