By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
The executive team behind SH Data Technologies has some big plans for the region’s first-ever Tier III data center.
Starting with Butch Smith, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and Frank Hutchison, President, the overall vision is to bring technology and the community together. This includes construction of a new data center facility, revitalization of a vacant office building, adding additional buildings as demand warrants, and attracting new businesses to the city.
It’s a bold concept, but one that could pay remarkable dividends for the community.
We sat down recently with Hutchison to better understand the short-term and longer-range goals the team has for the area just east of Knoxville’s Old City. It all starts with two key building blocks for the facility: reliability and availability.
“No one else in Tennessee is doing high-density at the Tier III level,” Hutchison says. “You have to go to Atlanta or Chicago to get something similar.” That is about to change.
During the late January groundbreaking for the first phase of the multi-phase development, considerable emphasis was placed on the important role that the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) played in bringing Smith’s vision to reality. Tier III data centers must have at least 99.982 percent uptime which translates into no more than 1.6 hours of downtime annually.
Hutchison noted that Mintha Roach, CEO of KUB, made the bold statement at the groundbreaking that KUB would guarantee no less than two seconds of downtime per year.
“Our consultant, who has helped build many data centers for companies whose names you know, says there is only one other data center in the U.S., that he’s helped build, that has a better reliable source of power than SH Data Technologies,” Hutchison added. He credits that fact to KUB providing redundant electricity feeds from two different substations.
“Ours is expected to be 99.999999,” Hutchison said. “I’ll put this (facility) up against anybody.”
He describes the capabilities that will be embedded in the new facility as an “edge data center.” Why is that important? As consumers demand more and more content to be streamed and businesses rely more on the cloud, it is more feasible from both economic and technological perspectives to have facilities like the SH Data Technologies center host their services rather than have them fed from more distant sites.
The other key element of SH Data Technologies’ vision – availability – ties into the renovations planned for the old Fort Hill Building and the new structures that will be constructed adjacent to it as demand warrants.
Hutchison says the project has four phases with the first underway now. It includes 8,000 square feet of new construction on the west side of the existing building to serve initial data center customers. That should open in July.
Concurrently, renovations are occurring in the 33,000-square foot Fort Hill Building. SH Data Technologies will occupy the top floor and use the basement for the Network Operations Center. The other three floors will be available for leasing with a focus on customers of the data center who have a business need to be collocated with their data.
Hutchison says those are the types of high wage jobs that communities like Knoxville increasingly want.
Later phases could add as much 50,000 additional square feet as customer demand grows.
So, from a business perspective, why Knoxville? “It’s a little nest of heaven,” Hutchison says, citing the five-hour driving time to 75 percent of the U.S. population, absence of volcanic activity, infrequency of tornadoes, and the fact that major storms from the Atlantic get stopped by the Smoky Mountains.
“We’re not in a tier one city, but we think it is a great place for companies to locate their disaster recovery teams,” he added.
In addition to offering traditional data center services, Hutchison says SH Data Technologies will also offer managed cloud services, connectivity, and technology integration.
Carriers that have already agreed to bring fiber to the data center include AT&T and Comcast. As many as four others are expected to confirm their participation soon. In the case of AT&T, it has also inked an agreement with SH Data Technologies for the latter to be a reseller of its services.