First phase of Sentinel data center under way

Feb. 11, 2013 @ 06:35 AM

The cost of an initial portion of the first phase of construction of Sentinel Data Center’s large, multi-tenant data center in a former window manufacturing facility is more than $17 million, according to building estimates from the city inspections department.
Todd Aaron, Sentinel’s co-founder and co-president, said the company is building out the first, 120,000-square-foot phase of the data center at 2223 Northeast Creek Parkway. The work includes structural upgrades as well as installation of mechanical and electrical equipment. The first phase is expected to be complete in the second quarter.
“First off, we’re doing a significant structural upgrade to the building – really beefing it up from a resiliency standpoint, adding steel cross bracing to the structure, and a new heavy duty roof, things like that,” Aaron said. “The bulk of the project is buying and installing electrical and mechanical gear that supports the data center environment for our users.”
New York-based Sentinel bought the 420,000-square-foot building in Durham for $24 million in October. The $17 million cost is for an initial portion of the construction of the first phase. The company expects to spend a total of about $200 million.
Last year, the Durham County Board of Commissioners approved offering an $800,000 incentive to entice the company to locate the center here.
The facility in Durham where the company is building the data center previously housed a Silver Line Building Products window manufacturing plant. In 2008, a state agency received notification the plant was closing and 428 workers were losing their jobs.
There is currently another tenant leasing part of the building on a short-term basis, a spokesman for Sentinel said in an email. A warehousing business occupies about 300,000 square feet of the building, said Chris Norvell, senior vice president of the capital markets group for the commercial real estate brokerage firm Thalhimer in Raleigh.
Sentinel bought the building from the private equity and real estate firm The Silverman Group, which had sold Silver Line in 2006 to Andersen Corp., a window and door manufacturing company.  Silverman had kept ownership of the building, and leased it back out for Silver Line’s operations.
Norvell, who represented the seller in the sale to Sentinel, said that after Silver Line discontinued operations at the plant, part of the building was subleased to the warehousing business.
Sentinel plans to build out the entire facility for data center use, but in multiple phases. Ultimately the company is planning for the facility to have 200,000 square feet of usable computer room space, and the remaining square footage will be used for offices, mechanical and electrical equipment, and other uses.
The facility will employ about 20, Aaron said. They’re now “bringing online” the facility’s senior operating team, he said. The rest of the staff will be added in the next few months, he said.
The company is providing a facility with necessary mechanical, electrical, security and other infrastructure. The company’s customers would bring in their servers, storage devices and network gear.
He said that generally, as companies have realized the “importance of their IT infrastructure,” they’ve also realized “that stuff should be located in a facility that’s purpose-built to never go down.”
Aaron said that previously, companies would store that equipment in “IT closets, or computer closets in office spaces,” but he said that as the company grew its infrastructure, the computer room got “bigger and bigger” and companies ran into issues with security, cooling and power capacity.
He said he believes the company’s data center in Durham is the “next sort of evolution” following the development of data centers in the state by Google Inc., Facebook and Apple Inc.
He said the same factors that drove those users to the state drove Sentinel, including utility infrastructure, low power costs, and a technology-oriented workforce.
“We’re giving (customers) the ability to leverage all the benefits and economies of scale that come from building at the largest scale in North Carolina,” he said.
This will be the fifth data center that Sentinel has owned and operated. The company has sold three of those five, however, and still owns one in New Jersey.