First phase of Durham County data center unveiled

Oct. 02, 2013 @ 06:25 PM

In case of high winds, the walls and roof are reinforced. Should power fail, there are batteries and electric generators. To keep the property secure, there is a gated entrance and an eye identification scanner.

Those are some of the features of the first phase of a new data center that has opened in Durham County near the Research Triangle Park on Northeast Creek Parkway.

On Wednesday, the New York-based data center developer Sentinel Data Centers opened the doors to the new facility in a grand opening event held to showcase the building to technology and other business leaders.

“It’s all about data security,” said Brian Baker, the company’s vice president for business development, during an interview and tour held Wednesday before the grand opening. He showed off the security features, as well as equipment designed to keep the facility running in case of outages.

The building is 420,000 square feet in total, but the company has built out 50,000 square feet of space specifically for storing computer servers. They’re targeting larger companies that need to store lots of data, and also need to keep it private, as their customer base. Baker said that could include businesses that need to store health or financial data that also abide by federal privacy regulations.

The total build-out of the first phase was about 120,000 square feet, which includes the dedicated computer storage, as well as office space and rooms that house mechanical or electrical equipment.

He said they now employ more than 20 people.

He showed off one of the five long, white-colored rooms that the company wants to fill with other businesses’ computer servers. His voice echoed slightly as he moved in the room, and overhead lights turned on and off with motion sensors.

The room is designed to allow cool air from the floor to be sucked into the computers, and for hot air ejected from the machines to be routed into the ceiling and cooled before it cycles back into the room.

There’s also a raised floor system, he said, with concrete-reinforcements underneath that can support 5,200 pounds per tile.

Previously, the building was a window manufacturing plant. The Durham County Board of Commissioners approved an $800,000 incentive to entice the company to locate a data center in the facility in Durham County.

Durham County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow championed the project as a redevelopment of an existing, vacant building. She said the company’s investment will also boost the county’s tax base.

“Data centers are not going to produce a lot of jobs,” she said. “I think all things being equal, taking a vacant property and putting a good reuse into it that enhances our tax base is positive for the county.”

Ted Conner, vice president of economic development and community sustainability for the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, said it’s a “great addition” to the county’s tax base, and is a “real improvement” to the technology infrastructure that can serve other area businesses.

“They located the facility here in order to serve companies and organizations already based here in the Triangle, and allow companies to move forward without having to make that huge capital investment,” he said. “I really look upon this as something that’s going to make our community infrastructure more robust.”