“Got data? Loudoun County does. Lots of it. With its expansive fiber networks and a swarm of tech workers, it’s a major traffic hub on the East Coast.” – CNN Money

By Vinay Nagpal
Leadership Board, NVTC Data Center & Cloud Infrastructure Committee


Some of us from the NVTC Data Center & Cloud Infrastructure Committee recently participated in a panel discussion at AFCOM Data Center World. The topic of the panel discussion was “The Making of Data Center Alley – How Ashburn, VA Became the Top Data Center Market in the World.”

Loudoun CountyOver the last two decades or so, Ashburn has clearly made its mark on the Internet infrastructure industry. It is indeed the leading data center market in the world – if you go by numbers, over 75 data centers, 10M sq. ft. of operating data center capacity, over 1 GW (1000 MW), with another 4.5M sq. ft. under development. Just to put things in perspective, 1 MW can power one single-family home, so that is enough to power 1,000 single family homes. Dominion Energy has done a phenomenal job of being a fantastic partner of the data center community. In addition to constantly adding capacity, they also have various renewable energy programs in place for the data center community to utilize.

Loudoun County takes the lead in all data center markets globally; however, Prince William County, Henrico County and Hampton Roads are regions coming up as well in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Data centers contribute over $180M annually in revenue to Loudoun County every year. There are over 3,000 technology companies housed in the Loudoun County data centers.

Ashburn VA EcosystemNorthern Virginia boasts a technically-skilled workforce. The huge presence of government technology contracting companies has also contributed to this pool of talented workers. Data center operators are continuing their buildouts at a rapid pace. Increasing investments in building new and upgrading existing data centers that support the provision of cloud services is among the main drivers of growth.

Other drivers of the data center forecast include growing use of big data analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) technology, and a growing need for data center colocation and managed services. Technologies like virtual reality, video, social media and banking are also leading to more data generation and data consumption.

Connectivity is a vital component of the data center business model. Whatever data comes in to the data center, must go out. The data may be brought in on 18-wheelers trucks with cabinets full of servers, with servers full of data, but it must go out over fiber optic cables, comprised of thin strands of fiber glass thinner than human hair.

Blog Image 4It is believed that over 70 percent of the world’s Internet traffic passes through Loudoun County. There are several hundred networks present in this region on which traffic is changing hands, in order to get to its final destination in the most optimum path. Loudoun County boasts the most interconnected location in the Northeast and is also home to several Internet exchanges that enable multiple parties to connect with each other and exchange traffic.

Northern Virginia is where the first commercial exchange was born called MAE-East (Metropolitan Area Exchange) by Metropolitan Fiber Systems (MFS) in Tysons Corner in 1992. Since then, several connectivity-centric companies have made a mark in the Northern Virginia landscape including UUNET, PSINet, AOL and Equinix, to name a few. Terrestrial fiber construction has continued perpetually; you constantly see fiber splice trucks, and road being dug up wherein new conduit systems and terrestrial fiber optic cables are being installed underneath the roads. We have seen the installation of 3,456 strand fiber cable installed in the Northern Virginia region. The region boasts some of the country’s most fiber dense roads as depicted in this image courtesy of NEFiber.

Blog Image 3Until recently, in order for the international Internet traffic to leave the state of Virginia and reach its destination in other parts of the world, it had to be first sent to New York, New Jersey or Florida. This is because the “landing stations” where the subsea fiber systems terminate existed only in these three states in the Eastern Seaboard. This changed in 2017 as Virginia got its first subsea cable, MAREA, connecting Bilbao, Spain to Virginia Beach. The second subsea cable coming to Virginia, BRUSA, is expected to be completed later this year connecting the state of Virginia directly to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Fortaleza and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The direct international connections will further give the data center community in Virginia more connectivity options for low-latency fast connection to various international destinations. There are also several other subsea fiber projects under consideration for Virginia Beach.

In summary, Ashburn has attracted data center and connectivity providers from all over the country. Every major data center provider (retail or wholesale), every major cloud provider, every major terrestrial fiber connectivity provider is in Northern Virginia, and now subsea fiber operators are coming to the state of Virginia.

 

About the Author – Vinay Nagpal

Vinay Nagpal has over 23 years of global experience developing data center and connectivity solutions with a strong knowledge of subsea and terrestrial fiber systems. Nagpal has held several senior-level positions at Digital Realty, DuPont Fabros, Tata Communications, Verizon, MCI, Digex and UUNET, developing carrier-neutral connectivity and data center solutions in the  U.S, Canada, London, Singapore, Australia and India. Nagpal served on Open-IX board, leading the formation of standards for distributed Internet exchanges. Currently based out of Washington, D.C., Nagpal serves on the Leadership Board of the NVTC Data Center & Cloud Infrastructure Committee and is actively involved in the subsea developments taking place in Virginia Beach. Email Vinay Nagpal.

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How will modernizing Virginia’s power grid will be essential for a stronger, smarter and greener energy future? Virginia Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson and Dominion Energy Vice President Technical Solutions Kevin Curtis provide their expert insights on the topic in a new webinar sponsored by the NVTC Data Center and Cloud Infrastructure Committee. Get a recap below.


On October 25, NVTC members had the opportunity to participate in a webinar sponsored by NVTC’s Data Center and Cloud Infrastructure Committee where they heard from Virginia Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson and Dominion Energy Vice President Technical Solutions Kevin Curtis as they discussed the smart energy grid and steps needed to prepare for Virginia’s high-tech economy, future growth and business, and consumer expectations.

The webinar, which was moderated by RagingWire Data Centers Vice President Data Center Operations Phillip Sandino, focused on the changing expectations Virginia businesses and consumers have around energy and new infrastructure and the ongoing efforts to maintain reliability, address resiliency, protect physical and cybersecurity, and integrate more renewable resources.

The speakers discussed how modernizing the power grid will be essential for a stronger, smarter and greener energy future. Kevin Curtis shared Dominion Energy’s perspective on grid modernization and the need to integrate renewables and distributed energy resources, help customers optimize energy use and save money, improve resiliency and reliability, and strengthen physical and cybersecurity. He observed that Dominion Energy has significantly grown its renewable energy generation in Virginia, with solar in particular growing from 1.18 MW in operation at the beginning of 2015 to 744 MW in operation or under development as of August 2017, with plans to add at least 5,200 MW of solar over the next two decades.

Secretary Jackson discussed the reliance many new technologies and applications will have on the smart energy grid, including applications to support Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities, and autonomous vehicles. She observed that service demand patterns are changing from Virginia businesses and consumers with increased emphasis on higher capacity, increased reliability and more security for power and the grid. The session also featured Q&A between the webinar participants and presenters.

Replay the full webinar here or below:

View slides from the webinar or below:

 

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Did you know ninety-nine percent of Internet traffic travels through fiber cables on the ocean floor? Or that Virginia has one of the world’s most abundant fiber optic cable networks? In NVTC’s latest blog, DFT Data Centers Vice President of Product Management and NVTC Data Center and Cloud Infrastructure Committee Leadership Board Member Vinay Nagpal discusses the fascinating world of fiber connectivity and the exciting new subsea fiber cables coming to Virginia Beach.  


Subsea Cable Ocean
Subsea fiber cables on the ocean bed

Ever since the advent of the Internet, there has been a common myth that Internet traffic travels through satellites. That is not true. Ninety-nine percent of the world’s Internet traffic travels through subsea cables that are laid on the ocean bed, like the cable shown in the picture (image, left). The oceans cover over seventy-one percent of the Earth’s surface and the explosive growth of the Internet that we are experiencing is constantly challenging us to ensure that there is adequate infrastructure in the oceans to handle the growth.

Northern Virginia, also known as the “Data Center Alley” is not only the mecca of data centers in the world, but also has the most abundant fiber optic cable network installed underneath its roads, pavements, medians and sidewalks. This has resulted in an astounding statistic: upwards of seventy percent of the world’s Internet traffic passes through Northern Virginia. It is striking to note that up until now, all of that traffic when it leaves the eastern seaboard of the U.S., travels either north making its way to New York or New Jersey, or south, making its way to the Miami area, where landing stations exist connecting the land to ocean to get to the outside world. This land-ocean-land connection happens by virtue of subsea cables that are connecting two sea ports between countries, and often, between different continents altogether.

Connected World
The world at your fingertips

Why are subsea cables important? They are important because of the unimaginable growth of the Internet, and the way the Internet has been intertwined into our lives. The use of the Internet from wearable tech, to autonomous cars, to Internet-enabled toasters and refrigerators, is just the beginning and we have barely scratched the surface in the potential adoption of the Internet. The Internet has drastically changed the taxi, hotel and so many more industries. It has given us the freedom and power. Corporate America is moving their IT infrastructure out of their facilities, and placing it in the hands of the shared technology czars, who are managing enterprise data and making sure it is accessible by users in a cost-effective model.

Extremely connected is the world that we live in – from WiFi at the airports, railway stations, inside airlines, on cruise ships – to fast fiber connection in our homes, we often take this WiFi enablement for granted. Without fiber cables, there would be no streaming a 4K movie from the comfort of our reclining sofas. We wouldn’t have the ability to get the content and data when we want it, where we want it and how we want it.

Fiber cable
Subsea fiber cable

Fascinatingly, these fiber cables (image, right) are thinner than human hair and about 1,000 times stronger. The light transmitted through these cables carries all of our data from one point to the other, from one city to the other, from one state to the other, from one country to the other, and from one continent to the other.

The transoceanic cables connecting continents together is not a new concept – the very first trans-oceanic was laid on the ocean bed over 150 years ago in the 1850s. There are currently over 350 subsea cables carrying Internet traffic daily on the ocean beds, and over 40 active subsea cable projects underway across the world. We are doing a great job feeding the sharks. Yes, the sharks still look forward to biting on these cables, and it remains to be a persistent problem on the ocean bed.

These cables are extremely expensive to build and operate – typically few hundred million dollars. A cable can easily cost in the vicinity of $300-$400 million dollars and take about two to three years from the concept to operational. In that time period, there is the feasibility study that is done and you need to acquire permits and licensing; as you can imagine crossing international waters involves multiple countries and their laws.

VA Beach Subcables
Virginia Beach connected to the world

For the very first time in the Commonwealth of Virginia, we are going to have a direct fiber cable crossing the Atlantic. This cable (click on image, above, to enlarge) will connect Virginia Beach to Bilbao, Spain. Co-owned by Microsoft, Facebook and Telxius (the subsea cable company, owned by Telefonica, the Spanish carrier), the cable, called MAREA (Spanish for “Tide”), when installed and operational will be the fastest cable crossing the Atlantic ocean ever. The second cable under development is BRUSA, connecting Virginia Beach to Puerto Rico to Brazil. A third project under final stages of consideration is Midgardsormen, which will connect Virginia Beach to Blaabjerg, Denmark. In addition, there are nine additional cable projects under consideration. Understandably, not all of these projects will see the day of the light (literally speaking); but by the time some of these projects become a reality, I am sure there will be additional new projects under consideration.

July 13 meeting
NVTC Data Center & Cloud Infrastructure Committee meeting on July 13, 2017

On July 13, Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) held its Data Center and Cloud Infrastructure Committee meeting on the topic Subsea Cables Coming to Virginia Beach; What It Means for Virginia and the World. The distinguished panel included speakers from Telxius, AcquaComms, NxtVn, the City of Virginia Beach, with special cable samples and maps provided by TE SubCom.

Part 2 of the meeting will be held later this year and will focus on bringing the subsea capacity from Virginia Beach to Northern Virginia and other parts of the country. If you are interested in participating in Part 2 of the meeting, please contact Vinay Nagpal at vnagpal@dft.com.

You can view the presentation slides from the July 13 meeting by clicking here or viewing below.

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Over 100 members of the NVTC Data Center and Cloud Infrastructure Committee attended a special tour of DigitalRealty’s Ashburn campus on May 4. Attendees also enjoyed a networking reception after the tour. Thank you to event host and new patron sponsor DigitalRealty! DigitalRealty’s campus is one million square feet and growing fast!

Check out photos from the event (click to enlarge)!

May 4 event photo 3  May 4 event photo 4  May 4 event photo 5 May 4 event photo 6  May 4 event photo 7  May 4 event photo 8 May 4 event photo 9 May 4 event photo 2 May 4 event photo 1

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