MESA, Ariz. – On the open frontier just outside Phoenix, a data center vision is becoming a reality. That’s where EdgeCore Internet Real Estate’s first data center is rising from the desert in the region’s newest technology corridor.
It’s been 15 months since EdgeCore came out of stealth mode, launching with an experienced management team, and investors with deep pockets. That combination got the industry’s attention, as did the company’s plans to build huge campuses in leading data center markets.
EdgeCore’s initial data center is nearing completion here in Mesa, where the 32-megawatt first phase is scheduled to come online shortly. It’s the first of seven data centers planned for the company’s Phoenix campus, which will eventually span 1.25 million square feet of space.
For the EdgeCore team, the Mesa project marks the transition from planning and construction to marketing and operations.
“It’s exciting to have product,” said Ryan Oro, Senior Vice President of Revenue for EdgeCore. “It’s been great to have a story and be able to sell land. Now we’re feeling that we’re off to the races.”
An Experienced Team, With Working Capital
EdgeCore is one of a group of new entrants to the data center sector, backed by new investors attracted by the growth of cloud computing. The availability of experienced executive teams creates the potential for new entrants to have game-changing impact.
EdgeCore’s lead financial backer is GIC, the sovereign wealth fund for the government of Singapore, while other financial partners include Denver-based Mount Elbert Capital Partners and OPTrust, one of Canada’s largest pension funds.
The company is led by former CoreSite CEO and Tom Ray, one of the most experienced executives in the data center sector. EdgeCore’s entire management team worked with Ray at CoreSite, bringing experience in site acquisition, data center design and construction at a public data center REIT (real estate investment trust). The company has 30 employees.
“We’re trying to take the lessons we’ve learned and create a fresh platform,” said Oro. “We think our strategy is pretty simple. It’s not new.”
The EdgeCore strategy focuses on big data centers in major markets, with campuses that afford plenty of room to grow for tenants that want to “land and expand.”
“We really look through the lens of ‘where would the Fortune 500 want a data center,” he added. “Where are they deploying? We ultimately narrowed it down to scale, cost and location. That’s what we think data center customers are looking for these days.”
Designing for the ‘Sweet Spot’
As EdgeCore comes to market, it will make its first impression with the design and construction of its data centers.
“You really have to be thoughtful about your construction process,” said Oro. “There really are more efficient ways to build.”
The Mesa facility offers the first look at how EdgeCore is optimizing its data centers. The two-story, 178,000 square foot building makes extensive use of off-site construction, including modularized power rooms that attach to the exterior wall of the building. The multi-story design makes efficient use of land, while the power chain takes advantage of pre-fabricated construction.
Each 2-megawatt power room is shipped to the site and arrives in a container, as do the transformers and backup generators, which are housed in rows (lineups) and sit on a steel platform alongside the data center.
“It’s faster and cheaper when you’re constructing them offsite,” said Oro.
EdgeCore is using lithium-ion batteries in its UPS (uninterruptible power supply) systems, reflecting the recent shift away from the lead-acid batteries that have long been a stable of data center UPS rooms. Lithium-ion batteries are commonplace in devices like smartphones and laptop computers. Advocates of lithium-ion batteries cite multiple advantages over lead-acid batteries, including a longer lifetime, reduced weight and footprint, and less rigid cooling requirements.
“It does now seem like everyone is switching over (from lead-acid to lithium-ion),” said Oro. “It’s a little more expensive, but you don’t have as many maintenance windows and reduce the amount of times you have to touch the equipment.”
For its cooling system, EdgeCore is using air-cooled chillers that reside on the roof. Air handlers are housed in equipment galleries next to the data halls, which each offer about 60,000 square feet of space, supporting 16 megawatts on each level.
On the energy efficiency front, EdgeCore says its expects the Mesa facility and all its future data centers to operate at a PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) of 1.25 or lower.
“We think we’ve found the sweet spot in PUE versus cost,” said Oro. “We’ve developed a plan we believe in. If you check all the other boxes, the thing (the customers) care about is cost. Our initial goal is to (deploy) this building across the country.”
Mesa: The New Data Center Neighborhood
EdgeCore’s ambitions in Phoenix are reflected in the 280 megawatt electrical substation behind the data center. The company plans to build seven data centers in Mesa, where its campus is the first of many purpose-built data centers expected to rise along the Elliot Technology Corridor.
For now, the huge EdgeCore building has the neighborhood pretty much to itself. The site is surrounded by open land, sitting just beyond an active residential and retail development corridor in Mesa, which is about 18 miles East of downtown Phoenix. It’s just north of Chandler, which has been a focal point for hyperscale development in the Phoenix market, housing campuses for CyrusOne, Digital Realty and H5 Data Centers.
Mesa is a spectacularly scenic area, as seen in the from EdgeCore’s front atrium, which is filled with mountains, open land and blue sky. There’s an Apple data center just down the road, which is a retrofit of a former manufacturing facility operated by one of its suppliers.
EdgeCore will soon have new neighbors, as CyrusOne, Digital Realty and EdgeConneX have all purchased land in Mesa to expand their footprint in Phoenix. There’s also plenty of development action to the West of Phoenix, where the small town of Goodyear has emerged as a data center destination. Microsoft recently bought land in Goodyear for a major cloud availability zone, while Compass Datacenters, Stream Data Centers and Vantage Data Centers have all bought property in Goodyear for future campuses.
Like most of the players in the Phoenix data center market, EdgeCore is bullish about the region. “Phoenix actually has the ability to be an Ashburn,” said Oro. “It can support cheap kilowatts. That’s what Phoenix is all about.”
Eyeing The Largest Markets
The company has projects in four other markets:
- In Northern Virginia, EdgeCore has acquired a 36-acre property in Sterling where it plans to build 144 megawatts of wholesale data center space., featuring four 36-megawatt buildings.
- In Santa Clara, the company has acquired 12 acres for a campus that will feature four data centers and 80 megawatts of capacity.
- EdgeCore owns land in the Dallas market in Richardson, Texas where it can deploy up to five data centers and 165 MWs of capacity.
- In the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Corridor, EdgeCore has land and an on-site substation to support 225 MW of critical load.
Of those markets, Northern Virginia and Silicon Valley are the development priorities. “Reno is a little bit of a different play,” said Oro. “There’s a thesis that capacity that’s in the Bay Area will want to expand beyond or move from there. In that case, proximity doesn’t always win. We’re using (Reno) as a build-to-suit opportunity.”
“Our goal is to have 100 megawatts in every major market,” said Oro. “We’re lucky to have our investor base committed to a long-term process in the data center market.”
Towards that end, Ray’s Mount Elbert Capital Partners just closed its first fund, with equity commitments from investors totaling $382 million, well above the initial target of $290 million, the fund said. Ray said the investor confidence is a sign of the attractive opportunity and the expertise of EdgeCore, which is the fund’s first investment.
“We work to leverage our industry relationships, investment vision, and operational insight and resources to discern a deeper layer of opportunities and risks in an investing environment featuring an abundance of both,” said Ray.