The Super Bowl Comes to the Land of Data Centers

Feb. 5, 2016
Super Bowl 50 is being played In Santa Clara, which is also home to one of the world’s largest data center clusters. Here’s a look at how local data centers are preparing for the crowds and traffic, both human and digital.

The Super Bowl has become America’s biggest party. Things can get interesting when that party is taking place in your front yard.

Sunday’s Super Bowl 50 is being played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. a city which is also home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of data centers. More than 30 major server farms are located in Santa Clara, which has become the data center capital of Silicon Valley due to attractive power rates offered by the municipal utility, Silicon Valley Power.

“We’re all excited about having the Super Bowl in our back yard,” said Ivan Bocanegra, Site Director of the QTS Realty data center in Santa Clara.

When he says back yard, Bocanegra isn’t kidding. The QTS Realty campus is just down the street from Levi’s Stadium, and adjacent to lots at Mission College which will provide parking for the big game – which will mean a steady stream of cars and pedestrians around the perimeter of the facility.

Although the QTS team has adapted to the crowds from 49ers regular season games, they expect the hoopla meter to be turned up to 11 for Sunday’s event.

“It’s predicted that the streets will be highly congested,” said Bocanegra. “It’s on a different level. The traffic has already been heavier throughout the week. We’re prepared with additional security staff around the building to handle the vehicle and pedestrian traffic. We also have additional technical and facility staff on site.”

The QTS Realty data center in Santa Clara is a short distance from Levi’s Stadium, where Super Bowl 50 will be played on Sunday. (Photo: Rich Miller)

The extra staffing is a precaution to ensure things can run smoothly even if Super Bowl traffic creates gridlock in the streets surrounding the facility.

“It may be difficult to get here,” said Bocanegra. “We’ve also made sure that our fuel and water supplies are topped off, so we won’t need deliveries.”

The primary concern will be perimeter security, and keeping fans from seeking to park on the data center’s private lot or climb security fences to cut through the property or equipment yard to get to the stadium. QTS will have a substantial and visible security staff in place.

The QTS Santa Clara data center is a two-building campus with 135,000 square feet of space. It has a single point of entrance and security guards on active patrol outside the facility, in addition to the standard in-building security features like keycard and biometric access control.

Levi’s Stadium is also not far from the headquarters of Cisco Systems and Intel Corp. and directly across the street from the Santa Clara Convention Center, which is familiar territory for those who attend technology conferences, including the Uptime Symposium or the O’Reilly Velocity conferences.

Many of Santa Clara’s data centers are located on the south side of Highway 101, and thus less likely to experience the traffic and crowds on the same level as QTS. This includes campuses for Digital Realty, Equinix, Amazon Web Services, SoftLayer, Vantage Data Centers, CoreSite, CenturyLink, Verizon/Terremark and DuPont Fabros Technology.

Festivities in San Francisco

The Super Bowl 50 festivities are also in high gear in San Francisco, where a section of the Embarcadero has been transformed into “Super Bowl City,” a festival at the foot of Market Street that is expected to draw more than a million visitors over the course of this week. The free venue offers music performances from Alicia Keys, The Band Perry and OneRepublic, as well as food and drink, lots of fan activities and a strong presence for the game’s corporate sponsors.

And yes, there are data centers in the neighborhood, most notably the 365 Main facility operated by Digital Realty, which is just four blocks from Super Bowl City.

The 365 Main data center facility in downtown San Francisco, which is owned and operated by Digital Realty. (Photo: Digital Realty).

Digital Realty says things are business as usual, with some precautions to acknowledge the crowds and traffic.

“San Francisco is on a heightened state of security,” said Asa Donohugh, Director of Property Operation’s at 365 Main. “We take security very seriously here. We have a heightened sense of awareness and have increased our perimeter presence and patrols.”

The 365 Main building is built like a fortress, in part because it was originally a tank turret factory. When original owner AboveNet was converting the building into a data center, it installed bullet-proof Kevlar lining in the walls. Given San Francisco’s history of earthquakes, AboveNet also installed a base isolation designed to keep the entire building stable when the earth moves. The 365 Main building is built atop bedrock, and the 98 columns supporting it are topped with a special joint known as a “friction pendulum” consisting of a plate and rubber bearings that absorbs the shock created by seismic movements.

Although Super Bowl City has brought crowds through its neighborhood, the 365 Main team expects most of the action Sunday will be seen in the servers and networks within the data halls.

“We have a lot of the major social networks and ISPs in the building,” said Donohugh. “They’re really ramping up for a lot of traffic when the game kicks off Sunday. I expect pretty heavy traffic spikes throughout the day on the exchanges in our building.”

About the Author

Rich Miller

I write about the places where the Internet lives, telling the story of data centers and the people who build them. I founded Data Center Knowledge, the data center industry's leading news site. Now I'm exploring the future of cloud computing at Data Center Frontier.

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