ASHBURN, Va. – Aligned Energy has made its long-expected entrance into Northern Virginia. And it will be building big.
Aligned said this week that it plans to create a 180-megawatt data center campus on a historic telecom property in “Data Center Alley” in Ashburn. The company says it will build 880,000 square feet of data center space at Quantum Park, the former UUNet site that was a key connectivity hub dating to the early days of the Internet.
Most importantly, the location sits at a major intersection for both power and fiber, less than a mile from the Equinix campus in Ashburn where the world’s major networks meet.
“Data centers are the new engines of innovation for the 21st century,” said Andrew Schaap, the CEO of Aligned Energy. “We are delighted to provide Northern Virginia with an incredibly efficient and highly reliable colocation data center platform. Our new Ashburn data center campus addresses the needs of cloud providers and hyperscalers that demand a highly dynamic, scalable and future-proof data center solution.”
A Provider In Expansion Mode
The expansion comes just five months after Aligned Energy announced an investment from Macquarie Infrastructure Partners (MIP), which was seen as a key step in enabling a push into new geographic markets.
The push into Northern Virginia continues Aligned’s growth. The company recently announced plans for a 50 megawatt data center in Salt Lake City, and is expanding its Phoenix facility after a series of customer wins filled much of its initial phase. Aligned also has a data center in Plano, Texas, a northern suburb of Dallas.
Aligned was founded in 2015 with a focus on solving capacity management challenges, and pursuing innovation in cooling and the supply chain. The company’s flexible data center design seeks to “future proof” customers from evolving trends in rack density and applications. Its design enables tenants to put low-density and high-density racks next to one another in a data hall, a configuration which is often problematic. Aligned says its technology can cool cabinets housing up to 50kW per rack in IT equipment, and that it can support a PUE (Power Usage Efficiency) of 1.15 in any climate.
Schaap, a veteran of Digital Realty who joined Aligned last year as CEO, believes this approach will pay dividends as a series of next-generation technologies begin to drive data center demand.
Entering the Home of the Cloud
Aligned Energy has been seeking an opportunity to enter the Northern Virginia market, a key component of the company’s vision to operate data centers in the largest U.S. markets. The company is targeting its offering to hyperscale cloud companies, as well as cloud service providers.
Northern Virginia is already the world’s largest concentration of cloud computing infrastructure, and has seen new players entering the market in recent months, along with construction and expansion announcements from existing players. Developers in Northern Virginia leased a record 115 megawatts of data center space in 2017, topping the 113 megawatts (MWs) absorbed in 2016.
Multiple reports suggest that leasing has accelerated in the first half of 2018, surpassing the 2017 record less than halfway through the new year. The appetite for capacity has prompted a land grab in which data center developers are buying up properties, often at premium prices.
Aligned says its master-planned Ashburn campus will feature three buildings, with two on-site substations, on 26 acres of land. The company will build an initial 370,000-square-foot, 80-megawatt data center that will open in 2019. That will be followed by an additional 510,000 square feet of data center development that will add another 100 megawatts.
Entering the Home of the Cloud
Quantum Park is a business park with a long legacy in the Internet infrastructure business. It was initially the home of UUNet Communications, a pioneer in the early Internet that helped create MAE East, the primary Internet exchange point on the East Coast of the U.S.
The presence of a major MAE-East node helped establish Ashburn as the nexus of network connectivity, and a magnet for data centers – laying the groundwork for the current cloud computing building boom. UUNet was later acquired by MFS and then WorldCom, and became part of Verizon Business.
The 135-acre Quantum Park property features more than 1.9 million square feet of buildings, including office space that continues to be occupied by Verizon Business, multiple parking decks, and data center space. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol recently signed a deal to lease more than 445,000 square feet of space at Quantum Park, bringing 3,700 employees to the site as it consolidates its operations in Northern Virginia.
Quantum Park’s co-owners, American Real Estate Partners, have been marketing several parcels of land near the perimeter of the property for data center use. Aligned didn’t indicate whether it would retrofit an existing building or build a greenfield project on vacant land.
With its entrance into Data Center Alley, Aligned brings another new competitor into the industry’s hottest market. CloudHQ, Iron Mountain and Central Colo entered the Northern Virginia market in 2017, and Vantage Data Centers, Compass Datacenters and QTS Data Centers have all jumped into the market with large new campuses scheduled to open in 2018 and 2019. The incumbents are also adding capacity. Digital Realty is creating an enormous new campus, while RagingWire, CoreSite, Sabey Data Centers, Equinix and CyrusOne are all adding new capacity.