Aligned says it is ready to begin building a massive 120-megawatt data center in Northern Virginia, less than a year after opening the doors on its campus in Ashburn.
The Aligned announcement continues the super-sizing of data centers and cloud campuses, a trend we first noted back in 2018. Ashburn is the epicenter of this trend, particularly in a cluster of sites in the heart of Ashburn’s “Data Center Alley” around Loudoun County Parkway and Waxpool Road, which is one of the most connected locations on the planet.
Aligned Ashburn opened last fall with a 368,755 square foot building that will support 60 megawatts of capacity. The initial 12-megawatt first phase included two data halls, and in March the company said it would begin a 30-megawatt expansion project.
Today Aligned said it is beginning construction on a 513,000 square-foot facility adjacent to its first building. With a projected capacity of 120 megawatts, it will be the largest in a series of massive new data center buildings in Data Center Alley. On a site next to the Aligned campus, Cloud HQ has completed a 72-megawatt facility and is preparing the first phase of a 96-megawatt facility. Across the stands Digital Realty’s Building L, which fills the east side of the parkway and supports at least 96 megawatts of capacity.
Growing at Internet Speed
These huge buildings are designed to support the rapid growth of Internet titans. Northern Virginia is land of the hyperscale operators, where Amazon, Microsoft and Google deploy a significant chunk of their Internet infrastructure. Aligned is among the new players in town, and its strategy is clearly aimed at large users.
“We’re listening closely to our customers and aligning our business strategy, speed to market and infrastructure with their requirements,” said Andrew Schaap, the CEO of Aligned. “In addition to our delivery speed, customers are seeing a benefit in Aligned’s Expand on Demand platform, giving them the ability to scale their environments incrementally as their business needs change. It’s truly a future-proof solution.”
Large, expandable buildings provide customers with the flexibility to add new capacity in large chunks. In a period of rapid growth for Internet services, hyperscale operators are seeking runway to accommodate accelerated growth that can be unpredictable. This need was reinforced during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, as demand for cloud services surged rapidly as users shifted activity online during government-imposed lockdowns.
At full build, Aligned’s master-planned Ashburn hyperscale campus will offer nearly 1 million square feet of space and 180 MW of capacity. The campus sits positioned atop fiber and conduit routes that offer access to more than 50 carriers in the immediate area. It is also among the few in the region that will draw critical power from multiple diverse 230kV substations for maximum redundancy.
Fine-Tuning the Supply Chain
Aligned’s growth has been supported by Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, the huge infrastructure fund that is the company’s leading backer (BlueMountain Capital and Goldman Sachs are also investors). The entry of Macquarie and other large global investors is changing the way that data centers are built, powered and funded.
Aligned is tapping Macquarie’s expertise and connections to innovate in its supply chain, seeking to build faster and more efficiently. It is one of several large data center developers doing bulk procurement of large equipment like generators and UPS systems, which take time to provision and can slow construction projects. Maintaining inventory of these assets provides additional flexibility to keep pace with demand.
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This is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as lockdowns and staffing shortages have impacted manufacturing and construction.
“In a highly competitive marketplace and today’s current environment where supply chains are strained, our ability to hold a rolling and available inventory of 50 MW ready for deployment also plays a key factor in our build speed, and therefore success, in Ashburn as well as other markets,” said Schaap. “The first phase of Aligned’s Ashburn data center campus was completed in approximately six months, and we’re now on target to deliver the initial phase of our second Ashburn facility, a fully-commissioned 40 MW, by the close of 2020.”
Aligned is among the data center providers seeking to build on their financial strength as the COVID-19 pandemic tests the resilience of the economy, underscoring the value of online services and their supporting infrastructure. Last month Aligned increased its secured credit facility to $575 million, citing “consistently strong” customer demand for its adaptive infrastructure.
The new credit line provided an additional $80 million to fund future growth, expanding upon the original facility created last October. Along with the continued backing of Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, BlueMountain Capital Management and Goldman Sachs Bank USA, the facility includes new lenders ING Capital LLC, Shinhan Bank New York Branch and TD Securities.