Just a couple years ago, RagingWire Data Centers was known for its focus on uptime, with a data center design featuring extraordinary levels of redundant power and cooling equipment to keep customer IT equipment online. The company worked to steadily deploy capacity for colocation and wholesale data center customers, who wanted to see finished data center space before making commitments.
Then came the cloudburst, as growing hyperscale customers began seeking larger deals and pre-leasing facilities during the planning stages. These customers focused on the speed of delivery, while managing their uptime through automation of workloads across global networks, rather than redundant equipment.
RagingWire has embraced the change, overhauling its construction process and data center design as it retools to compete for larger deals.
“We’re making changes everywhere,” said RagingWire President and CEO Doug Adams. “RagingWire will always be a little more resilient than our competitors. We’re making a more appropriate move to where the market is morphing.”
RagingWire’s Design Evolution
That strategic shift has begun to yield dividends. The company recently announced plans to build a new data center at its campus in Ashburn, Virginia, laying the groundwork for new customers and future expansion.
“Some recent deals have validated our move into hyperscale,” said Adams. “Our recent wins have proven that we’ve turned the corner and are ready to land the largest wholesale deals. We are now pre-selling an unbuilt data center and going head-to-head with the largest players in the market.”
Adams won’t comment about the clients or scope of its recent customer signings. But the industry is talking about it, as the Data Center Alley grapevine is abuzz about RagingWire landing a major deal with a large hyperscale player.
History and Progress
RagingWire’s ability to compete for the largest deals amid the historic cloud boom in Northern Virginia is only the latest milestone in the company’s data center journey.
RagingWire was founded in 2000 as a colocation provider for the Sacramento market, where it rode out the “dot-bomb” recession in its early years and built a sustainable business. In 2012 the company began a strategic expansion into the wholesale data center space and built its first data center in Ashburn.Japanese telecom giant NTT acquired an 80 percent equity stake in RagingWire in 2014, and bought the remainder of the company in 2017, when Adams was elevated to CEO after 16 years in a variety of leadership roles. RagingWire became part of NTT’s global network of 140 data centers, with the financial resource to target new markets.
In 2017 the company opened new campuses in Dallas and Ashburn and grew by 21 percent, Adams said, benefiting from the rising demand for data center capacity in major markets.
RagingWire recently announced plans to build two more data centers in Ashburn. The expansion positions RagingWire to continue to compete for deals in Ashburn, where the ability to deliver data center capacity quickly is an important requirement.
Over the past several years, RagingWire has been retooling its data center construction operation and data center design to deliver space faster. The shift is driven by larger trends in the data center industry, especially the emergence of hyperscale customers, who want large chunks of wholesale data center capacity, and want it soon. RagingWire isn’t alone in retooling its business to focus on hyperscale requirements. But the company’s success in Ashburn affirms its ability to compete for major deals on the industry’s largest stage.
“We have executed on our strategy,” said Adams. “We’re landing hyperscale business.”
RagingWire’s Design Evolution
The two new buildings, VA4 and VA5, reflect RagingWire’s new capabilities. The structures will be nearly identical, with each two-story building containing 253,000 square feet of space. Construction on VA4 is underway and scheduled for completion in summer 2019. RagingWire will also lay the concrete pad and complete other site work for VA5, which will be available within six to nine months of a customer commitment.
With VA4 and VA5, RagingWire is focusing on larger customers, with each building housing four 35,000 square-foot mega-vaults. This tracks with the recent trend towards larger data halls to meet the growing appetites of cloud computing operators and social media companies.
“It’s our first 32 megawatt, two-story design for data centers,” said Adams.
But there will be some differences. VA4 will be a “stick-built” design featuring traditional construction techniques. When work starts on VA5, RagingWire will implement its design using modular construction, including pre-cast concrete and factory-built skids for power and cooling equipment.
“VA5 is the same building with a modular approach,” said Adams. “We’ll be able to stand the building up in just a few months. We’ve right-sized all the systems. Both buildings will have the same materials and equipment and technology and PUE. Simultaneous to locking down this new design, we’ve locked down a new supply chain.”
Adams said RagingWire may use either approach in future builds, depending on the specifics of the geographic market and project goals. “The modular design saves you a month or two, but in a high-cost labor market we can cut your costs,” he said.
One difference is that the standard design will feature slightly less elaborate backup systems. “The power train will always be highly available,” said Adams. “But the days of me building 2N+2 are probably gone. Customers don’t want to pay for what they don’t need. You can’t buck the trend.”
Expanding in Chicago and Beyond
As the U.S. data center brand for NTT, RagingWire will continue to expand in major North American markets. Its latest expansion is in the Chicago market, where the company has acquired a 19-acre site in Itasca, Illinois in city’s Western suburbs near O’Hare Airport. The site will support up to 500,000 square feet of data center capacity.
“We have Chicago, and are looking for an anchor tenant,” said Adams. “My expectation is that we’ll have a certain level of pre-selling before we start construction.”
Meanwhile, Adams says RagingWire sees strong activity in the Dallas data center market, where it operates a campus in Garland. He continues to be impressed with the robust growth in Northern Virginia, which has already seen more than 115 megawatts of leasing in the first half of the year, with lots more in the pipeline.
“Virginia alone has absorbed more than all of Europe combined,” said Adams. “It will be over 200 megawatts soon. I’ve been at this for a long time, and this is just amazing to me.”
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