Farms are popping up all across North Texas – and no, agrarian society isn’t staging a comeback. They’re server farms; massive centers where tech companies house computer servers that process and store data.
A little social network you may have heard of called Facebook is the newest player in the North Texas market. Facebook just broke ground on a $1 billion facility in Fort Worth – one of the largest centers in the state in terms of both physical size and investment.
So what exactly is it that makes the Metroplex such a hot spot for these data centers? John Jacobs is the Executive Vice President of the Richardson Economic Development Partnership, and he says there are several reasons North Texas is an attractive spot for server farms.
“North Texas is a home for large corporations that have a lot of data center needs that they can’t necessarily house in their own buildings,” Jacobs says. “There’s a whole lot of corporate activity here locally, and generally companies like to be close to their data centers.” That corporate activity in the DFW area has pushed Dallas to be one of the biggest homes to data centers in the U.S. “Dallas is considered a Tier 1 data center market, which means it’s in a league with the New York’s, and Chicago’s, and Los Angeles’s.”
But the local economy isn’t the only reason so many server farms are popping up in the area.
“The other thing… is the fact that DFW airport is a really significant hub airport,” he says. “Even for companies that are in the Midwest, East Coast, West Coast…they can get here and do their work in the data center in a day or so, and then get back home. That’s just the strategic location we have.”
And these data centers can be a big source of wealth for the cities and towns they’re built in. “In the economic development that all cities are interested in, one of the objectives in addition to jobs is tax base and wealth,” Jacobs says.
“Under the current Texas laws, there’s probably no use of land per square foot that generates more revenue to a city than a data center does,” he says. “In addition to that, the largest operating expense of a data center is electricity, and there’s a sales tax on electricity.”
Usually when cities see a new business open in their area, the population increase that comes with it causes a strain on public resources like roads and public safety. That’s not the case with server farms because they bring a relatively small number of employees with them for the amount of revenue they generate. “What that translates into is building a better quality of life for the residents of a city,” Jacobs says. “This is pretty much pure profit.”
So are there any downsides for the cities that are home to all these new server farms? Jacobs says that the increased energy consumption is something that companies need to keep an eye on. “The data center industry is well aware that they consume a lot of electricity and so they themselves are looking for ways to make their data centers much more energy efficient,” he says.
“Facebook has gone with all renewable energy for their data centers,” Jacobs says, “and I think that’s certainly a positive trend.”