Why Chicago Data Centers Thrive

Earlier this year, infrastructure services provider Latisys completed an expansion at its Chicago data center. The facility growth included in the addition of 10,000 square feet of high-density raised floor space and 1.35 megawatts of critical power.

The structure, CHI-02, boasts 49,000 square feet overall and is a Tier III data center constructed next to CHI1, the organization’s other area facility.

A number of other groups have launched projects in Northern Illinois recently, including Server Farm Realty, Ascent Corp. and Digital Realty Trust. There are approximately 80 data center facilities in the greater Chicago metro area, according to WiredRE data.

Chicago chief technology officer John Tolva said that a main driver of this sector activity is the fact that area clients want to be close to their data and the city is working to ensure that the market has room to expand.

“Our big businesses don’t want their data in Phoenix,” Tolva said. “They want it close. We see the data center market as a way to enable, attract and retail all types of businesses.”

Attractive Aspects of the Chicago Data Center Market: Low Cost Occupancy
But what is spurring all this data center activity in the Chicago area? World Business Chicago noted that a number of factors make the city an attractive and strategic region for data center operators, including reduced total cost of occupancy. The city is among the top data center markets in the nation that yields the lowest price tag for the residency of a facility.

Available Power Resources
The region also boasts a deregulated power market, which provides organizations with cost-efficient electricity resources. Illinois has one of the largest nuclear fleets in the U.S., which enables vendors to provide energy at low costs and with a minimal carbon footprint. Furthermore, the area’s underground power transmission grid helps prevent large scale utility disruptions that can lead to facility downtime.

Central Location
Additionally, the geographical location of the city also makes it an attractive target site for facility owners. Steadfast noted that the region’s mid-nation location and proximity to Lake Michigan makes it a major transportation hub. Chicago’s railroad system also carries the majority of fiber resources from both coasts.

“This confluence of transportation and data makes Chicago a perfect location for easy physical access and network connectivity from around the country, and even around the world,” Steadfast noted.

The region is also not natural disaster prone, and is not a target for hurricanes, wildfires or floods. A major tornado has not touched down within city limits for more than 50 years, and Chicago’s risk for natural disasters as a whole is considerably lower than that of the rest of the country. A SustainLane City Sustainability Ranking study found that of the 12 major data center markets in the nation, Chicago ranked 10th for risk of natural disasters. Only Philadelphia and Phoenix boasted a lower threat level.

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