by Michael Bullock

Internap’s New Data Center: Built Green, Built Right

Feb 26, 20094 mins
Data Center

I recently attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for Internap’s newest data center in Boston.  Besides receiving a $453,000 rebate for power efficiency from NSTAR (the largest NSTAR ever handed out), there were several other significant accomplishments achieved in building the colocation  provider’s new, green, Tier III-level data center:

1. It was built for under $1,200 per square foot – well below the Uptime Institute estimate of $2,500 to $5,000 for this type of facility.

2. The entire project—from permits to construction to inspection, all the way up to the facility’s first tenant—took only 12 months to complete.  Yet most people I speak with assume a project like this will take about 24 to 30 long, painful months.

3. The Internap data center is expected to use $400,000 less electricity per year vs. a comparable, conventionally-built facility.

You may be asking yourself, “How did Internap build its data center for a third of what the Uptime Institute said it should cost?” Not to mention, “How did it do it in half the time the prevailing wisdom says it should have taken?”  

Some of those questions are answered in a recent Network World article and slide show, “What does a real green data center look like?” that also explains the project management and oversight services my company, TDS, provided in this project.  Here are some other factors that led to the company’s data center being completed on spec, on time and within budget. Internap:

  • Worked closely with the community, including local permitting and inspection authorities to avoid late and unpleasant surprises

  • Removed heat generating support systems from the raised floor area 

  • Eliminated steam humidification (ultrasonic is 93 percent more efficient)

  • Purchased equipment directly from suppliers, getting rid of one and sometimes two layers of middle-man markups

  • Used step-down transformers that are 25 percent more efficient than conventional K-factor transformers

  • Used variable frequency drives (VFDs) to move air and fluids more efficiently

  • Painted the roof white to reflect light and reduce heat build up

  • Used 36-inch raised floors for efficient cold air supply

  • Used 8-foot air return plenum in the ceilings to provide for efficient hot air exhaust

By now you may be saying, “Yeah, that’s all great. But it doesn’t explain how it could be built in half the time.” And that, my friends, is because I’m saving the best for last.

The single decision you will make that has the greatest impact on your building costs, operating expenses and delivery time—the decision Internap addressed first—is site selection. That’s why the two questions you need to ask yourself before anything else is, “Where am I putting this data center?” and “Why am I putting it there?”

If you pick a location with insufficient electrical power supply, plan on waiting 18 months for the power upgrades – on your dime. (Actually, it will be a lot more than a dime; it probably will be more on the scale of Internap’s record NSTAR rebate.)  If you choose a classy, A-type downtown office building, you’ll undoubtedly have problems getting a floor that’s sufficiently raised for cooling or enough space above the ceiling for adequate heat exhaust. If you pick an office complex, then I wish you the best of luck (which you’ll need) in getting permits and approvals for roof-mounted or exterior equipment, as well as the fuel you’ll need for backup power generators.

And when it comes to site selection for a new data center, do yourself a favor:  Avoid relying too much on commissioned real estate brokers who often have little or no clue as to why data center real estate is different from office or manufacturing space. Also make sure your internal team is aware of the unique requirements of a state of the art, high availability and high density data center. Finally, make sure you start with your goals, cost targets, requirements and timeline established, and then plan from there.  

So what space did Internap pick for its new data center? The building was previously a 5,000 member church, and before that it was a warehouse. The point is that the facility, the power grid, the zoning, the community, and Internap itself were all aligned for success. And that’s why it only took a year to build.

I’m interested in learning how your experiences compare, especially with regards to challenges in site selection, oversight and power efficiency. As always, I welcome your comments, tips and topic suggestions. You can reach me at


Michael Bullock is the founder and CEO of Transitional Data Services (TDS), a consulting firm helping clients implement energy saving green data center solutions, data center relocations, web based enterprise applications and 24/7 technical operations.