James Leach's blog

Welcome to the Premiere of RagingWire 2.0!

On January 30, 2014, NTT Communications invested $350 million in RagingWire Data Centers, marking the beginning of the next generation of RagingWire. 

With this investment, we created a new company with a familiar name – RagingWire Data Centers, Inc. – which is 80% owned by NTT and 20% owned by the founders and management team of RagingWire.

We used this 2-minute video to help launch the new RagingWire to our employees.

The new RagingWire retains everything that made the company great – our patented technology, 100% availability, world-class customer service, award winning data centers, and exceptional employees.

In addition, the new RagingWire gains the full support of NTT Communications, joins the NTT family of companies, and is affiliated with NTT Com’s Nexcenter data centers in 150 locations around the world.

Including RagingWire’s data center space in NTT Com’s portfolio more than doubles NTT Com’s data center space in the U.S. and enables both companies to respond to the high demand for data center colocation services worldwide. NTT Com will also deploy RagingWire’s know-how and patented technologies for the design and operation of highly dependable, scalable and sophisticated data centers.

It is a time to celebrate. So we rolled out the red carpet and cracked opened the champagne at launch events at RagingWire’s offices in Sacramento, California and Ashburn, Virginia. This video captures the highlights of those events.

At RagingWire, we are fortunate to work for an excellent company, in a high-growth market, with industry leading data center colocation products and innovative customers. We have the understanding that comes from being in business since 2000 and the optimism that comes from helping to build a company and an industry.

It is the beginning of the next generation of RagingWire, a company with a successful past and an exciting future. We are thrilled to be on this journey.

From Silicon Valley to Data Center Alley

Since the birth of the integrated circuit in the 1950s, Silicon Valley has become the destination for high tech entrepreneurship. Located in Northern California, the term "Silicon Valley" was coined in the 1970s and gained popularity in the 1980’s with the emergence of the personal computer. In Silicon Valley, capacity and capability came together to create some of the greatest technical innovations in history.

This same dynamic of capacity meeting capability that happened decades ago in Silicon Valley is underway in Loudoun County Virginia. We’re calling it Data Center Alley, the largest concentration of the best data centers in the world.

Capacity refers to the raw materials needed to create a thriving data center community: ample telecommunications; reliable, cost-effective utility power; and available land.

Hundreds of telecommunications providers include Data Center Alley as a link in their national and global networks. These networks interconnect using vast amounts of fiber installed in redundant loops throughout the area. The result is that 70% of the world’s internet traffic passes through Data Center Alley.

For utility power, we are fortunate to work with Dominion Virginia Power. Dominion recognized early on the potential for data centers in Northern Virginia and implemented a capacity model that ensured that sufficient power would be available to meet the needs of Data Center Alley at affordable prices. They worked closely with data center companies to configure their power delivery system so that power was highly reliable. Finally, Dominion has been a good steward of our energy infrastructure by maintaining an intelligent mix of available and environmentally sound energy sources.

The last raw material is land. Data centers need space in order to realize economies of scale. For example, our data center in Ashburn, Virginia is 150,000 square feet and we purchased 78 acres of land in Ashburn to build a1.5 million square foot data center campus. The land also needs to be located near the telecommunications and utility supplies and with easy access.

Capability refers to the people, government policies, and culture that promote building great data centers and growing the data center industry.

The data center industry is a highly specialized field that requires deep expertise in engineering, design, construction, and operations. Much of this expertise comes from on-the-job experience. Data Center Alley has more than 40 data centers which support an outstanding talent pool of data center experts.

Government policies have been instrumental in the development of Data Center Alley. Virginia is one of the most pro-business states in the U.S., and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and Department of Economic Development are personally involved in helping data center companies be successful. For example, RagingWire customers can qualify for a Virginia sales tax exemption which could save them millions of dollars on purchases of computer equipment and other related data center infrastructure components.

Lastly, the culture in Data Center Alley is all about building. We put theory into practice and scale it. The result is that there is currently eight million sq. ft. of data center space already built or in development in Data Center Alley.

Data Center Alley is starting to get some recognition. If you want to learn more, watch a segment on Data Center Alley from the Sunday morning news program “Government Matters.”

The Hardest Thing About Colo is Getting There

Every month we tour dozens of companies and hundreds of IT professionals through our data centers in Sacramento, California, and Ashburn, Virginia.

In Sacramento, our visitors get excited about the opportunity of having their critical computing systems running in a high-availability data center that is located near the Bay Area, but built on a different tectonic plate.

In Ashburn, companies want to be in the heart of 'Data Center Alley' with vast amounts of fiber capacity, reliable and price competitive power, and a community of data center providers to meet their individual requirements.

Many times at the end of the tour, the visitor decides to switch to RagingWire. But sometimes they don’t. What’s the #1 reason they decide to stay with the status quo? Migration. The colo is great, but getting there is too hard.

We’ve taken our experience working with top enterprise and internet companies to help you make the best migration decision.

Data Center Guide To Data Center Migration - White Paper1.) Data Center Migration Guide.  We worked with Data Center Knowledge, a leading online source of daily news and analysis about the data center industry, on a white paper that examines the major strategic issues that should be an integral part of your evaluation when forming a data center migration strategy. Data center expert, Julius Neudorfer, wrote the paper, and we think it’s excellent. You can download your free copy of "Data Center Knowledge Guide to Data Center Migration".

2.) Strategy and Planning. Over the years we have developed close working relationships with a number of firms that specialize in data center migrations. These organizations can help you develop and execute detailed plans so your migration is as smooth and painless as possible.

3.) Relocation. We can introduce you to companies that are experts in the physical relocation of your servers, storage, and network devices. These companies have sophisticated asset management systems, specialized moving equipment, and trained professionals to inventory, pack, move, and re-install your gear.

4.) Colo Connect™ Network Services.  In Ashburn, we were the first data center to introduce fiber connectivity between our campus and area data centers. Colo Connect can be used as a permanent network connection between your cages in multiple data centers or as a short term solution to transfer files and perform system tests.

5.) 30-Day Ramp.  You don’t want to pay for two data centers when only one is in production. We offer a 30-day no-charge ramp to allow you to migrate into our data centers without paying double.

In the new world of big data, mobility, cloud computing, software-as-a-service, and social media, businesses need a data center platform that is more nimble and flexible than ever before. Increasingly, IT managers will want distributed data centers and the ability to migrate systems between data centers to address application availability and network latency. We’re here to help with the Data Center Migration Guide and value-added migration service offerings.

Happy First Anniversary RagingWire Virginia!

On July 31, 2012 we cut the ribbon on our new 150,000 square foot data center in the heart of Data Center Alley – Ashburn, Virginia. We turned our data center into a New York night club and over 400 people cheered as we ushered in a "new era in data centers." That evening we wanted to introduce RagingWire to you.

One year later, on August 7, 2013, we got together again to celebrate our first anniversary. This time, instead of "hello" we wanted to say "thank you."

RagingWire Ashburn Virginia Data Center - 1st Anniversary Celebration

We held a barbeque on the lawn of our Ashburn data center campus to thank our customers, partners, suppliers, community leaders, and employees. Each of these groups has been critical to our success.

Dominion Virginia Power salutes RagingWire Data CentersCustomers/Prospects – Over 130 attended including the top Internet and enterprise companies. Without our customers, we are just a building. They are the reason we exist and the reason we have been recognized with the highest customer loyalty in the industry.

Partners/Suppliers – 80+ attendees from Dominion Virginia Power, the top telecommunications companies in the country, innovative engineering and IT services firms, and some of the best data center brokers in the industry. No great thing is ever done alone. At RagingWire, our partners and suppliers have helped us build a great data center in Loudoun County and a great business.

Business/Community Leaders – 40+ dignitaries from Loudoun County’s Board of Supervisors, Department of Economic Development, Economic Development Commission, and Design Cabinet, as well as the Superintendant of the Loudoun County School System and the President of the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce. These individuals have been personally and actively engaged in our business. They are accessible, committed, and effective.

RagingWire management team with Loudoun County Officials

Employees – 50 RagingWire employees worked the event with responsibility for parking, registrations, food, beverages, and data center tours. When this team isn’t busy throwing a great party, they are also world-class data center professionals drawn from our electrical, client services, construction, security, operations, sales, marketing, and executive organization.

You know we get asked all the time why RagingWire came to Virginia. First, the power is reliable, available, and cost-competitive, thanks to our friends at Dominion Virginia Power. Second, the fiber and telecommunications are the best in the world. Third, Virginia is one of the most pro-business states in the Union and Loudoun County strives to be the best place to live, work, and play.

Those are definitely the reasons we came to Virginia. But the reason we are staying in Virginia and the reason we are growing in Virginia is because of the community in Data Center Alley that brings together the best customers, suppliers, partners, employees, and legislators in the high tech industry.

Thank you for making RagingWire’s first year in Virginia a great success!

RagingWire Becoming Part of the Business Community in Northern Virginia

When RagingWire made the strategic decision to expand its business into Ashburn, Virginia, we knew we wanted to be more than just another data center in Loudoun County.

1) We wanted to build the best retail colocation data center in the area.
2) We wanted to become an integral part of the business community in Northern Virginia.

Our customers tell us that we delivered on #1. Known as "The BoltSM" because of its unique shape, this new 150,000 square foot data center campus is engineered for the enterprise. Its building-within-a-building design provides maximum physical security. The critical infrastructure features our patented "2N+2" power delivery system, N-Matrix management and monitoring tools, and 100% availability even during maintenance windows. Plus the data center includes customer conference rooms, lounges, and office space so The Bolt is a great place for your IT team to work.

For #2, we had two critical success factors. First, avoid the “absentee landlord” syndrome which is so prevalent in the data center industry. We established a local management, sales, marketing, and operations team with years of experience and trusted industry relationships. Eddie Ankers, our head of security, is a 20 year veteran of law enforcement and security from the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office and Fairfax County Police Department. Dave Haskell, director of sales, has over 15 years experience in data centers at Savvis, Equinix, and Latisys. Chris Thames, Director of Critical Facilities, has years of experience running data centers for Digital Realty and CBRE as well as in mechanical operations as a nuclear engineer for the U.S. Navy. Troy Hill, manager of infrastructure service delivery, has over a decade of experience in telecommunications and with systems integrators. I was fortunate to be selected to run marketing for the company after 25 years helping high-tech startups grow up. Even better, the entire team works at the Ashburn facility not at some remote office down the street from the data center.

Secondly, we aligned our business strategy with our customers’ success. We are actively engaged with the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and Department of Economic Development. We are deeply involved in a number of professional associations including the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the largest technology council in the United States. We joined three chambers of commerce and are active on committees promoting high technology, women in business, and youth leadership. We work closely with Dominion Virginia Power and Loudoun Water and receive tremendous support from both organizations.

In the local community, we had a great day with our partner Dominion Virginia Power cleaning the Washington & Old Dominion Trail (W&OD). Bill Dougherty, our VP of IT, reviewed the final projects for a senior seminar in the computer science department of Gettysburg College and gave the students a “behind the scenes” view of cloud computing and the Internet. We partnered with SmartCEO magazine as the title sponsor of the 2013 Enterprise Management Awards. The EMAs recognize the top executives in some of the best run companies in the mid-Atlantic. On March 12, we were pleased to host a private reception for the award winners at our data center. Most recently, we hosted the Loudoun Technology Council Meetup attended by 80 people who are advocates for data centers and high technology in the area.

Data centers are becoming a catalyst for economic development and a hub for the high technology and business communities. We believe that the best way for RagingWire to realize its full potential is to design, build, and operate the best data centers in the world AND be actively involved in the business communities we serve.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors visit RagingWire in Ashburn

arroe Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors visit RagingWire in Ashburn.

RagingWire joins Dominion Virginia Power to help clear the W&OD

arroe RagingWire joins Dominion Virginia Power to help clear the W&OD.

Gettysburg College Computer Science class visits RagingWire and part of senior seminar.

arroe Gettysburg College Computer Science class visits RagingWire and part of senior seminar.

RagingWire and SmartCEO magazine host a reception for 40 winners of the Executive Management Awards.

arroe RagingWire and SmartCEO magazine host a reception for 40 winners of the Executive Management Awards.

We are active in the Northern Virginia Technology Council

arroe We are active in the Northern Virginia Technology Council

Data Center Power Availability is More Than a Number

It can be difficult to appreciate the differences between data center power delivery architectures. Every data center provider you talk with has a power story to tell and most of them sound pretty good. The challenge is selecting the power architecture that is right for you.

One way to compare power delivery systems is to look at overall availability. Availability is usually expressed as a percentage of the total time the system is expected to be running. This is where the number of 9’s come in. You might find availability percentages of three 9’s (99.9%), four 9’s (99.99%), etc.

While a number might make you feel better at night, it won’t necessarily keep the phone from ringing. I suggest you look for three words when evaluating data center power delivery systems: Redundant, Distributed, and Scalable.

Redundant – multiple independent systems

This is the "N" you hear so much about in data centers. Basically, N is the amount of a component that you need to deliver a service. For example, you need one power path from the utility to your server rack. This path could include multiple pieces of equipment including a main switchboard, backup generator, UPS (uninterruptible power supply), and a PDU (power distribution unit). A second independent power path with all of those elements to the same server rack would be 2N. If there is a break in the first path, then the second path takes over. Ask your data center provider how they design for redundancy in all critical systems. The most fault tolerant way to keep your system running is to have multiple N’s. The challenge is that too many N’s can be expensive to acquire and complicated to manage.

Distributed – a resource pool + backup(s)

This is the "+1" in an N+1 design or the "+2" in an N+2 design. When the costs of the redundant architecture become prohibitive, a distributed approach for critical elements of the infrastructure is a great way to improve overall system reliability. You take a device and set it up as a spare for the required pool of devices. Say you need five UPSs to run the pod and you have one additional UPS that can backup any of the five in the pool – that’s N+1. Two spares for the pool means N+2. The critical element of this configuration is the monitoring and management system that must recognize a device failure and automatically switch to the back-up device.

Scalable – engineered for growth and change

Data centers are continually growing and changing all at the same time. To deliver superior service at an affordable price, the data center should be built out based on usage. The shell may be in place day 1, but the power and cooling should be purchased and installed as customers move in. Otherwise you are paying too much, too soon. Also, within the IT cages, servers, storage devices, and network gear are being added, removed, upgraded, and relocated. Your data center needs to be engineered for both growth and change. Power and cooling systems should accept additional devices as capacity requirements grow. Live IT power load should be dynamically shared or moved across the entire facility. All of this must occur without an outage.

Ragingwire data center - 100% power availabilityAt RagingWire, we’ve coined a name for our redundant, distributed, and scalable power deliver architecture – we call it 2N+2. We have two patents on the technology and offer a 100% Availability SLA (service level agreement) with these configurations.

How can we be so confident that with our 2N+2 architecture your power will not go down? We have 2N redundancy on the power paths to your cage or rack and an N+2 distributed design for the critical elements in the power delivery system. Lastly, one of our patented inventions is a unique cross-facility power switching fabric and a massively scalable topology that allows us to move, share, and scale live IT power load throughout the data center without requiring a maintenance outage.

For data centers, the old adage definitely still applies: "You can’t manage what you don’t measure." Availability numbers are a great metric to manage your data center power delivery system. However, when choosing the right data center colocation solution, be sure to look for power delivery systems that are redundant, distributed, and scalable.

A New Metric for the Data Center Industry – Momentum

When analyzing the data center industry you typically hear a lot of discussion about supply and demand.  This basic concept of economics is particularly useful in the data center industry because it influences pricing at a macro level and highlights potential market imbalances at a micro level.   But while supply and demand is a necessary metric when selecting a data center, it is no longer sufficient.  The dynamics of the data center industry require a new metric – momentum.

Momentum = Mass x Velocity

As we learned in high school physics, momentum equals mass times velocity (p=mv).  Mass is often thought of as the weight of an object.  Velocity measures the speed and direction of the object.  Now let’s apply the concept of momentum to the data center industry.  How does the momentum of one data center regional market compare to another?

Look for Critical Mass in a Data Center Region

The mass of a data center region refers to the number of providers.  If there are only a few providers in the region, most likely you will not see the innovation and efficiencies that come from competition.  You could end up with a monopoly effect where a single provider has all the power and the buyers pay too much for a product that may not be competitive in the broader industry.  You want the data center region to have a critical mass of providers, say 3-5, but also note there are diminishing returns for both providers and buyers as the number increases.  For example, a market with 10 data center providers is not necessarily two times better than a market with five suppliers.

One other key concept regarding mass and the data center industry is that not all data center providers are the same.  You need to look for markets that have the type of data center you require.  Are you looking for high power density?  Modular?  Retail?  Wholesale?  Let’s say you need a mission critical enterprise data center and the market you are evaluating has 10 data center providers.  If all the data centers are designed to a basic Tier 1 availability – that market does not have sufficient mass to meet your needs.

Velocity is About Speed and Direction

What about velocity?  Velocity in the data center world measures customers, partners, and people.  Is the market attracting new customers?  Are current customers buying more capacity?  Without customer growth, a data center provider doesn’t exercise its operational muscles and won’t perform at the highest levels.  Are power, cooling, and network partners investing in the area?  If these raw materials aren’t available, scalable, sustainable, and continually improving in efficiency, the data center will starve.  Finally, are the expertise and experience accessible in the area to design, build, and operate the data center? 

Newton’s First Law of Motion

The good news about momentum is that, according to Newton’s First Law of Motion, an object in motion tends to remain in motion. The bad news is that the same law also says that an object at rest tends to remain at rest.  The challenge is that the bigger the object, the more energy it takes to get moving – and data centers are big objects.

Data centers are highly capital intensive and subject to technical obsolescence.  To justify the investments required to be a data center leader requires a vibrant market (mass) with a sizeable flow of customers, partners, and people (velocity).

If you find a data center market with the momentum to match your needs today and in the future, it’s a good time to buy.

The Power of N

If you have been in or around data centers over the last 10 years, you have experienced the power of N. This single letter drives the architectural standards and design philosophies of the entire data center industry. There a lot of N’s in the data center industry -- N, 2N, N+1, N+2, and (2(N+1)).

Now RagingWire is introducing a new N called 2N+2. Why are we doing this? Well the other N’s didn’t measure up to the task of describing our patented critical infrastructure architecture.

What is N?
N is the amount of something you need in order to deliver a service or load. For an IT shop, N could be the number of servers you need to deliver a defined processing capacity. In a data center, N could be the number of UPSs (uninterruptible power supplies), generators, MSB (main switchboards) you need to deliver a power load. Of course in an N configuration, you need to hold constant the capacity of each element that makes up the N.

With N as your base, the next step is to identify the number of spare devices and complete backup units in your configuration. For example, let’s say you need 10 servers to run a cloud application. If you have a total of 14 interconnected servers with 10 production devices and four spare units, then you have an N+4 design. If you have two independent configurations of 10 servers each that can back each other up, then you have a 2N design.

N is a useful approach when describing the world of physical devices to deliver a certain capacity. The challenge is information technology and data centers are becoming increasing virtualized where pools of capacity are available and dynamically configurable. Devices still matter, but so does continuous monitoring and dynamic management of the capacity those devices deliver.

2N+2 Delivers 100% Availability
RagingWire’s patented 2N+2 design describes the physical devices, virtualized capacity, and PLCs (programmable logic controls) that enable us to deliver a data center with 100% availability even during maintenance periods and a utility outage.

We call the PLCs and integrated data center infrastructure management (DCIM) system, N-MatrixTM. With N-Matrix, we can combine our 2N power paths and N+2 critical infrastructure to deliver a 2N+2 data center – the most reliable data center design in the world.

A New Era in Data Centers Begins in Ashburn, Virginia!

Why would 400 business and government leaders, including 65 CEOs/presidents and 20 elected officials, come to a data center opening? Because over the last decade, data centers have become the critical links in the internet and information technology supply chain. And on July 31 in Ashburn, Virginia, RagingWire opened the doors on a new era of data centers. 

This 150,000 square foot facility is unique in that it is designed for both form and function. Functionally, it is everything you would expect from a ultra-high availability data center – high density power, direct fiber connectivity, advanced power and cooling systems, multiple layers of infrastructure redundancy, end to end monitoring, automated failover, defense in depth security, etc. In addition, the Ashburn data center also introduces a new form factor and aesthetic that has never been seen before – it’s a comfortable work environment for IT professionals. 

Most systems and application work – testing, upgrades, maintenance – occurs in off-hours so as not to impact ongoing users and operations. That means IT professionals are working evening and week end shifts at the data center. In RagingWire’s new Ashburn data center campus, we provide customer-dedicated conference rooms, flexible office space, drop-in workstations, complimentary coffee and soft drinks, upscale vending machines, and two client lounges so that you can feel energized and refreshed at work. We even have locker rooms and showers and the facility is next to the 45-mile long Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

What was the ribbon cutting reception like? If you were there, you experienced the excitement. If you missed it -- I’m sorry! 

Gov. McDonnell cut the ribbon on RagingWire's Virginia Data Center

The Publisher of the Washington Business Journal, Alex Orfinger, was a wonderful Master of Ceremonies. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell cut the ribbon along with RagingWire CEO George Macricostas and Vice Chairman Deno Macricostas. In his speech, the Governor recognized RagingWire’s technical innovation and business leadership. There was an exceptional stage show from Cirque Vertigo. We featured the very best local Virginia food and wine.  It was a wonderful evening!

One of the attendees sent us an email after the event saying, “RagingWire has built the sexiest and greenest data center in the industry!”  We agree!

We posted the Governor’s speech on our website.

And we got some good press coverage.

RagingWire is thrilled to be part of the high tech community in Virginia and Loudoun County. A new era in data centers is beginning in Ashburn, VA!

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