It turns out that all the data in our “cloud based storage,” has to actually live in a tangible space–built by contractors, including, of course, electricians. As our technology usage in life and on the job grows, so too does the need for data centers, which cannot, it seems, be located and built fast enough.
Constructing Data Centers
Reporting for The New York Times, Miranda Spivack points out that “changing work habits,” accelerated by the pandemic, as well as the “growth of cloud-based technologies” has resulted in the need for “more buildings, more land, more cooling systems and more electricity to support the physical infrastructure that runs 24/7.” Although suitable locations and environmental considerations present challenges to the construction of data centers, “massive, windowless buildings housing the high-speed computers that make technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence possible” are indeed dotting landscapes across the country:
Each has hundreds of servers and routers that send and receive data for everyday tasks like streaming content on mobile devices and handling high-speed financial trades.“It is the engine that powers the machine,” said Gordon Dolven, director of data center research in the Americas for CBRE, a commercial real estate services firm. “Everything on your phone is stored somewhere within four walls.”
Because data centers consume so much power, site selection is a critical deciding factor in where they are built. Of course, the cost of land and taxes matter too: “Building a facility can create as many as 1,000 temporary jobs. Completed data centers do not require large labor forces, but the jobs are generally high paying, so cities and states compete fiercely for these developments by offering tax incentives.” As Spivack says, it is anticipated that data center construction will continue to “provide substantial business for the construction industry and, in particular, for electricians.” Indeed, in the middle of a boom in data center builds in and around Virginia, Joe Dabbs of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26, estimates that about half the work on data centers is done by electricians and “The jobs pay about $75 an hour and offer a pension plan that, in many industries, is a relic of the past.”
Where, Oh Where…?
With data centers needed, but not necessarily wanted everywhere, builders are under a lot of pressure to shift to sustainable, greener approaches, while addressing the other challenges inherent in data center construction, as The New York Times has previously reported:
A key criterion in site selection is proximity to the clusters of undersea cables that send and receive data from all over the world. In the United States, the cloud’s Grand Central Terminal is Northern Virginia…..Data centers typically are new construction, given the challenges with retrofitting a building to meet requirements, such as raising the floor above the foundation and running powerful cooling systems to keep the hardware from overheating…..The generators and cooling components are built to allow repairs while they continue to operate, and they consume a lot of energy. Because data centers work around the clock, they need ready access to cheap, reliable power.
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