Ashburn: A Data Center Boomtown That Keeps Booming

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A Virginia village called Farmwell in the 19th century has evolved two centuries later into a place with a new name, global status as a data center capital, and prominence in Equinix’s past and future plans.

Ashburn, Va., is at the center of a multi-year data center boom in northern Virginia that will soon make the region the country’s largest multi-tenant data center market. Today, northern Virginia boasts 5 million square feet of data center space in more than 70 facilities. Tax incentives, affordable real estate and proximity to Washington D.C. are a few reasons why the area has grown in importance in the data center universe. But there are others…

Equinix has helped build Ashburn’s data center industry, and today we operate a half-million square feet of data center space in 10 data centers in northern Virginia, including eight in Ashburn. We also have plans to build an additional 1.2 million square feet of data center space in Loudoun County, where Ashburn is located, that would increase the county’s current data center square footage by 20%. The Ashburn area is among the hottest of interconnection hotspots on an Equinix global footprint that’s full of them.

The former Farmwell was originally named after a mansion housed on a 1,200 acre plantation there, about 35 miles northwest of Washington D.C. Local legend attributes the name change to an 1896 lightning strike on an ash tree there that smoldered for a week, but the truth about the change to Ashburn may be more prosaic and related to a local family name.

Ashburn started to become a data center draw in the latter part of the 1990s, when AOL established a campus in nearby Dulles. That lured major network carriers and telecommunications companies to manage the Internet traffic. Eventually, a location on one of the country’s most important Internet exchange points, known as MAE East, was established in Ashburn, and the region became what The Washington Post called “a doorway to the Internet” and a magnet for data center providers.

The downturn that followed the dot.com bust in the early 2000s only temporarily slowed regional data center growth. By the middle of the decade, the exponential growth in data flowing over the Internet sent demand for data center capacity soaring.

Earlier this year, 451 Research projected that by early 2015 northern Virginia would pass the New York metro area as the largest multi-tenant data center market in the U.S.

Equinix waAshburn maps in Ashburn from our company’s beginnings, drawn by advantages such as the presence of those legacy network providers, a water reclaim system that made heating and cooling data centers more affordable, a highly educated populace and – of course – the location.  Besides MAE East, Ashburn is close to the data demands of the federal government, and its geography offers clear electronic routes north and south, as well as west.

Today, the interconnection Equinix offers in the Ashburn area spans industries. Telecommunications and biotechnology are two. IT, digital content and online advertising are some others. More than 210 network service providers in northern Virginia call Equinix home. So do more than 715 customers from a variety of fields. On average, customers at our Washington D.C. campus are connected to 16 other businesses there.

The variety of industry ecosystems available in the Ashburn area will lure even more businesses. No doubt, the region has a rich history of interconnection, but we’re positioned to make even more of it. To learn more about Equinix’s DC-area data centers, click here.

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