TierPoint Talks Milwaukee Data Center Overhaul, Competing With Amazon

A Milwaukee data center that changed hands twice in the past two years before undergoing major renovations was unveiled to the public on Wednesday.

The facility is owned by St. Louis-based TierPoint, which acquired it in March as part of the company’s purchase of Omaha, NE-based Cosentry. At the time the deal was announced, Cosentry operated nine data centers, including the one in Milwaukee. Cosentry itself inherited the facility in 2014 when it bought Milwaukee-based Red Anvil.

The 17,000-square-foot addition brings the total size of the data center—located at 3701 W. Burnham St.—to more than 41,000 square feet, according to a TierPoint spokeswoman.

It is a Tier III data center, meaning all pieces of equipment have backup power sources, and expected downtime is less than 95 minutes per year. (At Tier IV facilities, meanwhile, services are expected to be unavailable for no more than 27 minutes annually).

According to a Research and Markets report, the global market for managed IT services is expected to grow to $193 billion in 2019, up from $107 billion in 2014. As the demand for storage capacity increases, more businesses are migrating their data to the cloud. Often, that means turning to a data center managed by Web services and retailing giant Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), or a smaller competitor such as TierPoint.

Christopher Gigot, a regional vice president at TierPoint who concentrates on the company’s operations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, provided some details to Xconomy Wisconsin on the renovations, and where TierPoint might go from here. Here is an edited transcript of our e-mail exchange:

Xconomy: How much did this expansion cost?

Christopher Gigot: A total of approximately $4.5 million in capital expenditures were invested in the project.

X: Did renovating the data center involve any server downtime?

CG: This was an expansion into new space adjacent to the legacy Milwaukee data center.  As such, it was a “new build” and thus did not impact operations at the existing center.

X: Is all of the new space for server racks spoken for, or can organizations still sign up to have their data hosted by TierPoint there?

CG: We’re open for business. The legacy facility is near capacity. While the expansion has several anchor clients that have signed up, there’s ample capacity for more.

X: Does TierPoint plan to build or acquire any additional data centers in Wisconsin in the near future?

CG: We typically reserve comment on acquisitions and future construction plans until they’re confirmed. But I can tell you that across our national footprint, we plan to invest more than $46 million in 2016 in various facility expansions (that total includes the $4.5 million for the Milwaukee renovation).

X: What advantages does TierPoint have when it comes to competing with some of the large companies who own and operate data centers, such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook?

CG: We pride ourselves on our consultative approach and the service we offer clients. Another key differentiator is the breadth of solutions we offer, from public (aka multi-tenant), private, and hybrid cloud solutions to colocation and a range of fully managed services.

X: Have you observed a trend of hospitals—or other organizations that require lots of processing power—building their own data centers, rather than outsourcing to a company like TierPoint? (The example I have in mind is the Mayo Clinic, which built its own facility before selling it to Verona, WI-based Epic Systems last year.)

CG: In our experience, a growing number of companies—of all shapes and sizes and across industries—are recognizing the value of partnering with an IT infrastructure provider.  They understand the demonstrable benefits in doing so: freeing up capital for other mission-critical needs; freeing up IT managers to focus on other initiatives; avoiding an under- or over-build situation; gaining the ability to scale up more rapidly when needed, and so on.

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