I had been on WBEZ radio last month with John Tolva, the Chicago CTO talking about getting more data centers in Chicago (you can hear the whole thing here), and it got me thinking as to how Chicago REALLY is a great place for a data center. There are many aspects we just take for granted or don’t really notice, but make Chicago perfect. I will be doing a three part article with one post a week over the next couple weeks and have broken this down into three sections: Location, Infrastructure, and People.
If you’ve ever purchased property or are involved in real estate you’ve probably heard ‘There are three things that matter in real estate: location, location, location.” That is equally true with data centers and Chicago's location is perfect for data centers.
The first reason is the fact that Chicago is not in a location prone to major natural disasters. It is not near any fault lines or volcanoes, in the path of hurricanes or wildfires, and no major tornado has touched down anywhere in the city for over 50 years. Even though the city is along Lake Michigan, the water levels have been lowering and there is no substantial flooding risk in the downtown areas either. While there can be snowstorms, the area is prepared for the ice and snow with an underground power infrastructure and proper planning. The risk of natural disaster is much lower in Chicago than the vast majority of the country and is one of the top cities in the US for resiliane to climate change.
Chicago is also centrally located in the country, and being at the foot of Lake Michigan has made it a major transportation hub. The railroads had needed to pass through Chicago to get from the Northeast to the West to go around the Great Lakes. It is now those rail lines that carry much of the transcontinental fiber between the East and West coasts. This confluence of transportation and data makes Chicago a perfect location for easy physical access and network connectivity from around the country, and even around the world.
Finally, the location along Lake Michigan gives the city other benefits that you might not think of. First, data centers can use a lot of water for cooling and the lake provides a cheap (some of the lowest municipal water costs in the country) and ample water supply. Then, the lake also provides a more moderate temperature, especially closer to the lake (like our data centers are), which further eases cooling demands. The cooler temperature in the summer and warmer, moister air in the winter can greatly extend the amount of “free cooling” that can be done with air side or water side economization methods.
Overall, this combination makes Chicago a perfect location for data centers and just a small sampling of the many reasons why we’ve chosen to make Chicago our home! Keep following this series to discover the other reasons, as next week we're posting the 2nd part of the series focused on Chicago's infrastructure.
Join us here in Chicago! We'd be happy to sell you data center colocation, dedicated servers, or cloud hosting services out of our Chicago data centers! Otherwise, if you just happen to be in town, contact us to schedule a tour and we'd be happy to show you around.