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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

ISWest Plans New Data Center as It Rides Trend

Drew Kaplan equates renting space at his server host company to renting an apartment. ISWest accommodates whatever space a client needs be it a single server used for a webpage and e-mail or racks and racks of servers to run a company’s operations. Except this apartment building has 84 tons of air conditioning equipment, a room full of batteries charged by a generator, and biometric palm scanners and combination locks to ensure the security of millions of dollars of IT equipment. Astronomical costs keep companies from providing the same setup on their own, which is why hosting companies with data centers such as ISWest are in big demand. “It makes more sense to outsource it to a company like us because that is all we do,” said Kaplan, a co-founder, chief executive offer and chief financial officer of the privately-held company. Outsourcing of server equipment tends to be popular with smaller data center requirements,” said Michael Bell, an analyst in the Infrastructure and Operations Group for Gartner & Associates. “But with large enterprise centers that are 50,000 to 100,000 square feet, a third party probably can’t improve on the economics,” Bell said. “In fact it would be more expensive because they have to make a profit.” Recognized four years running as one of the fastest growing tech companies in Southern California by professional services firm Deloitte, ISWest is meeting future demand by clients by constructing a new 16,000- square-foot data center a half mile from its headquarters in Agoura Hills. The new center goes on line in May, just five months after Kaplan expects to hit full capacity at the company’s existing data center. Outgrowing space is in ISWest’s blood since the company was founded in 1996. A 1,400 square foot space in Westlake Village then became a 3,000 square foot space. In 2001, the company moved to a 10,000 square foot facility in Agoura Hills for its 22 employees. The new building carries a price tag of $2.5 million to $3 million. A key to success for ISWest has been its location. Not only does Agoura Hills put it along the 101 Corridor, home to many technology and biotech companies, but also gives easy access to a dual sonnet fiber ring providing multiple fiber optic paths to the Internet. A fiber ring from the major telecommunication companies is more commonly found in a downtown area than in an area like the West Valley. “It’s what keeps us here and attracted us to this part of the Valley,” Kaplan said. ISWest provides the space for companies to put their equipment, power to run the equipment, a connection to the Internet, and safety features such as a fire suppression system designed specifically for data centers but the companies maintain their own equipment themselves. What ISWest provides would be too expensive for a company to install on its own. More servers for computer equipment creates more heat and companies don’t want to have to deal with heat dissipations and having enough power to keep it all running, Kaplan said. So, along with the 84 tons of air conditioning equipment to keep the servers cool, ISWest employs an entire room with just batteries to provide an uninterrupted power supply. An on-site generator kicks on if the power goes off. In the tech industry, a tiered system ranks data centers based on their level of redundancy that reduces downtime for the equipment. Clients are looking at more power and redundancy when choosing or building their own data centers because they are trying to avoid the notion of a single point of failure, Bell said. “So they have to double up on the electrical systems and air conditions systems to ensure there is no single point of failure in their operation,” Bell said. “Any one of those failures can bring you down.” Bell identified three factors driving expansion, relocation or new construction of data centers: higher-density servers; consolidation; and improving disaster recovery methods. Whereas four or five years ago, a rack of servers needed 2 kilowatts to three kilowatts of power, today’s racks consume 10 times as much and require the corresponding amount of cooling for the heat generated. Companies are moving past having each of its business units operate its own data center and now bring all that processing power into one place to meet economies of scale, Bell said. Also, software is now available that can run multiple applications from a single server. “You can get more capacity utilization out of a server than you could in the past,” Bell said. “That gives another reason to consolidate.”

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