Server Farm Finds Rich Soil in Harrisonburg

Lindsay -- December 5th, 2008

As Harrisonburg continues to draw more technology ventures, one is the growth of the thirteen-acre Blue Ridge Data Center (BRDC) located next to the Technology Park, as reported previously by WHSV and the DNR.

An excerpt from the announcement posted to the Harrisonburg Economic Development website back in June states:

Carpathia Hosting, a leading provider of managed hosting services for enterprises and government agencies that require 100% availability, announced today the addition of over 20,000 square feet of raised floor, Tier III data center space at their Blue Ridge Data Center.

Located in Harrisonburg, Va., the Blue Ridge Data Center was built just 100 miles from Washington, D.C. and is outside the 50-mile blast zone and over 50 miles from the nearest nuclear power plant.

Besides the obvious strategic location for a company catering to the federal government, Carpathia Hosting also highlights some of the other benefits of being located in Harrisonburg, in this overview of the data center.  Not surprisingly, operating in Harrisonburg is more affordable than NoVa – but how much more affordable?

According to the overview, Harrisonburg has “one of the lowest electrical utility rates in the country,” thereby enabling the project to have “the least expensive electric rate in the state.”  It is also noted in the same overview that “in addition, BRDC is not subject to electrical consumption limitations that have been occurring in Northern Virginia.”

The current project is for over 20,000 square feet of data center space.  However, it is noted twice in the overview that the data center could potentially increase its server operations to almost 100,000 square feet in the future.

That’s 100,000 square feet of conveniently located, secure, low-hassle, highly affordable server space – rich soil indeed.

13 Responses to “Server Farm Finds Rich Soil in Harrisonburg”

  1. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    I was also interested to learn about the new substation built by HEC just for the server farm, which is said to use up as much energy as the entire JMU campus, according to Economic Development officials. What is the impact of that increased demand on the rest of us using HEC?

  2. Brent Finnegan says:

    A server farm like that sounds like a giant energy sponge. I wonder how many (or if any) server farms use solar or wind energy to offset or supplement the huge amount of electricity they use.

  3. Karl says:

    I was looking back at a 2007 story we did on the HEC improvements for the former AMP site and read with great amusement that no one came to the public hearing.

    I was impressed that it only cost HEC 220K to put up the line and erect the new poles.

    Back in 07′ I could have told you the impact GX, but the memory isn’t what it used to be.

  4. JGFitzgerald says:

    Some day somebody should catch on to the fact that in at least 90 percent of cases, the public hearing is a waste of time. The theoretical answer to that is somebody should think of an alternative (such as Meanwhile, it serves often as a CYA story for people in government, who can say they invited public input and nobody cared.

  5. Karl says:

    Joe, thanks for making me feel less cynical.

  6. linz says:

    I’m also concerned about the perceived commercial freedom to consume large amounts of energy in hburg without “limitations.” If this is the case, it could be a dangerous path for our city to be headed down. I could see if we had a deal with BRDC as an initial customer, in order to make our city more attractive (i.e. building a substation for them), but it doesn’t sound like anything our little city could keep up with for numerous businesses in the future without a negative impact on city-life and the environment.

  7. Renee says:

    Nice article, linz. This is really interesting – Harrisonburg has attracted several “high tech” businesses in recent years.

    Checked out the link… 40 Megawatts – wow!

    “Biometric scanners and man-traps” – haha I wonder what a man-trap is?

    On another note – is anyone else with Firefox not seeing the hburgnews header image suddenly?

  8. Justin C says:


    There is such thing as “Green Web Hosting”, but it’s mostly a niche concept. It would be great to see all basic websites investing a little extra money for web hosting from companies that use renewable energy, but so far it’s pretty rare.

    That said, the purpose of the installations that are being brought into the area make alternative energy not likely. First, these buildings need huge amounts of power. You have lots of very expensive computer equipment which you want to control the electricity flow for. Big spikes or weak spots can cause very costly problems. Even more important is guaranteed uptime, which of course is what the government is interested in.

    It’s the typical story. In a free market, it only makes sense to pay for the “green” label if your customers want it.

  9. Wes says:

    A man trap is basically a small circular room with a door in and door out. The thing is, when you enter the room, the in door locks. You have to be be biometrically identified and typically provide a pin number or the door out never opens. Until some security guy comes and gets you. I’ve been stuck in one for 10 minutes, not good.

  10. linz says:

    Thanks for the description of a man trap – I guess it’s appropriately named!

  11. Renee says:

    Interesting, Wes – thanks!

  12. Bill Russell says:

    Interesting comments. As the original data center developer at this site, Criticon Corporation studied not only the economic benefit that we could gain, profit being our motive for being in business, but also the economic impact on Harrisonburg and the surrounding community. Frankly, a high wage relatively local workforce attracting many small technology spin-offs and a subsatntial increase in the local tax base without a corresponding large increase in traffic or support services still looks like a great deal for the community.

  13. linz says:

    Bill – thanks for commenting. I appreciate hearing that Criticon made the effort to study community impact as well – especially street traffic! :)

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