An amped-up Scott Data Center

Omaha World Herald article, June 17, 2012

This is no ordinary data center.

The physical operations and capabilities of Omaha's newly renovated Scott Data Center — set to go online July 1 — are enough to leave you gawking, much like you would at an impressive animal exhibit at the zoo.

As a matter of fact, some elements of the facility were inspired by Omaha's famed Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium.

Consider the data center's numbers:

  • Its water system at full capacity can chill 6,000 gallons of water every 60 seconds.
  • Its cooling system, used to keep servers and computer equipment at a comfortable temperature and humming along, possesses the power equivalent of 135,000 refrigerators.
  • Four on-site generators can consume more than 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel per hour, and enough fuel is stored in mammoth drums inside the center to drive a car around the world 20 times.

In total, the Scott Data Center's on-site systems generate enough power to illuminate more than 2,000 Nebraska homes.

Additionally — and this is where the zoo inspiration comes in — the data center is designed to provide a bit of education to students at the Peter Kiewit Institute, the collaboration between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Nebraska at Omaha that is focused on the areas of information science, technology and engineering. Scattered about the 80,000-square-foot data center are windows exposing the inner workings of the center and an automated audio system that describes what the various operations do and how they work.

Although the Scott Data Center isn't the largest multitenant facility in the country, it is known nationally as one of the best, said Ken Moreano, president of the data center and executive director of the Scott Technology Center.

“We think our record is strong,” Moreano said. The data center hasn't had an outage or any downtime since it opened in 2006, he said, and “this quickly put us on a national stage.”

Updates over the last 15 months included renovation of 50,000 square feet and the addition of a separate, 30,000-square-foot power plant to house massive, 2.5-megawatt generators. And there are plans in coming years to renovate the remaining 30,000 square feet of data center space, Moreano said. He declined to disclose the cost of the renovation, which was privately funded by the Scott Foundation.

The renovated space and additional generators mean the same amount of space now can deliver three times as much electrical power, which is important for companies needing to process more data without growing their data center footprint, Moreano said.

In the long run, the not-for-profit data center, Moreano said, will help support the education initiatives of the Suzanne and Walter Scott Foundation and the Peter Kiewit Institute. Developing a successful business model would provide capital back to the foundation to increase its scholarship base and other community activities.

“I think those are bigger-picture goals,” Moreano said.

When the operation goes online, it will carry ratings making it one of the top multitenant data centers in the country. Multitenant data centers, unlike corporate centers that house servers for an individual company, include operations from dozens of companies, from Fortune 500 firms to small businesses.

Other multitenant data centers in the Omaha metropolitan area include CoSentry, near 94th Street and West Dodge Road; First National Technology Solutions; and Pinpoint Network Solutions.

Among those impressed by the Scott Data Center's nearly-completed facilities were a trio of specialists from the Uptime Institute, a third-party data center certification firm that recently spent four days testing and analyzing the facilities before giving the Scott center a Tier Three rating.

The achievement makes the Scott Data Center one of only 14 Tier Three data centers in the United States, the only one in Nebraska or Iowa, and one of the top multitenant facilities in the nation, said Julian Kudritzki, vice president of the Uptime Institute, which certifies data centers around the world.

“There are so few data centers certified as Tier Three because not everyone needs enterprise-grade service. For those companies whose business is highly reliant on data and information technology, an outage would be like having a heart attack,” he said.

The Scott center is “making a bold statement about what they can and will deliver,” Kudritzki said.

It's common for data centers like the Scott facility, which opened in 2006, to undergo at least some equipment upgrades, but full-blown renovations are less common, Kudritzki said.

The renovated facility offers its customers remote monitoring access, so companies can track energy usage, temperature of the servers, server speed, power output and other factors from anywhere. The center also has a secured area where telecommunications firms can connect to swap Internet traffic.

When the project is completed, the data center will employ a total of 10 full-time employees, including security, electricians and engineers, up from six full-time before the renovation. During construction, as many as 60 workers were working on the project.

As part of the Scott Technology Center, which serves as an incubator to growing technology firms, and the Aksarben-area community, which includes the Peter Kewit Institute, operations for Blue Cross Blue Shield and other businesses, the data center could become part of collaborations that help grow Omaha's tech business community, Moreano said.

“The infrastructure's here to do some really innovative things,” he said. “You have forward-thinking people both at the university and the businesses that are located here, so I think the innovation infrastructure is definitely being established.

“The conditions are set to see some really interesting developments.”

Contact the writer:

402-444-1414, ross.boettcher@owh.com