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Cleveland

In Rust Belt, a data king emerges

City’s low energy costs drive growth

  • In this Aug. 29, 2014 photo, technicians monitor network traffic in the network operations center at BlueBridge Networks in Cleveland. A growing number of data centers, like BlueBridge, are choosing to locate in and around the city to take advantage of cheap power, a growing customer base and one of the safest environments in the country for storing digital information. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

    In this Aug. 29, 2014 photo, technicians monitor network traffic in the network operations center at BlueBridge Networks in Cleveland. A growing number of data centers, like BlueBridge, are choosing to locate in and around the city to take advantage of cheap power, a growing customer base and one of the safest environments in the country for storing digital information. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

  • In this Aug. 29, 2014 photo, a network patch panel is shown in the server room at BlueBridge Networks in Cleveland. Data centers like BlueBridge, sometimes called “server farms,” provide a secure environment for companies to put their own servers, to lease servers and use them to create a “cloud” that allows them to operate without their own servers. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

    In this Aug. 29, 2014 photo, a network patch panel is shown in the server room at BlueBridge Networks in Cleveland. Data centers like BlueBridge, sometimes called “server farms,” provide a secure environment for companies to put their own servers, to lease servers and use them to create a “cloud” that allows them to operate without their own servers. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

  • In this Aug. 29, 2014 photo, racks of servers are protected by steel cages at BlueBridge Networks in Cleveland. A growing number of data centers, like BlueBridge, are choosing to locate in and around the city to take advantage of cheap power, a growing customer base and one of the safest environments in the country for storing digital information. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

    In this Aug. 29, 2014 photo, racks of servers are protected by steel cages at BlueBridge Networks in Cleveland. A growing number of data centers, like BlueBridge, are choosing to locate in and around the city to take advantage of cheap power, a growing customer base and one of the safest environments in the country for storing digital information. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

  • In this Aug. 29, 2014 photo, rows of servers are lined up at BlueBridge Networks in Cleveland. The company, which has a data center near Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland a larger facility in suburban Mayfield Heights, is one of the growing number of data centers are choosing to locate in and around the city. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

    In this Aug. 29, 2014 photo, rows of servers are lined up at BlueBridge Networks in Cleveland. The company, which has a data center near Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland a larger facility in suburban Mayfield Heights, is one of the growing number of data centers are choosing to locate in and around the city. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

  • In this Aug. 29, 2014 photo, technicians monitor network traffic in the network operations center at BlueBridge Networks in Cleveland. A growing number of data centers, like BlueBridge, are choosing to locate in and around the city to take advantage of cheap power, a growing customer base and one of the safest environments in the country for storing digital information. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
  • In this Aug. 29, 2014 photo, a network patch panel is shown in the server room at BlueBridge Networks in Cleveland. Data centers like BlueBridge, sometimes called “server farms,” provide a secure environment for companies to put their own servers, to lease servers and use them to create a “cloud” that allows them to operate without their own servers. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
  • In this Aug. 29, 2014 photo, racks of servers are protected by steel cages at BlueBridge Networks in Cleveland. A growing number of data centers, like BlueBridge, are choosing to locate in and around the city to take advantage of cheap power, a growing customer base and one of the safest environments in the country for storing digital information. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
  • In this Aug. 29, 2014 photo, rows of servers are lined up at BlueBridge Networks in Cleveland. The company, which has a data center near Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland a larger facility in suburban Mayfield Heights, is one of the growing number of data centers are choosing to locate in and around the city. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Northeast Ohio is hardly ready to usurp Silicon Valley as a high-tech mecca, but a growing number of data centers are choosing to locate in and around Cleveland to take advantage of cheap power, an abundance of fiber-optic cable and one of the safest environments in the country for storing digital information.

BYTEGRID, which got its start in northern Virginia, is investing millions to convert a small data center near downtown Cleveland into a large one capable of using enough electricity to power around 20,000 homes. At least one other company is looking for a site in Cleveland, and several more have established sites in the city and its suburbs.

“One of the things that is attracting data centers to Cleveland is we have a lot of industries with a lot of data,” said Tracey Nichols, director of city’s Department of Economic Development.

Data centers do not create large numbers of jobs directly, Nichols said, but their existence is a big attraction to companies that use massive amounts of data.

“We have a very robust fiber trunk that runs through Cleveland, which means excellent connectivity,” Nichols said.

It’s ironic that a Rust Belt city like Cleveland, once a manufacturing giant brought to its knees by disruptive technologies and business models, is so well-suited to the Internet age. The superhighways of the 19th and early 20th centuries – rail lines – have proven to be the ideal conduit for routing fiber-optic cable, much like the telegraph lines of old.

“It’s an infrastructure legacy,” said Kevin Goodman, managing director and a partner in BlueBridge Networks.

Servers, like all computers, hew to Moore’s Law – computing power roughly doubles every two years. That means smaller and smaller computers that run faster and faster and are capable of holding even more data. But those smaller computers run hotter and require more electricity. At a data center, one kilowatt of electricity spent powering servers requires an equal amount of electricity to keep them cool.

And that is one of Cleveland’s biggest attractions. Power can cost 13 to 16 cents per kilowatt in the Northwestern U.S. but only 5 or 6 cents in Cleveland.

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