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3/22/2013
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John Foley
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New York's 32-Story Data Fortress: Inside Tour

Sabey's 1-million-square-foot facility in lower Manhattan is billed as the world's tallest and largest high-rise data center.




Data center operator Sabey calls its new 1-million-square-foot facility in lower Manhattan the world's tallest and largest high-rise data center.

The 32-story building opens for business this month with one customer, the New York Genome Center, which will house servers there for its computing-intensive work in genome sequencing. Sabey is betting that the data center's prime location in New York City's business district, and the building's state-of-the-art infrastructure, will attract many more customers in the finance, healthcare, retail and technology industries, as well as Web companies, startups and government agencies.

The data center, called Intergate.Manhattan, sits at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. It's also next door to the headquarters of the New York Police Department, which company CEO David Sabey said assures a secure perimeter.

The building, at 375 Pearl Street, opened in 1975 as a telecommunications switching center for New York Telephone. That's key because, even though the facility is 38 years old, it has many of the design characteristics required of modern data centers: basement-to-roof cabling shafts, diverse network access points and, with capacity for 40 megawatts, loads of electricity. Verizon still occupies three floors of the building.

Sabey's data center has 32 stories, yet it's much taller than one would expect, at 540 feet. That's because the ceilings, designed for a telephone switching center, are higher than in a typical office building.

Sabey gutted the former switching center, used computer-aided design for the interior, and brought in new electrical and cooling systems and diesel-powered backup generators. The company describes the facility as "a fortress," and says critical infrastructure isn't at risk of flooding if another Sandy-size storm brings water into lower Manhattan. The data center's electrical systems are on the second floor, 33 feet about ground level.

At the official opening, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the new data center will support growing demand for state-of-the-art data center capacity as the city positions itself as a center of technology development and talent and tech-enabled businesses. "This is wonderful for the city," Bloomberg said.

With 34,000-square-foot floor plates, there are 600,000 square feet of floor space in Sabey's new data center, plus 400,000 square feet of other space. That brings the company's total data center space to approximately 3-million square feet, with major locations in northern Virginia and Washington state.

All photos, unless otherwise noted, by John Foley.


Sabey's 32-story data center, on the right, sits in close proximity to New York Police Department headquarters at One Police Plaza in lower Manhattan. The data center is a short walk from New York's City Hall and the subway.

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The data center sits at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, which spans the East River. A few blocks south of the city's Chinatown and just north of the South Street Seaport, the vicinity of the data center is home to a growing number of knowledge workers, according to Nicole LaRusso, senior VP of planning and economic development with the Downtown Alliance.

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Once inside the facility, access to the data center is controlled by "man trap" door systems, where authorized personnel must go through one door, then swipe an ID card and touch a finger to the biometric reader (pictured here), before gaining access through a second door. If the identify measures don't match, access is denied.

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This squeaky clean space on the 6th floor has everything but the computers. Note the absence of raised floors. In this facility, servers will be placed on concrete slabs. Air supply travels through the walls from the computer room air handler units that can be adjusted as necessary.

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This computer-generated mockup shows what the 6th floor will look like when it's filled with servers. The space is equipped with electrical, chilled-water and air-circulation systems and infrastructure.

Image credit: Sabey.

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The 5th floor houses the data center's uninterruptable power supply systems and backup batteries. The UPS room itself is redundant, too. There are four of these UPS rooms.

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Electrical conduits rise above the UPS systems on the 5th floor. Initially, the data center will tap into 5.4 megawatts of power, with a top end of 40 megawatts.

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The chiller plant on the 4th floor of the data center is comprised of condenser water pumps and risers that are responsible for maintaining the appropriate temperature in the data center. The ceilings in this area are 23 feet high. As the temperature cools down outside the building, the chillers can be dialed back.

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These bright yellow, diesel-powered Caterpillar generators provide backup power in the event of a Con-Ed electrical outage. The generators are located on the same floor as the chillers. Fuel is supplied from tanks in the basement.

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These New York Police Department vans are parked right outside the Sabey data center. Sabey says the immediate area is "controlled, protected and secured" by the NYPD and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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As big as it is, the Sabey data center pales in comparison to One World Trade Center, which nears completion a few blocks away. The iconic building is evidence of the revitalization of lower Manhattan and the prospect that business growth will drive increased demand for computer and storage systems and, with that, data center facilities.

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