Don Phares worked on electronic communications for almost two decades for the state of Nebraska, finishing as the state's network manager when he left that job in 2010.
Now he's hoping Nebraska Colocation Centers' new data center, occupying four floors of the Sharp Building at 206 S. 13th St., will be a "game changer" for communications and data in Lincoln. He designed and manages it to what he called the data industry's best practices.
It offers a reliable and secure place to place or back up computer hardware and networking components.
The equipment is the kind big data users need: multiple uninterruptible power supplies, four Lincoln Electric System circuits, redundant Internet and wide area network access, redundant computer room air conditioning, fire suppression, four levels of security, including biometric, fingerprints, to get in, plus key fobs and keypads, not to mention the elevator and building access, outside the data center space itself. It has TV security surveillance throughout.
Starting out with 10 people working there, he expects growth.
The company aspires for the Lincoln center to be a "carrier hotel," if not exactly like its Farnam Center in Omaha, served by 30 broadband carriers. The Farnam Center is "really the hub of carriers in the Midwest," Phares said. NCC's data center in Lincoln has four broadband carriers: NebraskaLink, Unite Private Networks, Windstream and Time Warner.
Another data center, Binary.net, operates across the street from NCC, at 134 S. 13th St., in the Federal Trust Building. It, too, has four broadband carriers, colocation and offers many of the same services as well as others.
Phares expects more national carriers to occupy Lincoln's downtown conduit system, creating more of an attraction for businesses that need such communications access and protection.
"Projects like the Nebraska Colocation Center are a catalyst in our effort to attract additional carriers to our Lincoln," Mike Lang, Mayor Chris Beutler's economic development aide, said in an email. "We also appreciate all of the the efforts of our existing broadband providers and the value proposition they bring to our community."
Nebraska Colocation Centers has four floors of the Sharp Building reserved, 2,3,4 and 5, and the fifth is built out. Each is 9,000 square feet, and each floor has multiple units to be occupied. Some other floors higher up would be available if the company needed them, he said. NCC is spending $1.7 million per floor, Phares said. The Lincoln data center has three clients now, but Phares said he couldn't identify them because of nondisclosure agreements.
Data center strengths are determined by tiers. Tier 1 is the lowest, a server that has no redundancies. The lowest tier of any component determines the overall grade.
"We're a Tier 3 on the electrical side, Tier 4 on mechanical, Tier 4 on communications and security, and we'll go through several audits to determine security physically and data connectivity," Phares said. "Then once you get through everything, we're a 2 enhanced almost to 3."
The Farnam location in Omaha has 56,000 fiber strands and change, Phares said. "This one is under 15,000. … Obviously we won't have 30 plus (carriers in Lincoln) -- probably 10 to 11 carriers by the end of next year. Google's connected to Omaha, and I've heard they want to come in here, too."
Some customers are booked and some are shopping, he said after leading a tour earlier this week. One from Iowa has its space taped out.
"Security and financial companies have shown interest," he said. "I've heard this before from Lincoln companies that have gone to other data center places for disaster recovery sites. They said, 'Gosh, if we could save 30 to 40 percent and have it here in Lincoln, why shouldn't we?' As I mentioned to them, that makes sense, but I'm not a salesman."