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CRE Opinion: Riding the Tide of the Dallas Data Center Market

Brant Bernet of CBRE

“My daddy and I woke up early, put our boat into the harbor, and for hours we were rowing.”

A line stolen from a song that always brings back a flood of memories…most of them good.

This story starts at about 5:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. My oldest boy—now a man making his way as a singer/songwriter in Nashville—and I decided that we would plop our kayak into the Sheepscot River and ride the incoming tide all the way to Bath, Maine.

The Sheepscot is known for its cold, deep briny water that produces the sweetest lobsters in the world. We were ready to attack it. Because we had the tide, I figured our little scenic outing would take about three hours.

I planned accordingly…one bottle of water and a half eaten box of crackers. I had studied the map, but aside from that mental picture, we had no tracking device, no GPS, and while we did have a phone, we had no cell service. Totally prepared, off we went!

It was a picture perfect day: 65 degrees, no wind, and not a cloud in the sky, a classic “diamond day.” We had a pack of playful seals (technically a herd, but that sounds wrong) that followed us for the first 45 minutes and then all peeled off at the exact same time. I didn’t mention it to Chap at the time, but that really spooked me. I think I had just watched “Sharknado” or “Jaws,” and my mind was racing.

Time passed and I convinced myself that the seals had simply become bored with my stories. Then we came around a little bend and out popped a fork in the river. I didn’t remember seeing this on the map! In my best Shakespearean voice, I belted out Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” “Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” (or something like that).

Well, apparently Bath was left and total anarchy was right. Can you guess which way we went? We watched an old wooden house burn to the ground and could feel the heat from 100 yards away. More seals, mockingbird-sized mosquitoes, creepy noises, and a muddy, completely unnavigable beach that we thought would be our salvation. The “beach” was a lie and after an hour battling the quicksand-like terrain, we gave up.

At about hour five the tide went slack—that twice daily blip when the tide is neither coming in nor going out. For a moment, it was peaceful, really peaceful (think calm before the storm).

Just about the time the tide turned, literally, I realized we were out of drinking water and I started to rethink the wisdom of feeding the last of the crackers to Seal Team 6. We should have been in Bath by now. Nothing looked familiar. In fact, I started to think we had somehow popped over to the Congo.

A thick fog rolled in and our unfamiliar landscape became even less familiar. We were totally unprepared for the sticky heat, and the mosquitoes were relentless. The current was so strong it felt like we were hauling an oak tree. In fact, had I stopped paddling, we would have gone backwards. We were lost, tired, hungry, and thirsty. But through it all, we remained determined.

You know who isn’t lost these days? Data center developers! They have studied the map, bought a nice GPS, drawn the plans, and have stayed the course.

Especially in Dallas. Dallas has so much going for it. Its central location makes it an easy day trip to almost anywhere in the U.S. It has abundant, reliable, cheap power and gobs of fiber crisscrossing the state. Dallas absorbed a remarkable 39 megawatts (MW) of data center space in 2016, and we’re on pace to equal that figure again this year.

Several data center providers are expanding and Dallas boasts a whopping 31.2 MW of current construction. QTS, DataBank, Infomart, Ascent, Zayo, Stream, Compass, CyrusOne, Digital Realty, ViaWest, SkyBox, T5/Rackhouse, TierPoint and others are all expanding their Dallas footprint.

And the Dallas data center boundaries are expanding too. QTS just purchased a 250,000 square foot data center in Fort Worth from Health Care Services Corporation and CyrusOne just announced a massive 1.4 million square foot expansion in Allen, just north of Dallas.

The eastern boundary has moved too. Raging Wire is just putting the finishing touches on their brand new TX1 data center in Garland, and late last year Digital Realty acquired 48 acres in the same neighborhood. And while the physical options continue to grow for data center users, so does the vast menu of colocation, cloud, and managed IT services.

Back to the Sheepscot: Nine hours and 14 miles later we finally pulled in to a welcoming harbor in tiny Wiscasset, Maine (about 11 miles from Bath). The fog lifted just as we were pulling in and, although we were exhausted, we hugged and high fived and started planning the next trip. We limped to the closest restaurant and called in the cavalry (my wife and our Suburban).

A few months later, Chap wrote a song about our adventure called Lost In Life. Every time I listen to it I am reminded that “getting lost in life every now and then’s all right.”

But thankfully for Dallas’ consumers of data center space and services, the tide is right, the fog is at bay, and the sun is shining.

Brant Bernet is a senior vice president and leader of CBRE’s Data Center Solutions team in North Texas.