BlackRock Case Study
From Wall Street to Wenatchee
East Wenatchee is a long way from Wall Street. But the small town in
central Washington state serves as the unlikely home of a data center
for one of the major players in the financial industry. The financial services
firm, BlackRock, operates its new data center at a mission critical
campus operated by Sabey Data Centers.
BlackRock is the world’s largest asset management firm, overseeing more
than $3.5 trillion in funds for its clients, which include pension funds and
insurance companies. The company has also emerged as a leader in the
development of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), investments that track
indices of stocks or bonds. ETFs allow investors many of the advantages
of mutual funds, but with a lower fee structure.
“We’ve experienced huge amounts of growth,” said Joshua Vallario,
BackRock’s Director of Global Data Center Operations, who discussed
the Washington state project at the recent DataCenterDynamics New York
conference. “Managing the growth, from a data center perspective, has
been no small task.”
Major Data Center Consolidation in 2010
The East Wenatchee data center is part of a broader IT consolidation
beginning in 2010 that saw BlackRock downsize from 32 global data centers to just 12 sites, with about 5.9 megawatts of IT capacity. “We migrated
3 megawatts (of IT load) around the globe without downtime,” said Vallario.
“We’ve been in this program of ‘build to consolidate.’”
That includes the data center on the Sabey Intergate.Columbia campus in
East Wenatchee, which is about 2,750 miles from Wall Street but is one of
the most affordable places in the world to operate a data center. Renewable
hydro-electric power is available for as low as 2 cents per kilowatt hour,
and the cool climate supports free cooling – the use of fresh air instead
of chilled water to cool the servers, which drastically lowers the power bill.
That proved compelling to BlackRock, which opened its data center in
January 2011 after a five-month construction process. Vallario said the
facility operates with a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of between
1.13 and 1.21, even at its current partial load.
Savings: $3.5 Million Per Year
Vallario said the East Wenatchee location, along with the energy efficient
design, saves BlackRock about $3.5 million per year compared to the cost
of running the same server capacity in the company’s second-most
“We scratch our heads about why more financial firms don’t go there,” said
Vallario, who worked closely on the initiative with BlackRock Global Datacenter Manager Barry Novick. “But not everyone can stand the latency that
we can at BlackRock.” The latency between New York and East Wenatchee
makes the location impractical for high-frequency trading, for example.
However, Sabey currently has circuits operating in the 60 – 70 millisecond
range which is appropriate for handling most applications.
BlackRock Case Study
Sabey’s Intergate.Columbia is a 438,000 square foot data center campus
housing both single and multi-tenant data centers. Phase I was completed
in December 2008 and quickly reached full lease-up. Sabey hopes to break
ground on Phase II later this year.
One Pod Deployed, One for Expansion
BlackRock leased two of the five modules of data center space in its
building, with its space physically demised to separate it from other tenants.
BlackRock’s Phase I is completed with Phase II to be added as the firm
needs additional capacity.
The facility uses hot aisle containment in the server area to separate hot
and cold air. For cooling, BlackRock uses indirect evaporative cooling
units on the rooftop, which can pull warm air from the hot aisle if the
weather gets too cold.
So what’s it like to have key data center capacity so far from Wall Street?
Operating a remote site is made possible by BlackRock’s proprietary data
center management software, Vallario said, which allows it to maintain the
East Wenatchee facility with as few as six full-time staffers.
“We knew this would require creativity, since the data center team was in
New York,” he said. “I can assure you that BlackRock is among the biggest
control freaks, and we’re proud of it.”
Source: Data Center Dynamics
“The entire Sabey organization embraced our unique
data center architecture and aggressive project
schedule. We utilized a large variety of technologies,
contract vehicles and vendors that normally are
not found together on the same project. The team
delivered on time, under budget and met our design
objectives. This partnership approach provided an
outcome that a traditional ‘arms-length’ relationship
could not have duplicated.”
Global Data Center Manager