September 30, 2008
From the parking lot, it doesn't look like much, but inside a former storage facility on the outskirts of Kansas City lies a powerhouse of data connectivity. Here, one of the world's largest Web hosting companies has built its U.S. data center.
At its Kansas data center, 1&1's five server rooms hold 860 racks and can accommodate at least 40,000 servers. (click for image gallery) With an abundance of fiber lines running parallel to Kansas City's railroads -- it's the second largest railroad hub in the United States -- Lenexa, Kan., was a natural choice for 1&1 Internet to set up shop. Two redundant backbone routing systems handle data over geographically diverse gigabit connections, and its location in the center of the country make the data center uniquely capable of providing equal latency for both East and West coasts. Co-location is not offered in the 2-year-old facility. That and "a high rate of automation [are] good for stability," explained Thorsten Ziegler, head of the U.S. data center, during a tour of the facility. Data is transferred between servers and the Internet via 20-Gbps metropolitan area network connections. The center is IPV6-enabled -- it's "running all over the network," said Ziegler, and is offered to customers, but not advertised. Less than 1% of 1&1's dedicated server customers are using it. "IPv6 shortage is an industry challenge," Ziegler acknowledged. The backbone must make big investments in order to provide the next generation Internet protocol. But until content providers create a demand for IPv6, it's unlikely to take off. The company has four other data centers in Europe, where it is based, and hosts more than 10 million domain names for its customers, who are primarily individuals and small businesses. About 40% of 1&1's U.S. customers run on Microsoft. "People in the U.S. want a brand. With Exchange, you know what you're getting," explained U.S. general manager Sebastian Moser. The rest run on a Debian-based flavor of Linux that Ziegler calls "Schlunix" (pronounced "schloooonix") -- after company cofounder Rainer Schlund. In Europe, 90% prefer Linux, Ziegler said. "There's a profound distrust of Microsoft in Germany," where the company is headquartered. This week 1&1 announced that the Lenexa data center will be purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs) to offset 100% of the data center's electricity use. Most of the credits will be sourced from a Kansas hydroelectric facility. View photos of 1&1's data center here.
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