At STH, we review servers, storage, and networking gear. That gear usually resides in data centers. Although we have several facilities we use, a common challenge is that most facilities do not allow filming or photography in them. Over the pandemic, we have been working on a solution. Luckily, we were able to get a tour of the PhoenixNAP data center in Phoenix, Arizona.
Just as a quick note here. To get the data center tour, PhoenixNAP sponsored both my and Joe’s travel down to Arizona. That also allowed us to have Joe film in the data center so we could get a video on our tour as well. PhoenixNAP did not get to see this article/ video before it was released and allowed us to create editorially independent work. We did get special access to the data center since normally photography and filming are not allowed. Speaking of the video version, you can check this out here:
As always we suggest opening the video in a YouTube tab or window. This is a case where we were able to film a lot more than we can share photos of below.
PhoenixNAP, for those who are unaware, is not just a colocation data center. The Phoenix facility also houses the company’s in-house hosting offerings that include dedicated servers as well as its bare metal cloud offering. The company has multiple facilities also in places such as Ashburn, Atlanta, Amsterdam, Belgrade, and Serbia but the Phoenix location is its namesake. In the video, we show off a few of the racks for its bare-metal cloud offering, but we are primarily focusing on the facility itself from a colocation angle. Colocation is a big deal as it helps STH save an enormous amount of money (relative to our budgets) each month.
That is enough background, let us check out the facility.
PhoenixNAP Data Center Getting Inside
We wanted to show the facility’s front door from this angle because this photo captured an important aspect of the site. One can see the desert landscaping. That is important for PhoenixNAP. Phoenix has an extremely low risk of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, and so forth. While it is an extra hop to Asia compared to Los Angeles, it is also a lower-cost location to put a data center along with the lower natural disaster risk while also being in a relatively large US city. Getting to the site was actually extremely simple as it took us under 10 minutes to get from the PHX airport terminal to the data center.
In front of the main entryway, pillars are installed to prevent driving into the security office and that is the first level of security. As with many data centers, there is both a badging system as well as the ability to intercom/ buzzer to the security office to get into the lobby.
Once inside, there is a security guard that sits inside a reinforced booth with bulletproof glass. James, the security guard, came out to take a quick photo but then returned to his station while another security guard was doing rounds. One typically badges through the next set of doors, and since we were guests we had to get guest badges and use them at the various doors we passed through.
Getting past the security booth was only the first step. This effectively only allows access to the hallways with the restrooms as well as other areas that require primarily badge-only access (e.g. the office space for PhoenixNAP employees and customers.)
Here we could see the NOC room, although most folks were working remotely due to the COVID19 pandemic. Just after we did our tour, Phoenix opened up significantly in terms of masks for those vaccinated but we should put into context that we toured the facility during somewhat unusual times.
Something else that we wanted to point out that we are not going to show from the facility is that there is a relatively large number of cubicles, offices, and conference rooms on-site, along with a very large cafeteria area. We have been in facilities with 4-6 cubes/ offices for customer use and small closet-size break rooms. There was an entire section of the building dedicated to this, and that is important since PhoenixNAP has a number of customers that deploy employees on-site for extended periods of time in addition to the normal traffic from folks working on infrastructure.
Getting to the data center floor requires going through a standard anti-tailgating “man trap” then into a room where one authenticates with an iris scan, PIN, and badge to get into the first data center hallway.
Next, let us get into connectivity since that is a major story with this facility.