Tucson tech: Data pulsing away at Involta

2013-04-02T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:03:44Z Tucson tech: Data pulsing away at InvoltaDavid Wichner Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Like most facilities of its type, it doesn't look like much on the outside. Or on the inside either, for that matter.

The real business of the data center Iowa-based Involta LLC recently built out on Tucson's south side goes on sight-unseen, as billions upon billions of bits of data pulse through racks of servers and switches to reach their ultimate destination on the Internet or private networks.

The Cedar Rapids-based company is ready to show off its new data center on Wednesday, when Involta is inviting the local business community to attend its grand opening.

Involta says it has invested more than $10 million in the 38,000-square-foot facility, which features redundant and backup power, advanced climate controls and high security, including wireless badge and eye-scanning biometric access systems.

The company bought the building at 1215 E. Pennsylvania St. (formerly 4400 S. Santa Rita Ave.) from Aurora Optical Inc., which closed its camera-component manufacturing line there in 2008.

The multitenant data center offers custom services including hosting client data on its own servers, or co-location of customers' own equipment. Involta offers constant 24-hour, seven-day monitoring and customer access. So far, the company has built out one of four planned, 5,000-square-foot data "modules," with empty racks ready for customer equipment.

By co-locating with other tenants, clients can reap the benefits of a first-class data center while actually reducing operating costs, Involta says.

The company says its new facility is built to so-called "Tier III" data center requirements, the second-highest level under industry standards. Tier III centers feature multiple redundant power and cooling systems (though only one path needs be continually active) and requires overall network availability of 99.982 percent.

Though the Phoenix area is home to several high-level data centers, Involta says its facility is the first Tier III data center in Tucson.

Other Tucson data-center providers include TW Telecom (formerly Time Warner Telecom), and homegrown providers Simply Bits LLC and Login Inc.

"I think it was just overlooked," Troy Ward, Involta regional sales director, said of Tucson.

"Generally, the big data centers are in NFL cities" - cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Phoenix that have National Football League teams, Ward said.

But Involta found a warm welcome in Tucson from local economic-development and business officials.

And it found a willing partner in Tucson Electric Power Co., which helped hook the company up with the redundant power lines it needed.

"We're connected to three substations in a ring, so we shouldn't have any problems," Ward said, noting that diesel generators will kick in during any major grid outage.

TEP, which has seen demand for power go flat since the Great Recession, was glad to help Involta set up shop. TEP President Dave Hutchens said the project is a great example of private-sector investment here.

"Involta's investment revitalizes an existing facility, adds high-paying job opportunities and enhances our community's network connectivity and technology infrastructure," Hutchens said in prepared remarks.

Ward declined to discuss how many people the data center employs or will employ, though he acknowledged the center is not yet fully staffed.

Likewise, the company doesn't talk about pay levels. But Ward noted that the company hires experienced information-technology professionals and has had no trouble finding such talent in the Old Pueblo.

Before joining Involta, Ward himself spent seven years in Tucson working a traveling job for a national data-management company.

Higher-level IT jobs can pay well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, network and system administrators in Pima County earned an average annual salary of $63,790 in 2012, while the average salary for all computer- and math-related jobs was $74,260.

As a data service provider, Involta often serves competing companies, but that's not a problem, Ward said.

"We're like Switzerland - we're carrier neutral," he said.

The company so far is partnering with three Internet providers: Cox Communications, TW Telecom and CenturyLink.

A senior Cox official said teaming up with Involta provides the cable provider's customers with an expanded level of connectivity and increased security options.

"This alliance caters to businesses, especially those in health care, government and education, by providing robust data connections combined with security and managed services," Pam Crim, Cox Business regional sales director, said in an email response.

IF YOU GO

Involta LLC will host a grand opening celebration for its newest data center at 1 p.m. Wednesday onsite at 1215 E. Pennsylvania St. R.S.V.P. by calling 1-855-364-3061 (select option 2).

Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at dwichner@azstarnet.com or 573-4181.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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