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Issue 7, Dec 09/Jan 10

HURRICANE BUILDS DATA CENTER EMPIRE Hurricane Electric, a Silicon Valley native, rides the global wave of increasing demand for bandwidth

always the person who’s like Prometheus, trying to bring the fire,” he recalls. “Way back in 1989, it was... difficult to even get connection to the internet because it was largely non-commercial.”


He would save his colleagues from having to transfer files onto floppy disks by connecting their machines to the network. His internet expertise came from doing that work.

Today, Leber is president of Hurricane Electric, a company he founded in his garage in the early 1990s, which reportedly operates the world’s largest IPv6 network and one of the world’s largest IPv4 networks.

In September, Hurricane celebrated the 15-year anniversary of its founding and in November, the company opened the second phase of its 208,000 sq ft colocation data center in Fremont, California – Leber’s hometown and his company’s birthplace.

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND Hurricane got its start because of Leber’s presence at the public internet’s dawn and the ‘extra-curricular’ networking jobs he did at the companies that had originally employed him to write software.

By 1994, Leber had a full-service consultancy, with numerous staff setting up servers for various clients. The Mosaic web browser was created around the same time and became the most widely used browser, spurring growth of internet use by the general populace.

The developments caused a lightbulb to go off in Leber’s head: “As opposed to setting up servers for other people, we could actually set up servers for ourselves and provide web service to clients.”

Leber and his team brought the idea to life and the company quickly grew to the point of needing to expand into MAE-West – a major internet exchange point in San Jose, California – and interconnecting with networks there.

“We had periods where we had 20% growth a month,” Leber says, recalling the notorious

24 Martin Levy has left the room

dotcom boom. “It was quite crazy.” Hurricane Electric ended up expanding by about 2,000-3,000 sq ft in MAE-West before it opened its first 46,000 sq ft data center in Fremont in 2000 – the Fremont 1.

Expansion announced in November was of the company’s second Fremont data center, bought five years later and brought online in 2006.

Phase 1 of Fremont 2 – a former Apple manufacturing facility – contains 11 similarly designed computer rooms, each housing about 80 cabinets arranged in six rows.

THE RIGHT WAY TO BUILD Hurricane decided on a very different design for the 3MW second phase: one 24,000 sq ft computer room with long rows of more than 80 cabinets each. The blue uncaged cabinets are provided by the company.

“This is the right way to build,” says Hurricane Electric’s director of IPv6 strategy, Martin Levy, explaining the decision to move away from multiple-room design, which had proven more costly to build. “You’ve got the cost of the walls and you’ve got a completely different cooling mechanism. Scalewise, we couldn’t build this big enough if we kept putting all the walls up there.”

Free cooling was a big part of the equation – something the company would not have been able to take advantage of had it continued building out in suites.

“Even though the sun’s out, it’s a cool day in Fremont,” Levy said during an interview in early November. “There are no compressors running today… and although we’re not full here, the reality is we can use a large number of days of free cooling: drop the compressors off, filter the air, bring it in and out, and that makes for a significantly better economy on running the cooling system.”

The facility is designed to separate hot and cold aisles, uses variable-frequency drives in its rooftop McQuay Maverick II HVAC system and Eaton’s 9395 UPS units, capable of operating at an efficiency rate of 99% when power coming in is in an ideal state.

According to Eaton’s Bob Lyding, Hurricane was the first company in California to deploy the product that has since enjoyed popularity among data center engineers in the state.

If the incoming power is not ideal, the system switches to double-conversion mode in 1.2 milliseconds, Lyding says. Leber confirmed the claim, explaining that he had personally examined test

t every company Mike Leber has worked for in his 15 years as a software engineer, he has ended up building a network. “I was

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