Henrico aims to become coastal internet hub
Henrico isn’t the new Ashburn, but the county does have 18% of the East Coast’s internet traffic coursing through it. That’s a product of QTS Data Centers’ network access point (NAP) at Henrico’s White Oak Technology Park, which connects to three subsea internet cables from Europe and South America that converge in Virginia Beach.
In November, Henrico played host to the Internet Ecosystem Innovation Committee’s second in-person Global NAP Summit, which convened data center executives from across the globe to discuss internet infrastructure, data centers and cybersecurity. There also was a ribbon-cutting ceremony for DE-CIX Richmond, part of North America’s largest carrier- and data center-neutral internet exchange. Based at White Oak in Henrico’s Sandston area, it’s been active since December 2021, connecting to more than 3,000 networks, 23 countries, 500-plus data centers and 39 internet exchanges.
Although internet carriers like Cloudflare and Limelight have their own internet exchanges, neutral internet exchanges have a larger field of potential customers — likely leading to more jobs and tax revenue locally, says Vinay Nagpal, president of InterGlobix LLC and executive director of the IEIC.
Neutrality matters, says Ed d’Agostino, vice president and general manager of DE-CIX North America. “Data center neutrality allows us to cooperate with virtually every data center. Carrier neutrality lets us partner and interconnect with [carriers]. If they didn’t see us as neutral, they wouldn’t cooperate with us.”
“You aren’t favoring one group or another, but you’re providing equal access to the infrastructure,” explains Tag Greason, chief hyperscale officer at QTS. DE-CIX Richmond and QTS’ NAP, which connects to the MAREA cable from Spain, the Dunant cable from France and the BRUSA cable from Brazil and Puerto Rico, are significant parts of the burgeoning Henrico hub.
In July, QTS announced a 1.5 million-square-foot expansion in Henrico to increase capacity, set to be completed in 2024. QTS will also be adding to its NAP’s capacity to carry traffic as more subsea cables come in through Virginia Beach, as expected.
Nagpal says Meta Platforms Inc., which has a 970,000-square-foot Facebook data center at White Oak, could become even more important to the region’s economy, with future growth a strong possibility.
“The demand at this point is very high,” Greason adds. “The economy is becoming more digitized. There is no doubt in my mind that Henrico County can be just as important as [New York or New Jersey].”