- There is evidence that Amazon's second headquarters may end up in an area of Northern Virginia known as Data Center Alley or, as one author describes it, as "the target of the American Internet"
- 70 % of global Internet traffic flows through Data Center Alley.
- Amazon recently removed the headquarters of its cloud business just 3 miles from its planned HQ2 site.
- Amazon also plans to build a 44-acre campus data center nearby.
There is evidence that Amazon may choose Northern Virginia – and especially a location near Dulles International Airport – as the location for its next HQ2 headquarters.
Amazon has quietly expanded its presence near the proposed site, which spans 26 acres of largely undeveloped land on the border between the counties of Loudoun and Fairfax. The company has just set up a new headquarters for its fast-growing cloud service, Amazon Web Services, less than 3 miles from the site.
And within a 10-minute drive, is a sprawling 44-acre property on which Amazon plans to build a massive 600,000-square-foot data center campus.
The location is logistically sensible: it borders Dulles International Airport and is just steps away from a metro station that leads straight to Washington, DC and the nearby suburbs.
But most importantly – and perhaps not so well known – is that the site is at the center of what has been termed the "Porthole of the American Internet," aka Data Center Alley. Internet traffic flows daily.
Amazon Secretly Expands on the Internet
Amazon Web Services operates from a physical network of data centers or buildings with servers and other IT equipment around the world. At the heart of the network is an area in Northern Virginia, known as the Data Center Avenue due to its high concentration of data centers from Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and others.
It is estimated that more than 70% of global Internet traffic flows through the data center avenue, and much of it flows directly into Amazon data centers. In his book "Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet," Andrew Blum describes the area as "the destination of the American Internet."
In the middle of this porthole is the proposed HQ2 site.
Amazon has about 30 data centers within a 15-minute drive of the site in cities like Ashburn, Sterling, Chantilly, Manassas and Haymarket. And it quickly builds even more. One of Amazon's latest proposals is a data center campus on 44 acres of undeveloped land a few miles south of the planned HQ2 site.
Building HQ2 in this area enabled Amazon to leverage its datacenter network to make the central office Internet connection more efficient and reliable.
"The Internet does not work," Blum wrote in his book. "It builds on connections between networks that are negotiated with a handshake and completed with the insertion of a yellow fiber optic cable.Technically, these connections can take place at any distance, but it is more efficient to do it directly by putting my box connect your box in an exponentially repeating pattern. "
Another benefit of this fiber optic paradise? The cost of electricity is cheap – and Amazon will need a lot of energy for a campus that will cover millions of square feet.
"Compared to the rest of the Mid-Atlantic region, commercial electricity tariffs are among the lowest in the Northern Virginia market," says cloud consultancy Datacenter Hawk.
In addition to building datacenters, Amazon is also relocating corporate offices to the area. He recently selected a location in Herndon, just 3 miles from the proposed HQ2 site, for his new Amazon Web Services headquarters.
Amazon did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for a comment on this story.
Amazon had a blank canvas for HQ2
The Fairfax and Loudoun Districts in Virginia worked with developers to propose the HQ2 site with some non-profit organization buildings Center for innovative technology.
But aside from the center's buildings, the 26-acre property has not yet been tapped, meaning that Amazon would have a blank canvas – something few other urban areas can offer – for the impressive 8 million square feet of office space needs for his second headquarters.
Adjacent to the site is a giant quarry, designed for Amazon, to form a 5.5 million square foot mixed-use project called The Hub, which will house 3.5 million square meters of office space. 400,000 square meters of retail space, 1,265 residential units and 350 hotel rooms.
The Hub's developers – a collaboration between Open Realty Advisors and Rebees named Open-Rebees – were involved in the HQ2 offering. Construction has not started yet, so Amazon is likely to have a say in the blueprints if it decides to build its headquarters there.
Mark Masinter, Managing Director of Open Realty, recently told the Washington Business Journal in an interview that he was hopeful. The hub would land HQ2 as a tenant.
"Obviously, any developer on this continent who has the ability to land HQ2, any community or state that has the ability to land HQ2, is simply incredibly happy," Masinter said.
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