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ViaWest Lives Off the Edge

Dan O'Shea

Data center operator ViaWest has made its living focusing on second-tier cities and staying away from the coastal population centers, but don't mistake its avoidance of the bright lights of big cities for a lack of ambition.

The data center player, which now makes up the bulk of Shaw Communications Inc. 's Business Infrastructure Services division after being acquired by the Canadian telecom and media giant last year, is not any more shy about expansion than any other company in the booming data center market.

I recently spoke with Dave Leonard, chief data center officer at ViaWest Inc. , who made the case that the company's eight markets -- all of which are west of the Mississippi -- are creating plenty of ongoing capacity demand. So, instead of feeling a sense of urgency and pressure to broaden its geographic horizons, ViaWest is keeping itself busy doing things like building its third -- and largest -- data center in the Portland, Ore., area. (See ViaWest Building New Oregon Data Center.)

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That doesn't mean ViaWest isn't interested in broadening its horizons, and in fact, Leonard said the Denver-based operator is seriously exploring an eastward expansion. (The operator also has a presence in the Infomart in Dallas, so it hasn't entirely stayed away from big markets.) You can read more about Leonard's thoughts on market expansion, data center construction and competition in this Prime Reading feature: (See ViaWest Looks East, North, After Shaw Acquisition.)

One of the other things that struck me about ViaWest is its tradition of building data centers as a market speculator, rather than locking up a relationship with an anchor tenant first. It's the type of thinking that doomed a previous generation of fiber network builders who assumed unstoppable demand would pay their construction bills into perpetuity. But, data centers are a different business in a different era, and demand from the biggest companies on the Internet is largely driving the data center that is global in scope. If there's a time to be a market speculator, it's now. Plus, ViaWest hasn't made a bad bet yet.

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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