Touring Cologix data center in north Columbus is like going behind the security barriers at an international airport.

Touring Cologix data center in north Columbus is like going behind the security barriers at an international airport. A double-doored "mantrap" keeps you from entering the warehouse-style building without security clearance. The lobby is filled with large flat-screens streaming weather feeds, cooling alarms, operating center monitors, and charts indicating the flow of bandwidth traffic to the servers on the data center floor.

A thick door, a locked cage and two bio-scanners requiring a warm palm print and a 7-digit PIN code stand between the lobby and the data center floor. Key fob access is required to enter the subdivided cages on the floor. Once inside, only the center's clients hold the keys to their private server racks. Guards monitor the facility 24/7, with closed-circuit cameras watching all activity at the 86,000-square-foot facility, including the comings and goings of clients and auditors on the 37,000-square-foot data center floor.

"Security is a huge part of what we do here," says Kim Gerhart, general manager of Cologix in Columbus. "We have companies that locate their entire IT infrastructure here: all of their servers, all of their data. Every piece of their business is located here."

Cologix is a carrier-neutral colocation center, meaning companies can locate their servers alongside other companies' servers, all of which may use different Internet service providers. Cologix is the largest convergence of carriers in Ohio. Over 40 broadband providers including Time Warner, AT&T, XO, Frontier and WOW have points of presence in the Cologix meet-me-room. The closer a tenant is to a provider's rack, the faster their data delivery, making the Cologix meet-me-room a major competitive advantage.

Cologix was originally built as a facility housing AEP's automated outage reporting system. That robust electric infrastructure still powers the facility's redundant-and abundant-energy load. As servers generate tremendous heat, cooling units keep the air at a steady 68 degrees. AEP delivers 12 megawatts to the data center, which has 30 megawatts in reserve for extensive growth. The data center has the capability to provide 18 kilowatts per square foot.

"For each square foot of our data center, we can power 15 average American homes," says Gerhart. Cologix is building an adjacent 100,000-square-foot data center, which will be online by December 2015.

The cost to power and cool servers is a large budget item for companies that maintain enterprise data centers. In-house data centers also place a huge demand on the power grid. To improve efficiency and decrease utilization, AEP incentivizes companies to colocate in commercial data centers. Bob Evans recently moved data operations from their New Albany headquarters to Cologix.

Despite the benefits of colocation, some Fortune 500 companies still choose to build their own data centers, says Jim Hayes, president of AFCOM Central Ohio, an association for data center management professionals. In the last 24 months, Hayes says Nationwide, L Brands, Abercrombie & Fitch, Discover and Citigroup have all opened data centers in central Ohio.

"Why would they build a new data center as opposed to colocation facilities? Because Columbus has the data connectivity that they need. We have geographic security, and we're becoming more of the Midwest hub," says Hayes. Hayes is the chief technical officer of Metro Data Center in Dublin. The carrier-neutral facility is connected to the city's DubLink infrastructure.

Hayes works closely with many of the region's CIOs and CTOs. Among his peers, discussion centers on the growth of Columbus' data center market. "We're already discussing how that's going to affect the technology mindset in Columbus," says Hayes.

Data center rates may go down and the IT talent pool may grow with the rise of the industry locally, Hayes adds. "Columbus is on a pure upswing on growth inside data centers and growth of technology utilizing colocation facilities."