Online Tech Will Open Westland Data Center Soon

WESTLAND — In a leafy corner of this western Wayne County suburb, Ann Arbor-based Online Tech Inc. is building its fifth data center.

Online Tech has evolved from being Michigan’s original internet service provider into a major Midwest data center operator. It has two data centers in the Ann Arbor area — one with 10,500 square feet of space (7,000 square feet of raised-floor data rack space), another with 19,500 square feet of space (10,000 square feet raised floor). Then, it purchased a former General Motors-EDS data center outside Flint, with 32,500 square feet of total space, 22,500 raised-floor.

Now, it’s refurbishing a former Sprint-Nextel data center in Westland, an area that’s easily accessed off I-275 and I-96 (once the latter is reconstructed). When it opens in August, it’ll be the biggest Online Tech data center yet — 34,500 square feet under roof, more than three-quarters of an acre, and 18,000 square feet of raised floor space, in four separate rooms.

Online Tech is building out one of the bigger raised floor rooms, 5,500 square feet, to house its first Westland customers. It will offer two other 5,500-square-foot raised-floor rooms to large individual clients or for shared space, depending on demand.

Why move eastward from Ann Arbor? “We saw a lot of need for our client base to get a better presence closer to the city of Detroit and Oakland County,” Online Tech co-CEO Mike Klein said during a tour of the data center Friday.

The 15-year-old building will offer office space for emergency response and hot-site backup teams and a wide array of redundant services for disaster recovery.

The site has three 500,000-watt generators (and the space to install two more) that kick on within seconds of a power outage. They’re supplied with fuel with individual 2,000-gallon diesel fuel tanks (and all that gear is encased in concrete, making it literally bulletproof). To cover the seconds between a grid failure and the diesel generators, the data center uses huge flywheel generators instead of batteries.

The data center also has six redundant connections to the Internet — from AT&T, Comcast, US Signal, Sprint, Windstream and Level 3.

Klein said the growth of Online Tech is part of the story of growth of the high-tech sector in Detroit in general.

“How I put it is, we do the greasy stuff for the high-tech community,” Klein said. “People need the services we offer, but companies don’t want to do this 24-7 — the generators, the flywheel UPS’s. People are saying they don’t want to buy all this infrastructure, they want to concentrate on their software, their user experience.”

A typical client is CoherentRx, a developer of mobile-enabled patient
education services for health care professionals. Its 3D visuals make
complicated medical concepts easier for patients to understand. And because it’s mobile, patients can access theri personalized materials anywhere, on any device, at any time. Its technology is hosted at Online Tech servers.

Online Tech offers cloud storage for regulation-heavy businesses like health care and financial services and a wide variety of managed IT services — support, backup data storage, disaster recovery.

Online Tech is also expanding its geographic footprint, building out a data center in Indianapolis this summer as well. This center offers 44,000 square feet of space, 16,000 square feet of which is raised-floor data rack space.

Klein and his co-CEO, Yan Ness, have long been champions of Michigan specifically and the Great Lakes states in general as a great place for data centers, based on the region’s risk profile — no hurricanes, few tornadoes, almost no serious earthquakes.

And then there’s the weather. Much of the year in Michigan, as we all know, it’s cold — and the great enemy of data center electronics is heat. Online Tech simply pumps in outside cold air to cool the equipment all winter, and many times in spring or fall as well.

“When it’s 10 below zero outside, there aren’t many people except us who are happy,” Klein said.

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