Austin, Texas: Not So Weird for Data Centers
October 26, 2021
- For Fun
Faster than you can say Lucchese boots or Shiner Bock beer, the Lone Star State has become a contender for the title of “data-center capital of the United States.” In recent years, we’ve been shipping a lot of equipment to Texas, to Austin in particular. And when my editor mentioned a blog on the topic, I jumped at the chance to take a closer look at this trending phenomenon. Little did she know that Texas is my home state, the place where I spent my wonder years, and inarguably the greatest republic in the Union.
Any native Texan above a certain age will chuckle, at least in their minds, at the notion that Austin could do anything you might consider “grown-up.” Austin’s city motto is “Keep Austin Weird,” and until only recently was best known for Longhorns, Hippy Hollow, and some serious music festivals like South by Southwest. Austin is where you went to misspend your youth—before you moved out, moved on, and found a real job somewhere reputable like Houston or Dallas.
But then . . . Dell came to town, and it was pretty much downhill after that, at least in terms of weirdness. And for the record, they did not technically come to Austin, but rather lassoed the quiet city of Round Rock and pulled it into the pen, making it a de facto Austin suburb. Sorry about that, y’all!
The reasons that brought Michael Dell and his company to south central Texas two decades ago are the same ones that recently made Elon Musk a naturalized resident of the state. (Not a native, mind you because he wasn’t born here, but a Texan nonetheless.) Texas is seemingly the anti-state to California, in terms of business climate and economic opportunity. And there may be no two republics more alien to each other in terms of taxation, cost of living, or government regulation.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Musk’s pandemic-era relocation represented something else that was quietly taking place, which was an all-out second migration of technical talent from Silicon Valley and San Francisco. And while many ended up in Miami, the overwhelming majority took direct flights on Southwest Airlines to the weirdest city in the nation.
The current roster would make quite the dance card at a digital county fair: Dell has since been joined by other computer companies like IBM and Intel; hyperscalers like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon; and colocation providers like Data Foundry, Switch, Stream, and Digital Realty. On top of that, Texas is headquarters for 1 out of 10 of the nation’s Fortune 500 companies.
And if all that sounds like bragging, well hell, you caught me! I think Lyle Lovett may have said it best: “That’s right, you’re not from Texas. But Texas wants you anyway.” And just as the stars at night are big and bright, so are all those data centers, deep in the heart of Texas!