As the number of large data centers operated by hyperscale providers increased to over 800 at the end of the second quarter, new data from Synergy Research Group shows that the U.S. accounts for 53% of the capacity of those data centers measured by critical IT load. While the U.S. accounts for over half of the total capacity, the rest is relatively evenly split between China, Europe, and the rest of the world. Notably, well over a third of the U.S. capacity resides in just one state: Virginia. Virginia, and, more specifically, Northern Virginia, is known as the internet capital of the world. There is a huge concentration of infrastructure around the so-called Data Center Alley, centered around Loudoun, Prince William, and Fairfax counties, with data centers clustered primarily around the towns of Ashburn, Sterling, Manassas, and Chantilly. Amazon in particular locates a large amount of its data center infrastructure in Northern Virginia, with Microsoft, Facebook, Google, ByteDance, and others also having a major presence. The Chinese market remains relatively isolated but houses the great majority of the data center infrastructure of Chinese companies, like Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu. Meanwhile, in Europe, the leading country markets for hyperscale infrastructure are Ireland and the Netherlands — two countries that have relatively small economies but have been heavily favored for locating hyperscale data centers.

The research is based on an analysis of the data center footprint of 19 of the world’s major cloud and internet service firms, including the largest operators in SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, search, social networking, e-commerce, and gaming. The companies with the broadest hyperscale data center footprint are the leading cloud providers — Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. Each has well over 130 data centers with at least 25 in each of the main regions — North America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe. By data center capacity, the leading companies are Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Alibaba, and Tencent. 

“Hyperscale operators take a lot of factors into account when deciding where to locate their data center infrastructure,” said John Dinsdale, a chief analyst at Synergy Research Group. “This includes availability of suitable real estate, cost, and availability of power supply options; proximity to customers; the risk of natural disasters; local incentives and approvals processes; the ease of doing business; and internal business dynamics. This has inevitably led to some hyperscale hot spots. In Europe, the Netherlands and Ireland have always punched far above their weight, beating out countries with larger economies, like Germany and the U.K. But, globally, the standout region is the U.S. state of Virginia. Virginia has far more hyperscale data center capacity than either China or the whole continent of Europe. However, our analysis of the future data center pipeline shows that the relative importance of these hot spots will tail off a little over the next five years as hyperscale infrastructure permeates a broader geographic footprint.”