Colombia’s recent political and economic stability has allowed the country to cook up a healthy demand for data center services, and now everyone wants a piece of that cake.

The number of square meters of data center in Colombia will grow 12 percent this year, while investment will grow at 17 percent, according to DCD Intelligence. But within that, there’s a more important figure – a 29 percent growth in service providers’ data centers. Major players opening data centers have included Telefónica, IBM and leading Colombian telco ETB.

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A mature market

This growth reflects the increasing maturity of a market that is seeing increased demand for infrastructure, with high levels of reliability and availability. Dairo Ortiz, senior product manager for data centers at BT Latin America, says Colombia still has to catch up with other countries in the region, such as Brazil, Chile and Mexico, which have experienced very rapid growth in data centers, along with the rest of their economies.

“Unfortunately, in my experience this development has been a little behind in Colombia,” says Ortiz. Three years ago, customers were not asking for certifications, and the infrastructure looked very different.

Since then, new suppliers have helped the market evolve, and Ortiz believes 2016 will see a particularly high growth in white space: “Customers expect a wider choice of white space – in quantity and also in quality.”

Nilson Aranguren, data center product specialist at Level 3 Communications, agrees: “The demand here is high – there is much competition and many suppliers. In fact, there are several with plans to build one or two more data centers in Bogotá.”

For this reason, BT has launched Naos, the first data center in Colombia to get Tier IV certification for design and construction. Located in the Tocancipá Free Zone, 40 minutes north of Bogotá, it has 1,400 sq m (about 15,000 sq ft) of white space and over 6,000 meters (65,000 sq ft) of built area. BT picked the location with an eye on distance to the city, travel times and costs of connectivity.

The right distance apart?

Distance matters, as it allows data center replication. Tocancipá is about 40km north of Bogotá, a similar distance to that between BT’s existing Tier II and Tier III data centers Fontibon Free Zone, south-west of Bogotá.

”The real challenge has been that customers in Colombia are not yet fully aware of the benefits of dual Tier IV certification”

Dairo Ortiz, BT South America

The client can have a main data center in Bogotá and an alternate one in BT Naos, or have two data centers in other locations, and meet the best international practices for separation between replicated centers, providing reliability without adding to staff travel time, as would be the case if the second site were in another city.

BT Naos is connected by its own fiber, offering lower cost for high bandwidth. To gain tier certification, it also has two continuous energy sources: one provided by the Energy Company of Bogotá, and one from 18 redundant on-site generators. The market still needs educating, says Ortiz. “The real challenge has been that customers in Colombia are not yet fully aware of the benefits of dual Tier IV certification.”

Tier certification was initially held up by a misinterpretation of Colombia’s power regulations, which say you cannot have two different energy suppliers, Ortiz explains, but BT found an obvious answer: “We solve the issue with our own generating plant.”

BT Naos uses a hybrid cooling system that combines chilled water and free cooling, and the design predicts a PUE of 1.4. It is not expected to reach this figure until the end of 2015 or early 2016, when the site will reach 50 percent load. To make the best use of cooling BT has divided the center into two rooms to allow large customers to be kept separate.

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Backup needs

The need for backup is a sign of maturity, says Nilson Aranguren, data center product specialist at Level 3 Communications. Level 3 is planning a smaller data center in Cali that will offer colocation for that region. “The data center of Cali is intended more for cloud and colocation hosting, as an alternate main center to Bogotá,” says Aranguren. “I would say it will be around 70 percent colo.”

Cali will be a Tier II facility with 100 sq m (about 1010 sq ft) and 20 racks. With a PUE of around 1.8, it should be operational by October. It joins Level 3’s network, which includes the recently expanded Tier III flagship, Colombia 15, located in Bogotá with 1,700 sq m (about 18,000 sq ft) in three rooms.

Mexico’s America Móvil, which operates in Colombia under the Claro brand, expanded its Triara data center in Bogotá with 2,200 sq m (around 2,400 sq ft) of white space. The first 600 sq m is operational and 40 percent occupied, says Iader Alberto Maldonado Robles, corporate director at Claro. Triara was designed for the Level 4 certification – certified high-security data center – of ICREA (International Computer Room Experts Association) but is aiming for Level 5, the world-class level. Claro has improved energy efficiency, says Maldonado, with the use of free and intelligent cooling: “We also have aisle enclosure and real-time monitoring of UPS batteries, which gives us great security from the point of view of availability.”

With this level of activity, it seems Colombia really is a tasty dish.

This article appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of DatacenterDynamics magazine

It originally appeared in Spanish in the April/June issue of DatacenterDynamics’s Spanish language magazine

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