The state of Virginia (VA) and, more specifically, the region of Northern Virginia (NoVA), which includes Ashburn, is the largest data center market in the United States. Best known for supporting the data centers of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, Google, and Equinix, Northern Virginia’s data center supply is growing rapidly, at a rate of nearly 400 megawatts of power capacity each year.
There are over 300 data centers in Virginia comprising more than 2,800 megawatts of commissioned power, spanning in excess of 45 million square feet. Virginia’s immense data center presence has been driven by many factors including cost-effective power and dense network connectivity.
Dgtl Infra provides an in-depth overview of data centers in Virginia, including where they are located and how many are operational by region, such as Northern Virginia, and administrative division, like Loudoun County. Additionally, we explore several reasons as to why there are so many data centers concentrated in Northern Virginia. Finally, Dgtl Infra answers critical questions such as Why is Virginia the Internet Capital of the World? and Why are There So Many Data Centers in Ashburn, Virginia?
Data Centers in Virginia (VA)
How Many Data Centers are in Virginia (VA)?
In total, Virginia (VA) has over 300 data centers, making it the state which has the most data centers in the United States. Of this total, ~90% or 275 data centers reside in Northern Virginia, which incorporates Loudoun County, Prince William County, and Fairfax County. While the remaining 25 data centers in Virginia are primarily in the Greater Richmond and Hampton Roads regions.
In terms of power capacity, Northern Virginia’s data center inventory stands at over 2,600 megawatts of commissioned power. Including all regions in the state, Virginia has more than 2,800 megawatts of commissioned power.
Where are the Data Centers in Virginia?
The vast majority of data centers in Virginia (VA) are located in Northern Virginia, particularly in Loudoun County (Ashburn and Sterling) and Prince William County (Manassas). Loudoun County is commonly referred to as “Data Center Alley” because it holds the largest concentration of data centers in the United States.
As shown below, cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud; internet companies like Facebook (Meta Platforms); and colocation data center operators including Equinix and Digital Realty, all have facilities in Virginia.
Below are further details on the most important counties and regions in Virginia (VA) for data centers, as well as the census-designated places and towns within those areas:
- Northern Virginia:
- Loudoun County: Ashburn, Sterling, Leesburg, Arcola
- Prince William County: Manassas, Gainesville, Haymarket
- Fairfax County: Reston, Herndon, Chantilly, Vienna, McLean, Tysons
- Fauquier County: Warrenton
- Culpeper County: Culpeper, Stevensburg
- Greater Richmond: Henrico County, Chesterfield County
- Hampton Roads: Norfolk, Virginia Beach
- South Central Virginia: Boydton (Mecklenburg County)
Top 5 Counties and Regions in Virginia for Data Centers
|County / Region||# of Data Centers||Square Feet|
|Loudoun County||115||27.0 million|
|Prince William County||33||5.5 million|
|Fairfax County||45||3.0 million|
|Greater Richmond||10||5.0 million|
|Hampton Roads||5||0.2 million|
How Many Data Centers are in Loudoun County, Virginia?
In Loudoun County, Virginia there are currently over 115 data centers spanning over 27 million square feet of operational space. As such, Loudoun County is the Virginia county which has the most data centers, including cloud data centers.
Loudoun County – Location Within Virginia
Within Loudoun County, the majority of the data centers are grouped into 3 distinct areas:
- Data Center Alley in Ashburn and Sterling, Virginia
- Greenway West near Leesburg, Virginia
- U.S. Route 50 and Virginia State Route 606, near Arcola, Virginia
Loudoun County – Existing Data Centers
Additionally, in Loudoun County, there are an incremental 4 million square feet of data centers under construction. Furthermore, including Loudoun’s pipeline of projects in various stages of planning and zoning, the county’s total rises to over 9 million square feet of data center development potential.
How Many Data Centers are in Ashburn?
In Ashburn, Virginia there are presently ~65 data centers, representing 55%+ of Loudoun County’s total facilities. Ashburn is a census-designated place within Loudoun County, Virginia.
How Many Data Centers are in Prince William County, Virginia?
In Prince William County, Virginia there are presently 33 data centers spanning over 5.5 million square feet of operational space.
Prince William County – Location Within Virginia
Within Prince William County, the majority of data centers are located in the city of Manassas, while Gainesville and Haymarket are gaining importance through new development projects.
Prince William County – Manassas, Gainesville, and Haymarket
Also, in Prince William County, there are a further 13 data centers currently under construction. In total, there are 10 million square feet of data centers either under construction or at various stages of planning and zoning in Prince William County.
How Many Data Centers are in Fairfax County, Virginia?
In Fairfax County, Virginia there are currently over 45 data centers spanning over 3 million square feet of operational space.
Fairfax County – Location Within Virginia
Within Fairfax County, the majority of data centers are located in the towns and census-designated places of Reston, Herndon, Chantilly, Vienna, McLean, and Tysons.
How Many Data Centers are in Fauquier County, Virginia?
In Fauquier County, Virginia there are presently 2 data centers spanning over 180,000 square feet of operational space. Particularly, these facilities are operated by Amazon Web Services (AWS), at the Warrenton Training Center (WTC), and OVHcloud, a European-focused cloud service provider.
Fauquier County – Location Within Virginia
Additionally, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is planning to construct a one-story, 220,000 square foot data center on a 41.7-acre land parcel that it owns in Warrenton, Fauquier County, Virginia.
How Many Data Centers are in Culpeper County, Virginia?
In Culpeper County, Virginia there is currently 1 data center campus spanning 4 buildings and over 175,000 square feet of operational space. Specifically, this campus is operated by Equinix and comprises 4 data centers known as CU1, CU2, CU3, and CU4.
Culpeper County – Location Within Virginia
Also, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is planning to construct two, single-story data centers, which together will comprise a total of 427,000 square feet, in Stevensburg, which is part of Culpeper County, Virginia.
Finally, CloudHQ acquired a 99-acre land parcel in Culpeper County, Virginia on which it intends to construct a 60 megawatt, 2.1 million square foot data center campus.
How Many Data Centers are in Richmond, Virginia?
In Richmond, Virginia there are presently 10 data centers spanning over 5 million square feet of operational space. Particularly, these data centers are spread across the Greater Richmond area, which includes both Henrico and Chesterfield County.
Henrico County – Location Within Virginia
Notably, Facebook (Meta Platforms) is constructing a total 7 buildings at its data center campus in Sandston, Henrico County, Virginia – which is located just outside of Richmond. This campus will span a total of 2.5 million square feet following a $1 billion investment from Facebook (Meta Platforms).
Why are There So Many Data Centers in Northern Virginia?
In Northern Virginia, there are so many data centers because of the region’s history as a network access point (NAP), cost-effective & abundant power, dense network connectivity, low risk of natural disasters, rich ecosystem of network & cloud providers, and tax & permitting incentives for data center development.
Below are further details on the six reasons why Northern Virginia emerged and has sustained its role as the United States’ most important data center market:
1) Network Access Point (NAP)
Northern Virginia was and still is foundational to Internet infrastructure. As businesses began to use the Internet in the 1990s, telecommunications carriers (e.g., AT&T) established networks, known as backbones, to satisfy increasing demand for higher data rates. This Internet infrastructure grew into a “network of networks” run by several telecommunications carriers, each of which managed its own backbone.
These backbones needed to connect to one another, or “peer”, to permit their customers to exchange data and communicate with each other. As a result, many backbone providers agreed to exchange large volumes of data traffic through a limited number of centralized public network access points (NAPs) – as shown below – one of which was known as MAE-East.
Original Network Access Points (NAPs) in the United States
MAE-East was the first large NAP and internet exchange point (IXP), establishing locations in Washington, D.C., as well as the Northern Virginia sub-markets of Vienna, Reston, and Ashburn. Early on, it was estimated that over 50% of the world’s Internet traffic flowed through MAE-East, given its role of interconnecting traffic between internet service providers (ISPs).
In turn, a large concentration of data centers began forming in Northern Virginia to process enormous amounts of data for large Internet and technology companies such as AOL, Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft.
Ultimately, NAPs like MAE-East were unable to scale with the growth of the Internet. Consequently, interconnection hubs, such as Equinix’s carrier-neutral DC2 data center in Ashburn, Virginia, formed peering exchanges in close proximity to MAE-East.
Today, Equinix’s Ashburn, Virginia data center campus acts as a center of connectivity for Northern Virginia, sustaining the market’s importance.
Equinix DC2 Data Center in Ashburn, Virginia
Northern Virginia’s power costs, which average between $0.06 to $0.07 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), are 25%+ below the national average in the United States. In particular, the region’s power costs compare favorably to alternate East Coast data center markets like New York and Northern New Jersey.
At the same time, the supply of power is abundant in Northern Virginia, with the main utility company, Dominion Energy, having a track record of reliably distributing power as data center demand grows. Since 2019, Dominion Energy has connected nearly 70 data centers with over 2,600 megawatts of capacity in Northern Virginia, which is equivalent to over 650,000 residential homes.
Northern Virginia’s density and diversity of dark fiber routes provide low-latency connections to the national fiber network or “Internet” backbone. Dark fiber has become critically important as network speed and bandwidth demands have increased, driven by the growth in applications and services such as video streaming and cloud computing.
Below is an example of SummitIG’s dark fiber network map in Northern Virginia, which highlights the company’s particularly dense dark fiber concentrations in the sub-markets of Ashburn, Sterling, and Manassas, Virginia.
Northern Virginia – Dark Fiber Network Map
Fiber optic networks take time, expertise, and significant capital to build, meaning that Northern Virginia’s existing dark fiber connectivity is difficult to replicate.
Additionally, the East Coast of Virginia, particularly Virginia Beach, is becoming a key subsea cable landing point, supporting international telecommunications traffic.
Presently, subsea cables including BRUSA (Telxius / Telefónica), Dunant (Google), and MAREA (Facebook/Meta, Microsoft) terminate in the United States at Virginia Beach. While Confluence-1 and South Atlantic Express (SAex) are two examples of subsea cables planning to land in Virginia Beach in 2023 and 2024.
QTS Data Centers – Virginia Beach to Richmond to Ashburn
As shown above, long-haul terrestrial dark fiber routes connect Virginia Beach, via Richmond, with Northern Virginia. In turn, colocation data centers in Ashburn, Virginia can support international networking needs by providing access to Virginia Beach’s growing subsea cable hub.
4) Natural Disasters
Northern Virginia boasts a low probability and risk of natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. To this end, the market experiences very limited seismic activity and is far enough inland to avoid the full force of hurricanes.
Northern Virginia is considered both the “Internet” and “data center” capital of the world with its significant concentration of network service providers, colocation data centers, and cloud service providers (CSPs). The region acts as the center of connectivity for the East Coast of the United States and the main on-ramp for cloud service providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Alibaba Cloud.
Tax abatements promote data center expansion in Northern Virginia. For example, during fiscal year 2021, the state of Virginia abated $124.5 million of retail sales and use taxes for data centers. Specifically, this tax abatement relates to the purchase or lease of computer equipment (e.g., servers) and enabling software/hardware for use in a data center.
Additionally, Northern Virginia’s Loudoun County and Prince William County have facilitated a prioritized review of data center development opportunities (e.g., Loudoun’s Fast-Track Commercial Incentive Program) and shorter permitting approval timelines. For example, as a target industry of Prince William County, data center projects can expect a “50% reduction in permit review time”.
Why is Northern Virginia a Data Center Hub?
Northern Virginia is a data center hub because it is the ideal location for large-scale, known as “hyperscale”, computing and storage deployments, while being the focal point for private data transfer and public Internet traffic exchange on the East Coast of the United States.
As such, Northern Virginia’s data center market has become a “hub” for telecommunications carriers, mobile network operators, cloud service providers (CSPs), over-the-top (OTT) media service companies, large enterprises, and government agencies.
Why is Virginia the Internet Capital of the World?
Virginia (VA) is the Internet capital of the world because data centers operating in Virginia currently move 70% of the world’s internet traffic daily, according to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP).
This notion was also supported by Bill Stein, Chief Executive Officer of Digital Realty, who stated on the company’s Q2 2018 conference call that “in North America, new data centers are popping up across the primary data center metros, especially in Northern Virginia, which is by far the largest and most active metro in the world and through which more than 70% of the world’s internet traffic passes every day”.
As a result, commonly asked questions including How Much of the World’s Internet Goes through Ashburn, Virginia? and How Much of the World’s Data Goes through Ashburn, Virginia? typically also yield the 70% figure as an answer.
However, independent analysis conducted by TeleGeography, pegs the proportion of the world’s internet traffic flowing through Northern Virginia at a much lower level – between a range of 30% and 40%.
Nevertheless, even if Northern Virginia were to command only 30% of the world’s internet traffic, this would still place the region as the “Internet Capital of the World”.
What is the Data Center Capital of the World?
Northern Virginia is the data center capital of the world because it comprises the largest concentration of data centers globally. Within Northern Virginia, the majority of data centers are located in Loudoun County, which is known as “Data Center Alley”, led by its most important sub-market, Ashburn.
Why are There So Many Data Centers in Ashburn, Virginia?
In Ashburn, Virginia, there are so many data centers because of the region’s history as a network access point (NAP), cost-effective & abundant power, dense network connectivity, low risk of natural disasters, rich ecosystem of network & cloud providers, and tax & permitting incentives for data center development. Indeed, these are the same reasons which have brought data centers to the Northern Virginia region as a whole.
Ashburn, Virginia – Bird’s-Eye View
Below is satellite imagery depicting a significant concentration of data centers in Ashburn, Virginia (VA).
Why is Ashburn, Virginia the Center of the Internet?
Ashburn, Virginia is the center of the Internet because a significant portion of the world’s internet traffic passes through its data centers daily. The most notable of these data centers is Equinix’s Ashburn, Virginia (VA) campus:
Equinix – Ashburn, Virginia Data Center Campus
In July 1999, Equinix opened its first carrier-neutral data center, known as DC1, located in Ashburn, Virginia. This was closely followed by the opening of its DC2 data center, also in 1999, located at 21715 Filigree Court in Ashburn, Virginia – which is currently the most important interconnection hub on the East Coast of the United States.
In the early 2000s, Equinix’s Ashburn, Virginia data center campus became a key internet exchange point (IXP) for internet infrastructure companies (e.g., AT&T), internet service providers (e.g., Comcast), second-tier backbones (e.g., Global Crossing), international telecommunications carriers (e.g., British Telecom), fiber/Ethernet providers (e.g., Cogent Communications), and incumbent local exchange carriers (e.g., Verizon), to interconnect with each other and their customers.
As a result, Ashburn as a market and Equinix’s campus quickly became a concentrated point for peering. In turn, the ecosystem of companies drawn to Ashburn created a network effect, fueling the growth and value proposition of Equinix’s campus and cementing Ashburn, Virginia as the center of the Internet.
Presently, Equinix’s Ashburn, Virginia data center campus now spans DC1 to DC15, as well as DC21, and counts over 400 “participants” – meaning telecommunications carriers, internet service providers (ISPs), cloud platforms, IT service providers, and more.