Publishing Date: May 11, 2022

Datacentres for better security

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PRESS RELEASE: The plan to establish 5G connectivity in Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard, reshaping the larger community into a technological hub, includes a new addition: data centres.

JBG Smith Properties, the area's dominant property owner, will set up two ‘urban edge’ data centres to serve as hubs for carriers and data aggregation, said Adam Rashid, the company’s senior vice president and head of smart cities and digital infrastructure, confirming the company’s plans first posted in an investor presentation.

“Our tenants, whether they have people who live here, work here, play here, learn here, can really have an easy button for connectivity. They can have easy access to Internet providers and cloud providers,” Rashid said in an interview.


“Our goal here is to be the easy button for innovators.”

The data centres, which will be incorporated into existing structures, are part of the Bethesda-based developer’s “upward of $60 million” plan to invest in and deepen the neighbourhood’s digital infrastructure to attract more tech industry tenants, Vardahn Chaudhry, the firm’s vice president of Smart Cities and Digital Infrastructure, said. That includes fields like artificial intelligence, cloud computing, Internet of Things (physical devices that connect to others via the Internet) and cyber and edge security.

Chaudhry declined to detail how much of the total investment will be used to set up the data centres. The goal is to use the facilities as centrally located hubs for fibres to terminate and connect back to buildings within JBG Smith’s portfolio, he said.

“We really liken these facilities to be the telecom rooms for the neighbourhood,” Chaudhry said.


“Rather than having disaggregated building-by-building telecom facilities, what we’re excited about is having a more centralised approach that will provide quality, choice.”

JBG Smith is now working on the designs and entitlements for the two data centres, with the first expected to open in Crystal City during the last quarter of this year. The company hasn’t yet selected a data centre operator, but it will be an external partner, Chaudhry said.

The company declined to share the addresses of the two data centres. An image included in the investor presentation shows one facing the Potomac River in Crystal City, which Rashid said will be roughly 5,000 square feet in the core of ‘legacy Crystal City.’ The second data centre, roughly the same size as the first, appears to sit in or adjacent to Virginia Tech’s $1 billion Potomac Yard campus, the first building of which is under construction and expected to open in the fall of 2024. Both will be significantly smaller than a typical data centre found in, say, Ashburn.

JBG Smith has previously shared its plan to work with AT&T to build a secure 5G network across Arlington and Alexandria, to create the country’s ‘first 5G Smart City.’ The vision also includes fibre infrastructure throughout, ubiquitous Wi-Fi that extends indoors and outdoors, and CBRS Spectrum, which provides access to shared wireless broadband use, per the presentation.

The data centres will coordinate the use of applications including artificial intelligence, extended reality (which includes virtual reality and augmented reality) technology, and audio-visual devices, per the presentation.

JBG Smith lists the Virginia Tech campus as one major source of tech demand in the area branded as ‘National Landing,’ as well as Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters, the Pentagon and the Department of Defense generally. Virginia Tech and Amazon are both using JBG Smith as the master developer for their respective projects.

In addition to AT&T, JBG Smith also lists IonQ Inc. and Nvidia on the slide for the data centre project. The developer declined to share additional details except that it is in ‘discussions’ with those companies, among others, and that the exact partnership — including who will operate the data centres — isn’t yet finalised.

IonQ is a quantum computing company based in College Park. Among its many services, Nvidia, the Santa Clara, California-based technology giant, provides computing platforms and architecture for data centre clients A spokesperson for IonQ did not respond to requests for comment; a spokesperson for Nvidia was not available for comment by publication.


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