2 min read

Avnet data centre turns 25

North American data centre has changed several times since it started back in 1987

Value-added distributor Avnet is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its North American data centre.


When Avnet flipped the switch on its data centre back in 1987, it only housed large mainframes and the staff of 25 managed the centre looking at green screen displays.

Data storage was calculated in gigabytes, which was a big thing at the time and the data centre was cooled with a series of pipes pumping water throughout the building.

Avnet’s North American data centre doesn’t have water running through it anymore and those mainframes have slimmed down a fair bit into 1,700 servers. The gigabytes of storage has grown into one petabyte and its all cooled by the air outside. In fact, Avnet installed the first ever air-side economizer in the Southwestern U.S. This air conditioning system uses outside air from the Sonoran Desert and special low voltage motors and compressors to provide an energy efficient way to maintain the low temperatures needed.

The North American data centre did not just support operations in Canada and the U.S., it also supported Avnet’s global business in more than 70 countries.

But while the data centre scaled upwards over the past 25 years to grow with Avnet’s business; it also shows how complex technology has gotten over the years. Today, Avnet’s data centre handles $25.7 billion in revenues and approximately 17,000 employees worldwide. That staff of 25 back in 1987 is now 100 and they have to deal with challenging issues such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).

Steve Phillips, senior vice president and CIO, Avnet, said it’s amazing to think that less than 25 years ago the data centre team was focused on the mainstream introduction of personal computers for employees. Today, the team is providing our employees with anytime, anywhere connectivity with smartphones, laptops and tablets through Avnet’s BYOD program. While it’s impossible to predict how technology will evolve in the next 25 years, Avnet’s data centre and IT team will be ready, if not a step ahead, of what is to come.

During its 25 year lifetime, the Avnet data centre has had to go through major transformations such as a new data storage management system, virtualization, a system hibernation script, green lighting, physical improvements, and video conferencing. As a direct result of these initiatives, Avnet has saved millions of dollars and avoided a multi-million dollar power build out to the data centre.