Involta Sees ‘Tremendous Market’ in Ohio

AKRON, Ohio — Northeastern Ohio, including the Youngstown area, is the launching pad for a rapidly growing tech company with plans for further expansion.

Involta, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, acquired Data Recovery Services of Youngstown in June, and a third expansion of its Akron data center is underway.

“The market in Ohio is tremendous,” says Involta CEO Bruce Lehrman. “It’s very populated. There’s lots of great industry in Ohio.”

Involta, founded in 2007, supports data centers and managed technical services across the country. “We have 13 data centers in seven different states and we’re continuing to grow rapidly throughout all those markets,” Lehrman says.

That’s especially true in Ohio. In early 2015, Involta employed 15 at its Akron data center. The June acquisition of DRS added 80.

“It’s a big market for Involta,” says Mike Meloy, the former CEO of DRS, now regional vice president for Involta. “Slightly under half the entire organization is here in the Ohio market now, so it’s a big deal.”

Meloy says the agreement with Involta benefited both, each company complementing expertise of the other. Involta brought its infrastructure to the table, DRS brought its people.

“We have world-class engineers with some certifications that only a handful of people have in the entire world,” says Meloy. “Now I get to add world-class data centers to the world-class staff and I don’t think there’s anything that can stop us.”

Involta’s data centers are hi-tech, highly secure sites. With them, the company hopes to anticipate every conceivable threat and counter it.

Like its other centers, the site in Akron has 26,000 square feet and houses two data center pods. The first pod came online in 2012 and the second is filling quickly.

Just to the east of the structure, ground is being cleared for an additional 26,000 square feet. So far Involta has invested about $25 million dollars there.

“We’ve built the best facility in the region and so we’ve got a great pipeline of organizations that want to be a part of it,” Lehrman says.

The center in Akron is housed in a one-story building designed for safety and efficiency. Clients can access it 24/7 with their security cards.

The main area is enclosed in concrete 12 inches thick with an additional two inches in the ceiling. Tom Lang, manager of the center, says the concrete helps to prevent leaks and protects the structure should a natural disaster strike, such as a tornado. “We’re built against 160 mile per hour straight-line winds,” he says.

To prevent disruptions, all services — power, telecommunications — enter the building underground from two locations, thus thwarting anyone from easily accessing both at the same time.

Once one enters the main building, the next line of security is the mantrap, a small rectangular room with two doors.

“It’s a security point where we separate those who have authorization to go all the way through the structure from those who need to be escorted by Involta staff,” Lang says.

Authorization comes through a retinal scan. A woman’s voice directs, “Please center your eyes.” If a guest is authorized, he hears, “Thank you. Your identity has been confirmed.” If not, he have to go back the way he came.

The two data halls in the Akron center can hold up to 150 cabinets. A long corridor that allows clients or employees to access the servers flanks the cabinets. Clients’ cabinets are surrounded by secure fencing to keep them separate.

All services for the cabinets are delivered from overhead. Power is connected via cable to a power module in the ceiling. The module resembles track lighting, and allows trained Involta staff to connect the power without an electrician.

Cooling is done with fabric ducts that direct air down onto the servers. Should a fire break out, the center relies on gas suppression with water as a last resort. “You don’t want to introduce water unless you really have to,” says Lang.

Like the telecommunications, power in the center is also doubled up to add redundancy and prevent failure. All power is run through two identical rooms that contain medium- to high-voltage equipment.

“Bruce Lehrman, our CEO, could not walk up with his badge and get into these rooms,” Lang says. “Even though he has that title, we respect the fact that he doesn’t have a need to be in the power rooms.”

Three one-megawatt generators, each of which holds 1,900 gallons of diesel fuel, supply backup power. “You can put full load on one unit and it will run 24 hours without a refill,” Lang says. “We have three and we can parallel them.”

All the cooling in the center is done with a closed-loop chilled water system so Involta doesn’t have to rely on city water. “We don’t want corrosive materials getting to the inside of those pipes and cause them to deteriorate from the inside out,” Lang says.

For its primary source of power, Involta relies on the five-megawatt transformer it built on the property and maintains through a third party.

“We’re at a point where we’re linking up to the power grid,” Lang says. “We’re as reliable as we can be.”

Should the weather turn hostile, the building is fitted with several lighting rods.

And similar improvements could soon be coming to the center in Youngstown.

“We’re working through that now,” says Lehrman. “There’s certainly some infrastructure improvements we’re making to the Youngstown facility, some cosmetic improvements. Market demand will really drive where that expansion goes.”

As for Involta’s future in the region and beyond, Meloy sees a vast array of possibilities.

“I want to challenge everybody that’s a client of ours to give us a challenge,” he says, “because I don’t think there’s anything here we can’t accomplish.”

Pictured: Involta’s Akron Data Center.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.