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Yahoo data center chief likes what he has in Lockport

Yahoo’s recent announcement to expand its operations in Lockport could mean 200 new local jobs. The 150,000-square-foot data center and customer care center facility represents a $170 million investment for the company that opened its first data center in Lockport just three years ago.

Rich Kropfl is vice president of data center operations for Yahoo, overseeing the tech giant’s 26 data centers worldwide. Kropfl, who works out of Burbank, Calif., has been with Yahoo since 2010 and has 18 years of experience of spearheading major technology initiatives, including stints at Bank of America and AboveNet.

At Yahoo, he oversees design and construction of the company’s data centers, and his approach is eco-friendly. He helped with Lockport’s existing center’s energy-efficient, “chicken coop” design that makes it the company’s first data center to use 100 percent free air cooling, rather an electronic air conditioning. Not surprisingly, it is Yahoo’s most energy efficient data center.

During his recent visit for the ground breaking of the new facility, Kropfl shared his thoughts on the company’s expansion and its data center operations.

Q: What is it like working at Yahoo?

A: It’s a very positive, very collaborative culture. We have a lot of amenities, which is great. We have a food program – free meals for employees. There are a lot of benefits, a lot of incentives in that regard. It’s a great company to work for.

Q: What takes place in a data center?

A: It’s where the rubber meets the road. When you go to, when you go to flickr or when you use fantasy sports, they all happen from these data centers. That’s our factory that serves our users. Essentially, it’s meant to store all the servers and network devices that power Yahoo and deliver Yahoo’s rich content to all the devices you consume from. It’s a content factory where all the magic is happening.

Q: Why another data center in Lockport?

A: It’s a natural expansion for us. We have a very successful facility here in Lockport. The climate is tailor-made for what we want to do here. The workforce has been fantastic, as a I mentioned. It’s been a great experience for us in Western New York. It’s just a great fit.

Q: Was the expansion originally part of the plan when the first one went up three years ago?

A: We’ve always been looking for expansion. So about a year after we finished this facility, we actually purchased this land. We knew there would be a possibility we’d be expanding. Of course expansion always comes with business growth. And we’ve been doing a lot of that at Yahoo under (new CEO) Marissa (Mayer)’s leadership.

Q: How’s the quality of workforce here in Western New York?

A: Fantastic. Not only a highly qualified workforce, but truly passionate about what they do. They want to stay here, literally. We sometimes can’t get them to leave because they want to contribute and be a part of it. So they are very proud to be here, proud to work at Yahoo.

Q: How’s the “chicken coop” model working out?

A: The chicken coop model is working great. We’ve actually replicated it in our West Coast data center as well. It’s a patented technology for us, and it’s been great.

Q: How important was the cheap power from the New York Power Authority in building in another facility here?

A: The cost of the power is obviously great, and from an economic perspective, it certainly helps Yahoo. But it’s part of one of our core values as a green company. Data centers consume so much energy, they consume about 5 percent of the U.S. power. To actually do that in a very eco-friendly way, helping the environment, it’s huge. And that’s very important to us.