In honor of International Data Center Day, an anticipated three hundred fifty runners and walkers will be coming together to participate in the inaugural 2023 Cloud Run on Saturday, March 25 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Sterling!
The 7×24 Exchange DC Chapter will be hosting this event and invites schools, businesses, and residents of all ages to join the data center industry for a day of fun, excitement, and discovery of the IT backbone of the cloud. Participants can start the day with a 1-mile Fun Run and 4.99999k run/walk around Data Center Alley or jump right into the Data Center Discovery Zone hosted by the Data Center Coalition.
“Some years ago, when International Data Center Day started to garner attention, the 7×24 Exchange had the opportunity to put a video together to educate the public on data centers with a focus on younger audiences,” said Karen Petersburg, President of the 7×24 Exchange DC Chapter. “While we were putting the video together, we thought it would be fun to get the full community involved. It existed as an idea for about two years. We spent nearly a year planning and in May 2022, we got to work.”
Petersburg shared that 7×24 Exchange wanted to do something to share the benefits of data centers with the community since there was considerable opposition in rezoning and they felt the pushback stemmed from residents not fully understanding what they did.
“This was a way to give back,” Petersburg said. “We wanted to fight community misperception issues. Data centers have been here for 20 years and in the beginning, we didn’t want to disturb the public with who we were or what we did. That’s why the buildings didn’t have signage. We wanted to keep things quiet but found that silence created a negative understanding. We saw that local communities didn’t fully understand our purpose or how we work behind the scenes to contribute to our communities. We initially thought the event would be a good idea to simply recognize International Data Center Day, but it became evident that it was more important to tell the story.”
This is the inaugural year for this unique event and the proceeds will benefit the Dulles South Soup Kitchen and the 7×24 Exchange DC Chapter Scholarship Fund.
The data center industry has a solid commitment to giving back to surrounding communities. In 2022, JK Community Farm, 7×24 Exchange, Loudoun County Economic Development, and Host in Ireland organized a DC for Bees event where volunteers from the data center industry, county government, and many others shoveled dirt, planted stakes, and set up and filled raised garden beds to plant vegetation that are beneficial to pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The partnership with Dulles South Soup Kitchen came about when 7×24 Exchange learned that the charity was expecting funding from a source but for undisclosed reasons, that funding fell through.
“As data centers increasingly become the backbone of our digital world, their commitment to giving back to the community becomes even more critical,” said Phyllis J. Randall, Chair of Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. “When data centers donate their time and resources to support and educate the communities in which they reside, they help strengthen the fabric of our society and build a brighter future for all.”
The Data Center Discovery Zone adds educational and workforce development components to the event. Hosted by the Data Center Coalition, the Discovery Zone will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will have hands-on activities and interactive opportunities to learn everything about data centers from experts.
“The data center industry relies on a highly skilled and diverse workforce to operate and grow. The Data Center Discovery Zone offers an opportunity for our local community to learn about data center careers as well as the numerous scholarships, internships, and other pathways available through our academic partners,” said Data Center Coalition President Josh Levi. “We are excited to welcome Northern Virginia students, families, and adults considering making a career change to this event for fun, hands-on activities and a chance to meet the people who maintain and operate the digital infrastructure that supports our daily lives.”
The Discovery Zone will have several different stations with age-appropriate activities. Hands-on activities will be available for smaller children while high school students and current and prospective college students can learn about education opportunities. Career changers and explorers can dive into the workforce development aspect of the Discovery Zone and learn about retooling and reskilling opportunities as industry representatives will be present to discuss different career opportunities within the industry.
“Data Centers provide the infrastructure that drives today’s economy and enables business, learning, health care, entertainment, and commerce like never before,” said Buddy Rizer, Executive Director of Loudoun Economic Development. “Data Center Day is an opportunity to not only celebrate the industry, but Loudoun’s data center professionals who are making such an important impact in our community.”
Live music and food trucks will be present during the event, with diverse cuisine options, such as Mexican, Thai, American available, as well as dessert and beer trucks. Race registrants will receive food and drink vouchers with their paid registration.
The Discovery Zone is free and open to the public. To learn more and reserve a spot, please visit http://bit.ly/40DMqpw.
“We want to make the biggest and most effective impact on educating the community with this event,” Petersburg shared. “Now is the time to really make that happen. The future is now.”
The 7×24 Exchange DC Chapter is working with Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William County Public Schools to promote the event and get students involved. Other surrounding companies and corporations including Amazon are registering run/walk groups for interested employees.
To learn more, register for the race, or become a sponsor, please visit https://www.7x24dc.org/2023-cloud-run.
Online registration for the race closes on Thursday, March 23 at 8 p.m., however late registrations will be available during packet pickup and on race morning. Sponsorships are still open for the 2023 Cloud Run.
Dulles South Soup Kitchen provides freshly made meals to those who need to feed their families, offers volunteer opportunities, and provides an environment of food security in the community. The 7×24 Scholarship Fund assists students in pursuing their education goals while on track to a rewarding career in the data center industry.