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2017 is already the biggest year ever for data center investment in the U.S.

It’s reached $18.2 billion so far this year.

Image of the outside of the new NSA Data Center in Salt Lake Valley
The new NSA Data Center in Utah
George Frey / Getty
Rani Molla is a senior correspondent at Vox and has been focusing her reporting on the future of work. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade — often in charts — including at Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.

U.S. data centers have already seen more investment so far this year than in any previous year. Companies and funds have invested $18.2 billion — double the value of 2016 and on track to surpass the total for the three previous years combined — year to date, according to new data from real estate research firm CBRE.

Data centers are what make what we do on the cloud — stream video, transfer money, access health care information — possible. And our need for them is increasing rapidly. Think, for example, of the amount of data exchange that will be required to keep self-driving cars safely on the road.

At last count, global internet traffic passed a zettabyte (read: a lot) of data, according to Cisco. Led by the U.S., that’s expected to triple by 2021. More than 90 percent of the data center space around the world is occupied by U.S. companies, according to CBRE.

“Cloud computing has long existed but has exploded in past three years,” Pat Lynch, senior managing director for CBRE's Data Center Solutions, said. “We’re doing a good job of creating data but we’re just now starting to think about what to do with all that data. We’re just in the infancy stages on the intelligence side and data analytics.”

This all means continued strong demand to lease space in data centers around the country. It’s also meant a surge in investments, mergers and acquisitions, including a $3.6 billion acquisition this year of Verizon data centers by real estate investment trust Equinix.

Of course, not all investments are equal. What was considered state-of-the-art storage capacity five years ago could already be considered inefficient, and data loads vary depending on where you are in the country.

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