Saturday, October 17, 2009

Homeland Security's data center

In the funding bill for the Homeland Security Department that it passed on Thursday, the House restricted more than half of the nearly $83 million budget for a massive data center until DHS develops ways ensure there is enough power to sustain operations.

The fiscal 2010 Homeland Security appropriations bill requires the department to spend $38.5 million to upgrade the power capabilities at the National Center for Critical Information Processing and Storage, known as Data Center One and based at NASA's Stennis Space Center, near the Gulf Coast in Mississippi. Homeland Security cannot spend the remaining $45 million on building out the data center, which will provide information processing for the entire department, until DHS officials can make certain the data center has enough power and uses green technologies to reduce demand.

"None of the funds provided . . . shall be used for data center development other than for Data Center One until the chief information officer certifies that Data Center One is fully utilized as the department's primary data storage center at the highest capacity throughout the fiscal year," according to the conference report that accompanies the bill.

The Senate has yet to vote on the conference appropriations bill.

The Navy is acting as a co-contractor and program manager for the data center, which will create unusually high demands on the electrical power supply for the facility. "One of the challenges of the [Stennis data center] is the amount of power coming into the facility combined with the amount of power coming into the Navy base," said Pat Schambach, general manager of homeland security programs at Computer Sciences Corp., the prime contractor that operates Data Center One for DHS. "The facilities were never designed to have the power that data centers require."

In July 2008, DHS awarded a $390 million contract to CSC to operate the center and the contractor officially took over operation three months later.

Data Center One is partially filled, with five of the department's 24 data centers having been migrated to Stennis. The appropriations bill requires DHS to figure out how to improve power efficiency before it migrates any other data centers.

"As it gets more filled, the power requirement will climb," Schambach said. "Someone on the Hill is smartly trying to say, 'Let's not have the lack of power at the building be a roadblock to getting more capacity into that building.' The recommendations are exactly what needs to be done, [and] as a former CIO [at the Transportation Security Administration] and as a taxpayer, I'm happy with that direction."

DHS will spend the $38.5 million appropriated for the power upgrades in four phases on electrical service and equipment, generators and chilling mechanisms, and information technology, according to FedSources, a consulting firm based in McLean, Va.

The department also is considering strategies to better leverage power, including cloud computing, which would allow e-mail, collaboration and content management software, and other applications to be offered as a service departmentwide.

"The idea is to not only fill up the data center, but to do it in a smart way by leveraging the gear as much as we can to control demand," Schambach said. "The $38 million is to make sure there's enough power supply coming in, and we're trying to help DHS use that power smartly."

Schambach credits Richard Spires, recently appointed as Homeland Security CIO, for supporting such enterprisewide initiatives. "The question is, what are his priorities and is the whole data center strategy part of what he wants to push?" he asked. "So far his answer has been yes."

Electronic Data Systems, which Hewlett-Packard purchased last year, owns and manages a second data center for DHS that mirrors the one at Stennis. Data Center Two, as it's called, "has all the power it needs," Schambach said, with two power supplies coming into the facility from two providers, as well as a power plant across a river that acts as a third source.

The ultimate goal for DHS is to consolidate all 24 data centers into the two locations by 2013.

"As we build out, we have to ensure that the building itself has the power requirements, the rack space, the proper servers," said DHS spokesman Larry Orluskie. "This is a gradual process."

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Underground Secure Data Center Operations

Technology based companies are building new data centers in old mines, caves, and bunkers to host computer equipment below the Earth's surface.

Underground Secure Data Center Operations have a upward trend.

Operations launched in inactive gypsum mines, caves, old abandoned coal mines, abandoned solid limestone mines, positioned deep below the bedrock mines, abandoned hydrogen bomb nuclear bunkers, bunkers deep underground and secure from disasters, both natural and man-made.

The facility have advantages over traditional data centers, such as increased security, lower cost, scalability and ideal environmental conditions. There economic model works, despite the proliferation of data center providers, thanks largely to the natural qualities inherent in the Underground Data Centers.

With 10,000, to to over a 1,000,000 square feet available, there is lots of space to be subdivided to accommodate the growth needs of clients. In addition, the Underground Data Centers has an unlimited supply of naturally cool, 50-degree air, providing the ideal temperature and humidity for computer equipment with minimal HVAC cost.

They are the most secure data centers in the world and unparalleled in terms of square footage, scalability and environmental control.

Yet, while the physical and cost benefits of being underground make them attractive, they have to also invested heavily in high-speed connectivity and redundant power and fiber systems to ensure there operations are not just secure, but also state-of-the-art.

There initially focused on providing disaster recovery solutions, and backup co-location services.

Clients lease space for their own servers, while other provides secure facilities, power and bandwidth. They offers redundant power sources and multiple high-speed Internet connections through OC connected to SONET ring linked to outside connectivity providers through redundant fiber cables.

Underground Data Centers company augments there core services to include disaster recovery solutions, call centers, NOC, wireless connectivity and more.

Strategic partnering with international, and national information technology company, enable them to offer technology solutions ranging from system design and implementation to the sale of software and equipment.

The natural qualities of the Underground Data Centers allow them to offer the best of both worlds premier services and security at highly competitive rates.

Underground Data Centers were established starting in 1990's but really came into there own after September 11 attacks in 2001 when there founders realized the former mines, and bunker offered optimal conditions for a data center. The mines, and bunkers offered superior environmental conditions for electronic equipment, almost invulnerable security and they located near power grids.

Adam Couture, a Mass.-based analyst for Gartner Inc. said Underground Data Centers could find a niche serving businesses that want to reduce vulnerability to any future attacks. Some Underground Data Centers fact sheet said that the Underground Data Center would protect the data center from a cruise missile explosion or plane crash.

Every company after September 11 attacks in 2001 are all going back and re-evaluating their business-continuity plans, This doesn't say everybody's changing them, but everybody's going back and revisiting them in the wake of what happened and the Underground Data Center may be just that.

Comparison chart: Underground data centers

Five facilities compared
Name InfoBunker, LLC The Bunker Montgomery Westland Cavern Technologies Iron Mountain The Underground
Location Des Moines, Iowa* Dover, UK Montgomery, Tex. Lenexa, Kan. Butler County, Penn.*
In business since 2006 1999 2007 2007 Opened by National Storage in 1954. Acquired by Iron Mountain 1998.
Security /access control Biometric; keypad; pan, tilt and zoom cameras; door event and camera logging CCTV, dogs, guards, fence Gated, with access control card, biometrics and a 24x7 security guard Security guard, biometric scan, smart card access and motion detection alarms 24-hour armed guards, visitor escorts, magnetometer, x-ray scanner, closed-circuit television, badge access and other physical and electronic measures for securing the mine's perimeter and vaults
Distance underground (feet) 50 100 60 125 220
Ceiling height in data center space (feet) 16 12 to 50 10 16 to 18 15 (10 feet from raised floor to dropped ceiling)
Original use Military communications bunker Royal Air Force military bunker Private bunker designed to survive a nuclear attack. Complex built in 1982 by Louis Kung (Nephew of Madam Chang Kai Shek) as a residence and headquarters for his oil company, including a secret, 40,000 square foot nuclear fallout shelter. The office building uses bulletproof glass on the first floor and reception area and 3-inch concrete walls with fold-down steel gun ports to protect the bunker 60 feet below. Limestone mine originally developed by an asphalt company that used the materials in road pavement Limestone mine
Total data center space (square feet) 34,000 50,000 28,000 plus 90,000 of office space in a hardened, above-ground building. 40,000 60,000
Total space in facility 65,000 60,000 28,000 3 million 145 acres developed; 1,000 acres total
Data center clients include Insurance company, telephone company, teaching hospital, financial services, e-commerce, security
monitoring/surveillance, veterinary, county government
Banking, mission critical Web applications, online trading NASA/T-Systems, Aker Solutions, Continental Airlines, Houston Chronicle, Express Jet Healthcare, insurance, universities, technology, manufacturing, professional services Marriott International Inc., Iron Mountain, three U.S. government agencies
Number of hosted primary or backup data centers 2 50+ 13 26 5
Services offered Leased data center space, disaster recovery space, wholesale bandwidth Fully managed platforms, partly managed platforms, co-location Disaster recovery/business continuity, co-location and managed services Data center space leasing, design, construction and management Data center leasing, design, construction and maintenance services
Distance from nearest large city Des Moines, about 45 miles* Canterbury, 10 miles; London, 60 miles Houston, 40 miles Kansas City, 15 miles Pittsburgh, 55 miles
Location of cooling system, includng cooling towers Underground Underground Above and below ground. All cooling towers above ground in secure facility. Air cooled systems located underground. Cooling towers located outside
Chillers located above ground to take advantage of "free cooling." Pumps located underground.
Location of generators and fuel tanks Underground Above ground and below ground Two below ground, four above ground. All fuel tanks buried topside. Underground Underground
*Declined to cite exact location/disatance for security reasons.