Thursday, November 24, 2011

Iron Mountain finds limestone a natural fit for data center efficiency

Iron Mountain

 Twenty-two stories below ground, deep within the secure confines of a former limestone mine in Pennsylvania, resides Room 48, Iron Mountain's state-of-the-art underground data center. Designed by Iron Mountain vice president of engineering Chuck Doughty, the facility takes advantage of the natural properties of the subterranean location to help the data storage and security company put a dent in its significant energy costs.

"A major challenge was helping our engineers and equipment suppliers understand the basic physics, thermodynamics, and electrical transformation and distribution of this unique location and how they could be leveraged -- and not just apply typical data center designs that have been used for the last 25 years," said Doughty.
The location's geothermal and subterranean conditions open up opportunities for energy reduction that you wouldn't find in a traditional data center. For starters, the natural temperature of the facility is between 55 and 65 degrees, so Room 48 benefits from free cooling. Ducting above the servers pushes air down naturally, using far less power than would be necessary to blow air upward, as a traditional data center would.
Iron Mountain also employs a cold-air containment strategy, which uses the limestone walls and ceiling vents to cool wires and cables hanging above the server racks to increase cool-air distribution by up to 20 percent. At the same time, air pressure differentials force warm air from the servers up and out through perforated ceiling tiles. Room 48 (which gets its name from its location on the underground facility map) has no need for raised floors found in traditional data centers, thanks to the natural limestone walls' ability to absorb 1.5 BTUs per square foot per hour.
Geothermal and subterranean conditions of former limestone mine yield significant savings on cooling
Mother Nature alone isn't responsible for the efficiency gains of the facility. As part of the design, Iron Mountain located the power distribution and air conditioning equipment outside of the facility, resulting in a further reduction in heat while freeing up 30 percent more space for racks.
Room 48 uses motion-sensor, low-power, low-heat lighting to further reduce temperature and costs. Additionally, Iron Mountain opted to purchase run-of-the-mill K-rated transformers and electrical load centers in the data center, the kind you'd find in an everyday electric supply store, rather than pricey electrical equipment typically used in data centers. The company also incorporated readily available, energy-efficient T8 fluorescent bulbs into its lighting scheme.
Iron Mountain's efforts paid off in spades. The company estimates that Room 48 cost about 30 percent less to build than a traditional data center because of its energy-efficient design and use of standard equipment instead of specialty gear. The various efforts to slash cooling save the company hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Moreover, the natural cooling allows Iron Mountain to boost power in the room to 200 watts per square foot, 50 percent above the 125 watts per square foot used in data centers located in the same underground facility.
"Room 48's design and construction provided a powerful lesson in discarding prior data center design templates and leveraging the natural advantages this unique location provided," said Doughty. "Future Iron Mountain data centers will use the lessons of Room 48 to help design, construct, and operate the most cost-effective data centers, utilizing the geothermal cooling of the underground."

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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.