Thursday, May 9, 2013

Iron Mountain data center in the Underground in Boyers, Pa.

Racks of servers reside next to the limestone wall of an underground cave inside an Iron Mountain data center in the Underground in Boyers, Pa. (Photo: Iron Mountain)
After several years of quietly developing space in its massive underground facility in Pennsylvania, Iron Mountain is entering the data center business in a bigger way. The company has announced plans to build and lease data centers, offering both colocation services and wholesale suites to enterprise and government customers.
Iron Mountain is building out data center space within the Underground, its 145-acre records storage facility located 220 feet underground in a former limestone mine in Boyers, Pa., about 50 miles north of Pittsburgh. The facility has long been used for storing paper records and tape archives, and has an existing workforce of 2,700 employees, as well as its own restaurant, fire department, water treatment plant and back-up power.
But the Underground also offers a naturally low ambient temperature of 52 degrees, and has an underground lake that can be used to provide cool water for data center cooling systems, eliminating the expense of energy-hungry chillers. Iron Mountain developed a proof-of-concept facility known as Room 48, and has subsequently leased data center space to Marriott and several government agencies.

Leveraging its Corporate DNA

With the launch of Iron Mountain Data Centers, the company is seeking to leverage both the Underground facility and its existing document storage relationships with many of the nation’s largest IT users.
“We spent a lot of time looking at the data center market,” said Mark Kidd, senior vice president and general manager of data centers for Iron Mountain. “Most of today’s data center providers sell space. We’re packaging together services that will enable enterprises to outsource the ongoing management of their data center. We want to make it easier for enterprises to outsource. And our DNA in tracking information assets from creation to disposition is particularly differentiating for organizations that must comply with industry regulations. No one in today’s data center market has our track record in security and facilitating compliance.”
Kidd says Iron Mountain is building “several megawatts” of speculative technical space at the Underground to get its data center program rolling. Up to 10 megawatts of critical power is available, Kidd said. The facility currently has two carriers available, but will add two more within the next 90 days and expects to have six providers in the facility within 6 months.
“The fact that it is an active multi-tenant data center makes it pretty easy to get carriers in,” said Kidd of the 1.7 million square foot facility. “We are currently a living, breathing, enormous facility with lots of space to build out.”

The Data Bunker Goes Wholesale

Iron Mountain’s strategy will provide the largest test yet of the appetite for underground “data bunkers,” bringing scale and marketing muscle to a niche that has been largely limited to smaller providers. These “nuke proof” underground facilities are often based in caves or former telecom or military installations, and appeal to tenants seeking highly secure space, such as government agencies, financial services firms, and healthcare providers or other enterprises with high compliance requirements.
By bringing a wholesale offering into the data bunker space, Iron Mountain is bringing a name brand into the data bunker space, which may capture the interest of national customers considering underground space. The company is offering both retail colocation space and wholesale suites. Services being offered include engineering and design, development and construction, and ongoing facility operations and management.
In 2008, Marriott leased 12,500 square feet of space to establish a data center in the Underground for disaster recovery purposes.
“We have always had a rigorous and constant focus on having disaster preparedness in place,” said Dan Blanchard, vice president of enterprise operations at Marriott. “More than five years ago, we determined that we needed more flexibility and we got it. Today we have a data center that provides Marriott with a tremendous capability for disaster recovery, and we have a great partner in Iron Mountain.”

Looking Beyond the Underground

In the short term, Iron Mountain’s data center business will focus on the Pennsylvania facility. But the company realizes that a long-term data center strategy will need to include facilities in more than one market.
Kidd notes that Iron Mountain has the real estate portfolio to make that possible. The company operates 800 facilities, and owns about 40 percent of those sites. The company is in the process of converting to a real estate investment trust (REIT), a process it hopes to complete by the beginning of 2014.
A REIT is a corporation or trust that uses the pooled capital of many investors to purchase and manage income property. Income comes from the rent and leasing of the properties, and REITs are legally required to distribute 90 percent of their taxable income to investors. Three of the largest public data center developers – Digital Realty (DLR), DuPont Fabros (DFT) and CoreSite Realty (COR) – are organized as REITs.

1 comment:

  1. I find this move to subterranean centers fascinating. Innovative data center design has to adapt to this shift in the need for heightened security.


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.