Saturday, September 6, 2014


The lure of underground data centers

Subterranean facilities provide security and energy savings — and they’re cool, too.

- Tech Page One Aug 26 2014

Every evil genius deserves his own subterranean bunker with a supercomputer to plot world domination. The economy being the way it is these days, however, most can’t afford to build their own lair. Fortunately, there are plenty of underground facilities that you can share with other businesses and organizations. There is a coolness about these locations, and not just because the ground temperature is in the 50s year round.
“There is a certain James Bond allure to the underground data center,” said John Clune, president of Cavern Technologies. “Many of our customers utilize the location in their marketing to show how seriously they take data storage and protection.”
One of TelecityGroup’s five data centers in Helsinki, Finland, is housed under the Uspenski Cathedral. Credit: Shutterstock
Here are four companies in the U.S. and Europe that are running underground data centers.

Unorthodox location

London-based TelecityGroup operates five data centers in Helsinki, Finland. One of them is located in a former bomb shelter 100 feet below the 150-year-old Eastern Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral. By using sea water and a heat exchanger, it uses 80 percent less energy for cooling than a typical data center. But not all the heat is sent to the sea. The water first circulates to a heat exchanger serving the city’s district heating system, with the servers providing enough heat for 500 homes. The data center won an Uptime Institute Green Enterprise IT award in 2010.

Data mining


Cavern Technologies built a 50-megawatt, 300,000-plus square-foot data center in a former limestone mine near Lenexa, Kansas. Being 125 feet underground means that the site is secure from the tornados, ice storms and hail that can hit above-ground data centers in the region.
“From day one, we have a hardened F5 tornado-proof [261 to 318 miles per hour] structure,” said Clune. “Above ground, it costs up to $150 per square-foot for a hardened shell. On a 100,000-square-foot building, that is a cost savings of $15 million that we can pass on to our customers.”

Secure storage

 The Green Mountain Data Center is a Tier III+ facility located in a former NATO ammunition storage facility on an island in western Norway. Three-hundred-foot-long tunnels connect the data center rooms to the outside world. Although the site is physically remote, high-speed connections mean it is only 4.5 milliseconds from Aberdeen, Scotland and 6.5 milliseconds from London.

One of the main advantages of the site is its energy efficiency. Located on the shoreline, it draws 46- degrees -Fahrenheit water from a fjord, an arrangement that allows a 200-kilowatt pump to produce 26,000 kilowatts of cooling. The system is designed for high-density computing, up to 60 kilowatts per rack. Since it is deep underground, the cooling system never has to offset heating caused by the sun striking the walls and roof. In addition, Norway has abundant hydropower, so the data center operates without greenhouse gas emissions and the power costs about 40 percent less than it does in London.
“We wanted to build the greenest data center in the world and being underground helped in so many ways,” said Jonathan Evans, Green Mountain’s international accounts director.

Cold War bunker

When InfoBunker went looking for an ultra-secure location for a high-availability data center, it wound up taking over a building that was already designed for high-tech applications: a former military communications center near Des Moines, Iowa, that was built to survive a direct nuclear hit.
“From a functionality standpoint the building is performing exactly the same services it did while under military control, only now geared towards the private sector,” said Jeff Daniels, InfoBunker’s executive vice president. “From a cost perspective it was also far less expensive than a greenfield data center project as we could make use of almost all the existing base infrastructure and our [capital expenditure] was limited to upgrading/modernizing systems and building the actual data floor into what was essentially white-box space.”
Although at just 25 feet deep it is much closer to the surface than some of the other underground data centers, the amount of steel and concrete used gives it strength. Daniels said that to replace the building today, with all its hardening and critical systems would have cost over $100 million. But it did also require additional work to drill holes for pipes and conduits.
“The floor is two foot thickness of 6,000 PSI-rated concrete and has steel reinforcing bars the size of your wrist all through it,” said Daniels. “It eats core drill bits like popcorn.”
The facility is designed for 10 kilowatts per rack and uses outside air-cooling nine months of the year, using the heated air to warm the offices. The building stays at about 55 degrees Fahrenheit year-round and can act as a buffer to absorb some of the heat if the HVAC goes down. Waste heat from the servers is used to keep the office spaces comfortable.

Zombie apocalypse

Data centers such as these are even being touted as a place where people could potentially survive a “zombie apocalypse.”
“Despite advertising ourselves as a 20-megaton nuclear-hardened data center we do not anticipate ever being nuked,” said Daniels. “InfoBunker was however nominated one of the top six ‘zombie-proof’ green data centers worldwide.”

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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.