Notes from the Underground

August 8, 2014
John Matis

Here at Telx, we never get tired of talking about data centres. But if a new trend holds, we may soon all be calling them data bunkers.

Rather than build new structures on the earth's surface, some companies are looking into housing data centre facilities below ground.

Iron Mountain Inc., for example, built a data centre in a former limestone mine. Located 220 feet below ground, it takes up about 1.7 million square feet of space, employs more than 3,000 people, and stores data for more than 2,300 businesses and government agencies.

Data bunkers offer a few major advantages that are fueling their growing popularity. For one thing, it’s often cheaper to appropriate a mine or former military facility that’s no longer in service than it is to build a brand-new building, and not having to build a facility often translates to faster speed to market. Underground facilities are often disaster-proof and physically secure.

Adverse weather, like a tornado, is rarely a problem for underground structures, and whilst you might think earthquakes would pose a risk, they don't because below-ground enclosures don't move during earthquakes. Finally, underground spaces can facilitate the data centre's need for cooling, which we've talked about before on this blog, since such spaces are naturally cool.

But before you start digging tunnels, moving your data underground still presents many challenges. There are many underground facilities that are not currently in use, but many of them aren't appropriate for a data centre. Limestone, for example, must be a certain thickness in order to be safe. And whilst underground spaces sport a nice, cool temperature, they might not stay that way with thousands of computers and servers heating them up.

Much of the equipment you can find in a data centre needs to be vented, and getting around that issue can be a challenge. The needs of the data centre's staff also have to be considered. Even if they don't mind working underground, they need somewhere to park, right?

Maybe the trend will hold. Maybe it won't. But if you ever wondered if humanity was destined to move underground someday, well, perhaps your data will get there first.

If you’d like to talk more about what sort of environment is right for your data and how Telx may help, you can connect with us through the contact page of our site, or by Facebook or Twitter.

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