Going Underground for Data Center Assurance and Security

The underground data center is experiencing rapid growth because of the improvements it offers in risk mitigation, reliability, availability, power efficiencies and lower operational expenses
  • Service assurance will increase in complexity alongside evolving digital technologies. IDC expects that, in 2019, 60 percent of digital services will fail to meet desired customer adoption levels because the providers of those services will be unable to effectively monitor and respond to performance and utilization issues. Communications service providers must brace for change as enterprises adopt technologies that require more sophisticated network management. In a recent study from The Thought Leadership Council, for example, half of communications service providers reported needing to supplement their current service assurance tools to support network virtualization.   
  • Cooling remains one of today’s greatest data center operations costs (a separate IDC study polling over 400 enterprise data center managers found “power and cooling costs” to make up nearly 25 percent of operating budgets). As such, IDC predicts that by 2021 the expanded use of power-accelerated computing technologies will force most data center operators to rethink their power and cooling approaches.
  • “Natural disasters” and “extreme weather” are cited as the two greatest risks to society in a report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), posing major data center security risks. Consider events like 2012’s Hurricane Sandy: while incomparable to the losses of local citizens, the event took down data centers for leading brands like Huffington Post and BuzzFeed. Meanwhile, cyber-attacks—the third greatest risk reported by WEF—also remain a grave issue. It’s not a matter of “if” but when natural or unnatural events will affect critical data and infrastructure.

These trends, challenges and opportunities position subterranean data centers as a more secure, cost-effective and adaptable solution. This is becoming an industry paradigm shift as enterprises seek ultra-secure hosting for critical IT functions that support evolving business needs, and CSPs look for more innovative ways to reduce costs, improve quality and capture larger market share. 

The Advantages of Going Underground

The underground data center is experiencing rapid growth because of the improvements it offers in risk mitigation, reliability, availability, power efficiencies and lower operational expenses. Facilities once used as military bunkers are being transformed into guarded data center space located deep below the earth’s surface. These are some of the world’s largest spaces, spanning millions of square feet with multiple story structures inside.

Consider some of today’s leading underground facilities:

Swiss Fort Knox, Switzerland: With a history hosting two Cold War bunkers, this site has a prime location near the Swiss Alps, which enables it to pull glacial water from a deep subterranean lake to enhance its cooling systems. The facility features facial recognition surveillance and bulletproof surfaces to resist military and terrorist threats.

The Bunkers, United Kingdom: Originally built to protect British citizens in the event of a nuclear attack, two former command and control bunkers in Kent and Newbury now operate as colocation data centers. The Kent facility is located 30 meters behind a perimeter fence with three-meter-thick walls. Inside are ex-military and police-grade security, infrared cameras and electromagnetic pulse protection systems.

Bahnhof Pionen, Sweden: Another converted Cold War bunker, this data center site is protected by video surveillance and a 40 cm-thick steel door. The facility is powered by German submarine engines and features stunning aesthetics like underground waterfalls and a 2,600-liter saltwater fish tank. The site, touted as one of the world’s most secure data centers, can withstand the force of a hydrogen bomb.

These sites make clear the top perks of going underground:

Natural cooling: With power and cooling costs making up nearly 25 percent of operating budget, the primary reason to migrate data centers underground is natural cooling. While most underground sites still require some form of heat management, operators can maintain a naturally cooler and more consistent temperature as opposed to powering up chillers 24/7.


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