Underground Data Centers: Flash in the Pan or Wave of the Future?

Posted by Instor on Mar 27, 2018 9:00:00 AM

More data centers are moving underground. Of course, some data center managers are wondering if it is just a phase or a lasting trend, and whether they should also invest in an underground facility. Let’s have a look at the various aspects of subterranean data centers and try to figure out the possibilities.


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Underground Data Centers: Are They Worth It?

Data centers have become the backbone of modern society. From national security to worldwide commerce and cooperation, these facilities play a vital role. So managers and administrators are considering an underground movement for the following reasons:

Better Cooling Efficiency

Natural cooling is a major factor in the underground movement. Subterranean facilities are cooler than above-ground ones. With an underground setting, data centers don’t have to consistently use chillers to keep the temperature in check. This can result in major power savings.

Iron Mountain in Western Pennsylvania was a former limestone mine before it became an underground data center. The limestone can absorb 1.5 BTUs per square foot. Most of the data centers are built in abandoned mines, caverns, and bunkers. The walls of these data centers are much better at absorbing heat than concrete-made facilities.

Better Security

Data center managers have to spend a lot of money on securing the boundaries. It’s not a one-time cost. Besides setting up fences, there needs to be regular patrolling to prevent perimeter breaches.

Underground data center boundaries are automatically secure. Managers only have to worry about preventing access through the entrance of the data center. It improves the security of the facility while decreasing the operational costs.

Protection Against Man-made and Natural Disasters

Nobody in their right mind wants nuclear holocausts or natural calamities. But they are always in the realm of possibility. Data centers hold important national interest information and need to withstand any disastrous force. Underground data centers can provide the necessary protection against such nuclear attacks and natural catastrophes.


Reduced Construction Time and Cost

There are no walls to build in underground facilities. And the pre-built walls don’t require disaster-proofing for natural calamities like hurricane and tornadoes. So construction time and costs go down. Businesses are able to deploy underground data centers with relative ease and time-savings.

Challenges in Underground Data Center

Even though a subterranean facility provides some advantages, there are some challenges too.

  • Power Connectivity — Most underground facilities end-up in remote locations. It can be a challenge for reliable power supply. Also, setting up power lines through natural walls can have their own challenges.
  • Exterior Equipment —  Due to safety reasons, certain equipment like generators and mechanical components might need to be placed outside. Securing the equipment can add complexity.
  • Hiring Personnel — Even if the data centers are designed to use minimal staff, managers still have to find those people. It might be challenging to find personnel willing to work in remote locations. Ensuring transportation, parking, and safety of the employees might require additional resources.
Trending Data Centers
We already mentioned Iron Mountain data center that is located in a limestone mine. Here are some other underground data centers to look into:
  • The Bunker in the Montgomery, Texas, USA - Built in a nuclear bomb shelter.
  • The Bahnhof Pionen in Stockholm, Sweden - Built in a Cold War nuclear bunker.
  • The Bunker in Kent, UK - Built in a UK Ministry of Defense and US Air Force command and conquer bunker.
  • Swiss Fort Knox in Gstaad, Switzerland — Hidden in the Swiss Alps this data center is also built inside a Cold War bunker.

In short, underground data centers can be a cost-effective solution. But you have to plan for the extra construction and maintenance challenges. For many, that means staying above ground.