From underground to orbiting space the data fortress has its drawbacks


Andrew Fray, UK managing director at Interxion discusses the lengths DC operators will go to in search of safety, from underground fortresses to orbiting space.

In the digital age, IT is no longer just a business necessity – it is your business. The right technology foundation brings the agility to capitalise on data-driven insights, innovate at speed and experiment with new business models. As the nexus for all the connectivity, processing and storage underpinning business in the digital age, the data centre lies at the heart of this challenge.

As a result, data centre reliability and security are becoming ever more relevant to business success – not just for the global organisations, CSPs and colocation providers running facilities, but also for individual enterprise customers. Downtime, disruption, or data loss all have serious implications for an organisation’s reputation, security and finances in the modern world.

Today, data centres are going further than ever before in search of safety. From former nuclear bunkers to abandoned mines, providers are looking for ways to ensure their facilities are impervious to even the worst man-made or natural disasters.

One of Europe’s biggest facilities now lies deep underneath a mountain on the west coast of Norway. Spanning six floors and 75 chambers, the Tier III Lefdal Mine data centre guarantees physical security, while also being benefitting from the region’s plentiful hydroelectric power. The Pionen White Mountains data centre follows a similar rationale, but is based inside a Cold War-era nuclear bunker in Stockholm. Situated beneath 100 feet of solid rock, and with only a single entrance guarded by a 40cm thick steel door, the data centre boosts security sufficient to lure in even WikiLeaks’ servers.

Lefdal Mine data centre, Norway
Lefdal Mine data centre, Norway
Pionen White Mountains data centre, Stockholm
Pionen White Mountains data centre, Stockholm

The drive to defend data doesn’t end with underground fortresses. From the Pacific Ocean, to Antarctica, or orbiting the Earth, many other data centre locations have been mooted for their security benefits. As Jack Pouchet, VP for market development at Emerson Network Power, has commented, “If the data is in outer space, one would have to go up there. And when someone is on the way up there, I might just crash that asset back in the Earth, burn it and it is all gone”.

Such orbiting data centres may be a pipedream, but even isolated, hyper-secure facilities on Earth can pose significant business challenges. Lengthy travel times can mean inconvenience and delays when it comes to engineers installing, upgrading or repairing business-critical systems. In contrast, an urban data centre can be just a stone’s throw from a company’s offices and highly accessible around-the-clock due to the excellent transport infrastructure in most major cities.

Urban data centres also typically offer greater carrier diversity, due to the robust infrastructure and connectivity options in these locations. This diversity means customers can make informed investments that further all manner of business goals, from enhancing service performance for end-users, to improving security or driving cost-efficiencies. Organisations also shouldn’t overlook the additional latency and performance benefits associated with being close to a dense population of businesses, consumers and strategic partners.

Of course, urban facilities can also offer state-of-the-art resilience and security. From multi-layer physical security, to N+1 UPS and diesel driven generators, urban data centres can offer excellent redundancy and disaster recovery procedures for mission-critical systems, all built to exacting standards.