When we think of data centres, we tend to think of large, open rooms full of featureless racks. But many break the mould and utilise truly creative designs, layouts, and locations.
These unusual data centres are not vanity projects, but creative responses to some of the challenges that technology has presented.
As concerns about information security and continuity grow, businesses need data centres to be increasingly resilient against physical attacks and natural disasters. That has led to some data centres being housed in unusual locations, making the best use of the natural environment to shore up their security.
In Norway, the Green Mountain data centre is located in a disused ammo store on an island, embedded into the rock of the mountain. In the Netherlands, the CyberBunker is located in an ex-nuclear bunker, giving customers similar security to that enjoyed by its previous owners, NATO.
There’s another good reason to use natural resources creatively in data centre construction. Green power, and inventive use of water and air, all help to cut energy use. In 2014, the centres in the United States used around 2% of the country’s power, making data centres one of the world’s biggest drains on the grid. To reduce this, developers are starting to work with nature, not against it.
For example, cool water from natural sources can be used in place of air conditioning. It can be transported using gravity, rather than electric pumps. The water can then be used to cool equipment or used in place of traditional air conditioning. Elements of these technologies are used in Roubaix in France.
Water can also be used to generate power, as is the case with Yahoo’s Computing Coops in New York. The electricity that powers its servers is generated by nearby Niagara Falls.
In Germany, Cloud&Heat recycles the heat generated by servers to warm both air and water in neighbouring buildings. This technology offers a glimpse into an interesting solution where the heat generated by a data centre is put to use to save power elsewhere.
A full infographic can be found here.