From the Lab

Data Centers with History and Scale

Data centers may never become common tourist destinations – and shouldn’t, for security concerns. But the unique location, history and size of many facilities definitely make them points of interest.

In Scandinavia, for instance, data centers are popping up below ground. Three fully operational, underground facilities include the Green Mountain DC1-Stavanger, housed in a former NATO ammunition storehouse on a Norwegian island; the Bahnhof Pionen White Mountain, located in a Cold War-era nuclear bunker; and infrastructure for Aiber Networks installed in the cavernous, former manufacturing site of a Finnish aviation company.

Another example in Norway is taking shape on the country’s West Coast. The Ledfal Mine Datacenter, aka “The Norwegian Solution,” occupies an underground space a measures 120k square meters, or the equivalent of some 30 acres. Ledfal will become operational in 2016, but two clients – IBM and the German Friedhelm LOH Group – have already signed up. This vivid promotional video is likely to draw more business, if not visitors entranced by the country’s fjords. As with other underground facilities, cost-effectiveness, security and energy efficiency are touted as advantages.

Normal, above ground data centers often have their own intriguing histories. The former publishing site of the Yellow Book and the Sears Catalog, at 350 East Cermak, Chicago, for instance, converted to telecom use in 1999 and now operates as a 1.1 million square foot multi-tenant data center, one of the largest colo hotels in the world. Several former semiconductor plants, such as this one in Newport, Wales, have found new life housing data centers.

The Keystone NAP advanced data center is itself located on the expansive campus of a former steel mill, bringing with it advantages such as four, diverse on-site industrial-grade power feeds, and infrastructure to support virtually limitless growth capacity.

For some data centers, it is size rather than history that attracts attention. That is the case with NAP of the Americas, the six-story “data fortress” constructed in 2001 and now run by Verizon Terremark. Located in downtown Miami and boasting a floor area of 750,000 square feet, it is one of those buildings you simply can’t miss.

Other large facilities are less obvious. SUPERNAP 7, a highly designed 407,000 square foot facility went up in 2008 near the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, not the city’s Strip. What SUPERNAP has become since then, however, is an even larger “digital exchange campus,” with two other facilities online for a total of 1.5 million square feet, and another 800,000 square feet planned. Meanwhile, 500 miles to the northwest in Reno, Switch has another 6.5 million square feet on the books.

Today’s data centers not only drive the digital economy but also, in many cases, stand as ingenious and monumental pillars of human achievement – worthy destinations for tech pilgrims.