When mentioning underground facilities, what comes to mind? You’ve heard of underground wine cellars and doomsday bunkers, but what about data centers? Underground data centers sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but they’re real. Not only are they real, but they’re increasing in popularity at an alarming rate. Far from a fad, the new trend of building subterranean server rooms is here to stay. From cost-effectiveness, natural cooling, and increased security, the advantages are infinite. In this article, we take a deeper look into the mystery that is underground data centers and the benefits they offer.
Why Go Underground?
There are multiple reasons that data center operators are choosing to take their equipment underground. Much like Microsoft’s Project Natick, where a data center was submerged under the sea, underground data centers also provide natural cooling elements. The energy savings, as well as added security from natural disasters, are just some of the reasons these massive bunkers are being built. Let’s take some time to do a little spelunking and dive deeper into these underground wonders.
Underground data centers offer a benefit that traditional above-ground data centers lack, having the option to stay hidden from the public eye. This is extremely important to military and other government organizations that require secrecy to do their work. Above-ground buildings are often located in public areas where public records can be obtained about what is inside the structure. However, it is impossible for any foot or vehicle traffic to exist next to an underground data center.
Even for organizations that don’t require secrecy to operate, every data center must meet rigorous security criteria. Security standards are easier to employ in underground locations. Underground data centers can be the safest space to store data unless the infrastructure lacks an all-encompassing security strategy. Physical security like guards, ID checks, and inventory checks can be easily performed on a regular basis.
With an above-ground data center, an unauthorized person can potentially gain access through points of entry that are only open to employees of the organization, but in an underground data center, the original layout prevents unauthorized entry or CCTV blind spots.
Perhaps the best perk of them all is protection from natural disasters. Surrounded by natural limestone or thick layers of concrete, underground data centers have a reduced risk of a natural and man-made disaster. Depending on their physical location, above-ground data centers run the risk of flood, fire, earthquake, tornado, or hurricane damage. Any damage to your data center, whether it be natural or man-made, is detrimental to your business and your customer’s data.
One would think that being underground would result in poor internet connectivity and no cell service. In fact, the situation is the opposite. Major internet service providers partner with underground data centers to install the fiber lines for connection to the internet. For quite some time now, broadband connections have been based on underground optic fiber cables. Underground data centers are at the same height as the data transmission lines allowing them to be more efficiently served. Unlike data centers in traditional buildings, there is no need for miles of additional wiring; saving on installation costs, troubleshooting, and repairs.
Increased Energy Efficiency
Underground data centers have geographical and geological benefits, such as zero solar heat gain, cooler temperatures, and solid rock-surrounded structures. Energy efficiency is naturally increased in underground data centers where temperatures average around 52°F, meaning the data center doesn’t need to work as hard to keep cool. Past studies have shown that 50% of a data center’s energy consumption is used for cooling the servers.
A major reason companies opt for underground colocation facilities is the reduction in air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation systems. Hotter temperatures and higher humidity climates have benefited from the subterranean placement of data centers as opposed to cooler climate areas. Cooling is a major cost factor in data centers, and if executed poorly, can cause equipment failures. Overall, you save on energy costs in underground data centers.