7 Crazy Cool Data Centers - InformationWeek

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2/9/2015
09:15 AM
Kelly Sheridan
Kelly Sheridan
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7 Crazy Cool Data Centers

Some data centers are built in modern buildings, and some are in old paper mills or Cold War defense bunkers.
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All data centers share a few commonalities: They generate massive amounts of heat while draining equally large amounts of energy. However, some businesses are getting creative with how and where they store data.

Data centers are more than just massive facilities packed with overheating servers and air conditioners. Most contain the best hardware and software available in modern technology, with the capacity to send and receive millions of pieces of data per second, which is especially important as cloud computing matures and more companies invest in moving apps and data to the cloud.

As more businesses begin to invest in cloud capabilities, the use of data centers becomes less of an option and more of a priority. Small and midsize businesses are especially exhibiting a strong growing interest in new forms of data storage.

"As SMBs take steps to enhance their IT infrastructure, the availability of advanced storage resources has been an important part of their thinking," said Ray Boggs, VP for IDC's small and medium business research, in a recent report. "Cloud storage in particular has been a growing part of portfolio of storage technology that SMBs have been using and plan to expand in the future."

[IT Stereotypes: Time to Change]

The major trends driving the design and development of data centers have been subject to change over time. Now, with skyrocketing energy costs and increased attention on sustainability, companies of all sizes have begun to revamp their strategies in order to cut back on how much energy their facilities consume.

Most modern data centers are designed for power efficiency, as increasingly larger facilities try to consume less, and more natural, forms of energy. Many of the world's largest data hosts are trying to maximize their use of air and water that's naturally cool enough to balance the heat generated by their many servers. This goal has motivated plenty of service providers to build their data centers in colder climates.

Some businesses have gotten more creative with their environmental strategies. At its data center in Frankfurt, Germany, Citigroup has a "green" roof made of living plants that help cool the building and reduce runoff. It also uses reverse osmosis as a means of decreasing sediment build-up in its cooling towers, which saves 13 million gallons of water per year, reports CIO.com.

In an interesting twist on sustainability, businesses large and small have begun to store their data in repurposed old buildings. Many structures, such as Google's Finland-based data center, located in an old paper mill, already have sufficient space to house thousands of machines.

In terms of design and location, there are a few data centers that stand out from the pack based on their geographic placement, architectural innovation, massive size, and environmentally friendly strategy. Let's take a look at some of the most intriguing facilities.

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
3/18/2015 | 5:37:43 AM
Re: Boston, too
@bttlk, well said "we are not running out" of oil in the short term. In the long term, in the time frame of 100-150 years, we are running out of oil and the closer we get to this time frame, the faster the economics begin to change. For instance, the returns in energy gained from shale oil are lower then, the energy gains from drilling.

However, there is nothing to worry about because, the IT sector through IoT devices that improve the efficiency of energy production, storage and consumption, and alternative energy sources such as, solar energy, etc., have already started to make a lot of progress. It is amazing to ponder about the level of specialization that these technologies might gain 100 years from now.
bttlk
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bttlk,
User Rank: Strategist
3/12/2015 | 11:50:02 PM
Re: Boston, too
There will always be oil to extract, or natural gas.  We are not running out. Less expensive power sources may become more viable, but thay may never be a reliable as oil or gas.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
2/10/2015 | 2:42:18 AM
Re: Boston, too
These data centers are like fortress and I do like them. For data centers, they need to be located in a secure and stable place with reliable infrastructure: electricity, ventilation, etc.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
2/10/2015 | 1:15:29 AM
Re: Boston, too
@Kelly: Indeed, one of the best parts was going up on the roof.  Below, tons of ACs, ventilators, and other caged equipment.  Above and in front of me, the Boston skyline.  Terrific view.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
2/10/2015 | 1:14:12 AM
Re: Boston, too
I'm really surprised that geothermal power hasn't taken off more.  It certainly seems to be the most efficient of all the "clean" power techs (and with none of the problems of wind farms).  I remember seeing an article well over a decade ago about how geothermics was to be the next big thing.  I guess they were wrong...at least, for now.

Glad to see a datacenter taking advantage of this great energy technology!
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
2/9/2015 | 5:06:21 PM
Re: Boston, too
Creating a low PUE value is always good news. It's good from the cost side of the equation, as well as the environmental impact side. Countries that are located in warmer (clear skies) regions of the world have a lot to offer as well, for instance, these countries could become a hub for the generation of clean energy, through the deployment of solar technologies.

Low oil prices at the moment have changed a lot of the price dynamics that solar energy offers. However, in the long terms solar energy is still extremely important because, eventually, there will be no oil left to extract.
Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
2/9/2015 | 3:31:02 PM
Re: Boston, too
I love seeing how colder climate countries are taking advantage of their unique climate for data centres.  Personally i am waiting to see what countries like Iceland do: Geothermal power, plus cooler climates, much like their other Scandinavian neighbours (distant neighbours I guess), could see a great market opportunity for hosting next-generation data centres.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
2/9/2015 | 10:13:19 AM
Re: Boston, too
Thanks, Joe. I didn't know about the Markley Group's Boston datacenter - another creative use of old space, and sounds like a great tour!
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
2/9/2015 | 9:45:26 AM
Boston, too
Thanks for this overview, Kelly.  This is cool!

I was fortunate enough to tour the Markley Group's datacenter some time back in downtown Boston.  They use an old retail building, and because of their location, they are wired to the hilt in ultra-secure redundancies -- so outages aren't really an issue and security is very tight.  It was pretty cool seeing the connections directly into major municipal pipes in Boston.
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