Inside Terremark's Secure Government Data Center

Terremark's new cloud-computing facility for U.S. government customers features concrete walls, bomb-sniffing dogs, motion-sensing videocams, and a promise of 100% service availability.

J. Nicholas Hoover, Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

July 28, 2009

3 Min Read

As U.S. government agencies consider the move to cloud computing, where will their clouds be hosted? Terremark, a hosted service provider to U.S. government customers, has built a data center specifically for that purpose.

Terremark's data center in Culpeper, Va., is designed with the high-security requirements of government agencies in mind. The facility, which opened last year, features blast-proof exterior walls, traditional co-located servers, and a glass-enclosed room of multitenant servers that are shared by customers. Department of Defense-approved fences and 12-foot berms line the perimeter. More than 250 motion-sensor cameras send video feeds to the security office.

"This building is like a secure bunker, and the campus is like a military base," Terremark senior VP Norm Laudermilch said during a tour of the location this week.

The federal government's and are among the Web sites now running on Terremark's infrastructure-as-a-service offering, called Enterprise Cloud. A number of other agencies are soon expected to announce their own plans to host applications on the service. Terremark also serves companies in the private sector.

As with Amazon Web Services, customers of Terremark's Enterprise Cloud pay for CPUs, storage, and memory on a flexible per-use basis. The service can support basically any application that runs on Windows or Linux.

To deliver its Enterprise Cloud services, Terremark employs VMware hypervisors and management tools. In addition, Terremark developed its own tools and wrote custom code to round out its data center management platform. Terremark is rolling up network security data, customer reporting, and ticket generation and management up into an integrated tool. The company also developed its own storage and server management tools.

Terremark backs up its services with a 100% up-time SLA. The company has rows of flywheels -- 660-lb metal discs that spin at 7,700 RPM -- to keep the power running briefly in the event of an outage. Those are backed up by massive, diesel-powered Caterpillar generators that will kick in 7 seconds later.

Terremark's facility has a 24x7 security operations center with internally developed intrusion prevention and intrusion detection capabilities. FISMA auditors recently spent more than two weeks checking out Terremark's systems. The company is one of the few co-location vendors accredited by the General Services Administration to handle classified data.

Terremark has completed one data center on the Culpeper campus. A second facility is scheduled to open next year at the same location, and three other data centers are planned there. Terremark originally budgeted $250 million to construct the site, but the company will likely need to raise that estimate.

One vehicle entry point is manned with armed guards, wedge barriers, and reinforced gates to prevent unauthorized entry. Another, for delivery trucks, requires vehicles to pull through a set of garage doors, to be searched before going through a second set of doors. The undersides of trucks are checked with mirrors, while specially trained dogs sniff for bombs.

Customers with special security requirements can get 9-gage steel mesh installed under the data center's raised floors as an added precaution, and those housing classified or sensitive information don't just have metal cages around computer equipment but floor-to-ceiling concrete walls with locked doors.

Demand for Terremark's Culpeper facility is strong, with up to 40 tours going through the facility on a given day. Terremark anticipated that it would take 18 to 24 months to sell out co-location space in the first data center, but it did so within 5 months, said Laudermilch.

There's a big buzz surrounding Government 2.0 -- the revolution that's bringing the principles and value of the Web as a platform to the business of governing. Attend Gov 2.0 Expo Showcase and hear innovators show how this is really happening. At the Washington Convention Center, Sept. 8. Find out more and register.

About the Author(s)

J. Nicholas Hoover

Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

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