More of the World's Coolest Data Centers

We take another look to highlight some of the most innovative and unique data centers on the planet.

It’s been more than a year since we’ve taken a look at some of the standout data centers from around the globe that draw attention because of their energy efficiency, unique locations or innovative designs. In the meantime businesses have found unique designs to promote inexpensive cooling and taken over existing facilities built to withstand nuclear attacks. Here’s a glimpse of a few that caught our eye.

Slideshow: 7 Innovative Data Center Designs

Slideshow: The World's Coolest Data Centers

The Green Mountain Data Center is being built inside concrete buildings on a Norwegian island and has access to caves in adjacent mountains that once stored NATO military ammunition. The project is rolling out in two phases – the first 75,000 square feet, the second 43,000 square feet – and will take advantage of naturally cooled water to save on energy consumption. Water from an adjacent fjord at 46 degrees F will cool the facility, reducing its carbon footprint and attracting customers interested in reducing their consumption of fossil fuels, Green Mountain says. The facility is scheduled to be ready for customers by the end of 2012.

Westland Bunker data center about 45 miles north of Houston, occupies a nuclear bunker built in 1982 by Louis Kung, the nephew of Madame Chang Kai Shek, as a refuge to house 350 people for three months. It was part of the campus for his oil company, Westland Oil, and was a contingency against nuclear attack or the breakdown of society. Today the headquarters building is available to customers as a disaster-recovery site. The separate bunker houses the data center, which will be cooled in part by deep wells dug to support needs of people who might be housed there. A pair of pagodas masks the entrances to the underground facility.

The National Security Agency is building a $1.2 billion data center on 240 acres outside Salt Lake City as a place to gather and analyze intelligence data. The 100,000 square foot Tier III, 65M Watt center will have its own fuel and water storage, a chiller plant and fire suppression system. It will also be self-sustaining, with its own water and wastewater treatment plants, power, gas supply, battery backup, visitor-control facilities, vehicle inspection station and perimeter security. Construction got underway in January 2011 and is scheduled to last three years.

Located in Columbus, Ind., Data Cave’s 86,000 square foot data center has to be able to withstand the onslaught of vicious Mid-Western tornadoes, known for ripping the roofs off structures and blowing out their walls. With that in mind, the company built the facility with a 4.5 million-pound roof that’s eight inches thick and stiffened with half-inch reinforcing rods. According to the company blog, “The end result is a roof with no edges for the wind to catch; no equipment on the roof to generate wind resistance, no penetrations through the roof for leak points (doesn’t matter if your roof stays when the wind ripped off your air conditioner and dumped water onto your equipment through the holes) and enough weight to stay put during an EF5 tornado.” EF5 tornadoes have winds greater than 200 mph and cause the most severe damage to buildings.

In Roubaix, France, the OVH hosting company data center is shaped like a cube, but it’s got a hollow core that’s open to the sky where heat is vented. Air drawn in from the outside of the cube circulates through server racks and is blown out into the courtyard where it dissipates upward. The design eliminates the need for air conditioning, making the 35,000-server facility more green. Also helping to eliminate the air-conditioning is water cooling of the servers that works in tandem with the circulating air. The company says the design, with the servers deployed on six floors, occupies a footprint a quarter of the size it would need if it were all on one level.

Hosting company pair Networks is building a data center in the Las Vegas desert that relies heavily on solar panels and taps into the commercial power grid only for backup. It will use a natural-gas power plant on the site and also some form of cogeneration that will make use of the heat generated by the plant. The company is pretty close-mouthed about the project, but says it’s also using technology that it believes isn’t used in any other data center. It promises to tell more as the facility nears completion.

Facebook’s Prineville, Ore., data center’s green design includes 150,000 square feet of space and operates with 40% less power consumption that similarly sized conventional data centers. Part of the savings comes from pumping filtered ambient air through server rooms to cool the machines. Four rooms are dedicated to housing thousands of filters – much like those used in home heating/cooling systems. The downside of these rooms is that changing thousands of filters is a huge job, the company says. The design of the facility complies with Facebook’s Open Compute Project, which shares the company’s data center designs publicly so other businesses can learn from their experience (For more on the Prineville facility, see “Facebook's 'green' data center design to have ripple effect

Prairie Bunkers has opened a data center park outside Hastings, Neb., where businesses can lease facilities ranging from 2,500 square feet to 1 million square feet in above-ground bunkers. Reusing WWII naval munitions bunkers, the company touts its geothermal cooling that saves on energy costs as well as its proximity to high bandwidth fiber optic connections. The 750-acre site is out of hurricane, earthquake, fire and flood zones, and the buildings were built to withstand the area’s major natural threat, tornadoes.

Located beneath a mountain in the Swiss Alps, the Swiss Fort Knox is nestled in a nuke-proof bunker that was created by the Swiss military during the 1960s as a Cold War defensive facility. It’s got sabotage-proof cooling from an underground aquifer and has hotel-like sleeping and dining facilities. To get in requires passing through five separate security rooms, each locked off from the next until access is gained to the data center space below. The guards inside carry pepper spray and nightsticks because the risk of damage to servers is too great if there were gunfire.

Slideshow: 7 Innovative Data Center Designs

Slideshow: The World's Coolest Data Centers

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

Related Slideshows