Data Centers Go Underground

For Continental and Marriott, abandoned mines and military bunkers offer a subterranean safe haven from hurricanes and other threats. But will more enterprises follow?

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Gross cautions, however, that cooling efficiency gains specific to the location are probably not all that significant. A well-designed data center today can cut power consumption in half by using new energy efficient equipment that can run at higher operating temperatures, by optimizing airflow designs to allow intake air temperatures to rise as high as 85 degrees and still keep equipment within operating temperature limits, and by picking a location in a colder climate, where water- or air-side economizers can be used to take advantage of cool outside air as weather permits.

Security, Gross says, is the primary benefit of using an underground facility to host a primary or secondary data center. But for most of his clients, the ability to get people to the backup data center in a hurry, connectivity options, and finding a facility that meets budget are priorities. Underground facilities usually don't beat out above-ground sites in his clients' evaluations, he says.

Still, Continental and Marriott are among a small number of enterprise operations using underground facilities. Rakesh Kumar, an analyst with Gartner Inc., says he is unaware of any Gartner client that is currently leasing space in one. The primary benefit of such sites, he says, is that they are designed to be highly resilient -- often to military specifications. That's important for some government data centers. "But for most commercial enterprises, it probably will not be such a major requirement." IT executives considering underground data center space should check into expansion capability, energy efficiency and how electricity use is metered, he says.

This story, "Data Centers Go Underground" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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