Data center operators have been retrofitting underground bunkers into functional data centers for many years. But as security (and unfortunately political) considerations and energy demands intensify, there’s an increasing trend towards building subterranean colocation facilities to host mission-critical infrastructure and data.
Surrounded by rock and often featuring just a single entrance, underground facilities are physically highly secure with many boasting sufficient strength to withstand a nuclear attack. And since subterranean temperatures are naturally regulated, cooling costs are often reduced which is passed down to enterprise customers. Construction costs can also be lower, and speed to market faster, since in many cases the facility is already there and simply needs to be fitted out with the necessary infrastructure to make it a functioning colocation data center.
There’s also a certain James Bond allure to these subterranean facilities, with operators emphasizing the data center’s location in their marketing collateral to stress their security advantage.
Here are the some of the world’s most secure underground data centers:
The Bunker – United States
Located in Montgomery, Texas, The Bunker was originally a 40,000 square foot nuclear bomb shelter constructed in 1982 by Louis Kung to protect his family and employees in the event of war or breakdown of society. The entrance to the facility previously concealed numerous gun ports and rooftop-mounted machine gun nests. Today, the site is a state-of-the-art data center campus with an adjacent four-story building used as a disaster recovery site. Built into the side of the surrounding terrain, an existing access tunnel still exists which connects customers to both of Houston Bunker’s facilities – Data Center One and Data Center Two – with the latter being built in 2014 and tripling the data center space of the campus to 143,000 sq ft.
Bahnhof Pionen – Sweden
Located 30 meters deep inside a Cold War nuclear bunker, and protected by video surveillance and a 40cm thick steel door, Bahnhof Pionen is deemed one of the world’s most secure data centers (and famous for once being the home to Wiki-leaks). The facility is powered by German submarine engines, and features underground waterfalls, greenhouses, simulated daylight and a 2,600-liter saltwater fish tank. The bunker houses Bahnhof’s Network Operations Center and is built to withstand a hydrogen bomb. Bahnhof is one of Sweden’s largest ISPs, with four other data centers across the country.
The Bunkers – United Kingdom
Built to protect British citizens in the event of a nuclear attack, two former command and control bunkers in Kent and Newbury were acquired from the UK Ministry of Defence and US Air Force in 1994 and converted into two colocation data centers. Self-proclaimed as “the UK’s most secure data center”, the Kent facility is located 30 meters behind a perimeter fence and boasts 3-meter-thick walls, 24-hour on-site technical and security team (ex-military & police), on-site MOD trained guard dogs, infrared cameras and military electromagnetic pulse protection.
Swiss Fort Knox – Switzerland
Secure Infostore AG, a Swiss IT security solutions provider, operates two retrofitted Cold War bunkers known as the Swiss Fort Knox. Located 10km apart and hidden beneath the Swiss Alps near Lausanne, the data centers pull glacial water from a deep subterranean lake to enhance its cooling systems. The site features unparalleled security including facial-recognition surveillance and bulletproof surfaces to resist any military or terrorist threat. Swiss Fort Knox is one of 85 colocation facilities in Switzerland.
Iron Mountain – United States
Referred to as a “nuke proof” data bunker, the Iron Mountain’s flagship data center in Western Pennsylvania was in fact a former limestone mine before it became one of the world’s most secure colocation sites. The facility is located 65 meters beneath the ground, within a 200-acre campus protected by heavily armed guards, perimeter security, metal detectors, CCTV, biometric access controls and mantraps. Other features include private suites, secure cages, individual cabinets and a carrier-neutral network. Iron Mountain manages a total of six data centers across the United States, with other facilities in Boston, Kansas, New England, Pittsburgh and Virginia. Federal agencies and 94% of Fortune 1000 companies have selected Iron Mountain for their data storage requirements.
Further underground data centers around the world include:
- The Nuclear Bunker in Vilnius, Lithuania
- The Colocall Bunker in Kiev, Ukraine
- The InfoBunker in Des Moines, Iowa, USA
- The CyberBunker in Middleburg, Netherlands
To find other secure data centers, both above and below the ground, search the world’s largest cloud directory: Cloudscene
“The Newbury bunker was built for the US Forces on the Greenham Common Air Base as a command and control centre protecting people and technology from nuclear attack.”
Image Source: thebunker.net