Iron Mountain’s Natural Cooling Advantage

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With a growing number of providers building underground data bunkers, a leading name in data storage is entering the game in a more substantial fashion. Iron Mountain, which has been a market leader in storage of documents and backup tapes, is beginning to lease data center space in its huge facility located 220 feet underground in a limestone cave outside Pittsburgh.

CIO recently reported that Marriott will become the largest private customer operating a data center in Iron Mountain’s 145-acre facility, which has its own fire company, water treatment plant and 24-hour security and maintenance force. Marriott is leasing 12,500 square feet of data center space from Iron Mountain for a disaster recovery “hot site.” Here’s some additional background:

The company calculated that the 10-year cost of colocating a new data center at Iron Mountain’s underground facility would be cost neutral compared to its existing agreement for disaster recovery, according to a spokesperson. Plus, the opportunity to improve energy efficiency would bring significant savings and help the company to achieve its environmental goals.

Those savings were driven by the cooling advantages of an underground facility, where the cooler temperature allows tenants to spend save money on air conditioning.


In a recent interview with ComputerWorld. Iron Mountain Digital President John Clancy discussed how cooling can be a business differentiator for a cave-based data center:

Once you go 10 or 15 feet below the surface, you’re at 58 degrees. We actually have natural cooling inside these data centers. We also have engineers that literally work on how best to work in a cave. These are all limestone mines. They’ve found ways to dig inside the limestone to capitalize on the natural flow of air. It’s a nice advantage for us in terms of power and cooling and ultimately one we can scale with. We don’t have the same power consumption needs as a typical data center.

There is one downside, which was noted by Marriott: underground data centers apparently can’t receive certification under the LEED program because the U.S. Green Buildings Council’s standards have no provisions for subterranean facilities.

Here’s another look at some of the underground data bunkers we’ve been tracking at Data Center Knowledge:

  • StrataSpace, a 500,000 square foot underground data center outsider Louisville, Kentucky.
  • The SpringNet Underground, as 56,000 square foot data center located 85 feet underground in a limestone cave near Springfield, Missouri.
  • Cavern Technologies, a 200,000 square foot facility near Kansas City that is 125 feet underground.
  • The InfoBunker, a 65,000 square foot ultra-secure underground data center in Iowa, built in a decommissioned Air Force bunker.
  • The Westlin Data Center, which provides 40,000 square feet of underground data center and office space in Lake Conroe, Texas.
  • The Bunker is a 10-year old ultra-secure colo facility built in a former nuclear bunker in Newbury, England.
  • Mountains West Exploration Inc. (MXWI) entered the data center business last month with the acquisition of Secured Digital Storage, and plans to develop former military ammunition bunkers as ultra-secure storage.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.