Bastionhost Buys Nova Scotia Data Bunker

IT start-up Bastionhost has purchased an former government continuity bunker in Nova Scotia as part of its plan to build a “Dataville” of data centers in the province. Bastionhost today announced a deal with the Colchester Regional Development Agency (CoRDA) to buy properties on the outskirts of Truro, Nova Scotia to serve as the nucleus of the planned network of facilities.

The properties include a 64,000 square foot former government continuity headquarters bunker known as a “Diefenbunker” because it was built during the era of then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker at the height of the Cuban missile crisis. The facility, which was built to withstand an atomic blast and protect occupants from nuclear fallout is one of a network of six Diefenbunkers built across Canada.

The 45 year-old bunker features geothermal cooling, a sophisticated air filtration system, and redundant backup power engineered to military specifications. The building will house Dataville’s network operations center and provide business continuity and disaster recovery workstations.

Bastionhost introduced the Dataville concept last summer, focusing on financial clients in New York and London.

“There’s pent-up demand for this type of critical infrastructure for computer systems that power the Internet, and the people behind the scenes who keep them running,” says Anton Self, Bastionhost’s founder and CEO. “Enterprises and governments scramble to manage and store ever-increasing amounts of digital information, while worldwide demand for data centres is outstripping supply by a factor of three to one.”

Self said he has been intrigued for years by the prospect of building data centers in underground bunkers. “I first looked at the bunker in 1999, but the concept of serving both New York and London from Nova Scotia was probably years ahead of its time,” said Self. ” The world has evolved since then. Reliance on the Internet has exploded, while insurance underwriters and business continuity managers have been pushing server farms like Dataville farther out of cities into more rural locations, less subject to the constraints, costs and high risks posed by metropolitan areas.”

The Dataville vision sees Nova Scotia emerging as an “information Switzerland” due to its central location between London and New York. Bastionhost says Canada’s strong privacy laws offer another advantage to financial firms wary of the USA Patriot Act, which complicates hosting in the U.S. for some Canadian and European companies.

“We’ll put this Dr. Strangelove style building to profitable use, while incorporating the latest technologies and best practices for our customers in North America and Europe,” said Self.

Among the services Bastionhost envisions is “hot parking” for data center containers in a facility that offers hookups for water, power and network and a sheltered storage environment.

Bastionhost did not disclose how much it was paying for the bunker in Debert, Nova  Scotia. Local media reports indicate the building has been assessed at $290,000.

“We are quite pleased with this deal,” said Alan Johnson, spokesman for the Colchester Regional Development Agency, who said it cost about $60,000 a year to maintain the bunker.


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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.


  1. Aaron

    Kinda half expected the teletubbies to come bounding over that hill ....

  2. phoenexius

    Photo??? Looks an awful lot like the glass house at National Botanic Garden of Wales

  3. I don't really understand the attraction of a "cold war bunker" facility as a datacenter site. The power and cooling infrastructure is over 40 years old, and designed for low-density people, not high-density servers. Your space for expansion is severely limited. You'll have to gut everything and rebuild it to modern specs anyway. So, unless the local grid power is being offered at a penny a kW/hr, at that point what do you have that is different from any other industrial building site? Other than the fact that it is a bunker? Oh yeah, you can survive a nuclear strike. If that becomes a serious shopping point for colocation I think it is time to get out of the business. --chuck

  4. chuckbag

    How much you want to bet they keep the generators up topside so that the Achilles heal of the infrastructure is a soft target?

  5. phoenexius: Yes, it appears you're right. I've removed the photo, which Bastionhost is displaying on its web site but clearly has no relation to its data center projects.

  6. Browsing through the comments, a year and a quarter after this piece was posted... Thanks for publishing this, Rich. For some clarity, regarding the comments above: -This bunker is a hardened box atop a vast groundwater cooling resource. Gives us a PUE of under 1.1, scalable up to 15MW. Power costs aren't everything. Efficiency is. We cool exclusively with an open-loop groundwater system, scalable to more than 10 million gallons per day. No chillers, no compressors, no need for free airside economizers. -We don't really care about nukes. But the government that built our bunker - for $30 million in today's dollars - included hydrogeology in their site-selection criteria 50 years ago, for cooling and air filtration needs. Using groundwater to chill our IT critical load is so leading edge that we find comfort in over 35 years of daily logs, demonstrating beyond any doubt that we get water volumes at the temperatures we require (under 50 degrees F), year 'round. -Plus we get a nice, low-cost 64,000 sq ft box with 14' ceilings, which our structural engineers say will last another 500 years, at a small fraction of the cost of building new shell stock. Almost 30,000 square feet of new N+1 co-lo space is in the process of being refit downstairs, with all facilities in matching footprints on the level above. This has the added benefit of not only keeping IT and facilities functions truly distinct, but gives us a 20' heat sink above IT in a catastrophic event - enough to have a couple minutes to manually fire up our gensets if all else fails (and eliminating the need for UPS in our cooling array, if any given co-lo client chooses to forego it). -Actually, the entire setup was indeed a closed system, like a submarine. Power plants were (and some still are) indoors. Of course we're deploying new backup diesels outside the building in the new build - why waste precious co-lo space for that? In the age of distributed computing, there should be no Achilles heel, as above. You just need site diversity. -We acquired some nicely engineered shell stock at very low cost, with useful, diverse high-voltage power and fiber optic infrastructure nearby. The site made sense to us. But the clincher was the aquifer system. Avoiding the capital cost of chiller plant saves us huge money, which enables us to be more price competitive than other co-lo providers. I'm building power densities of over 250 watts / square foot at under $500 / square foot. No CRAC units either - only CRAHs. -The greenhouse image you removed from your post was indeed related to our site. We're feeding local agricultural research / production with our free heat / warm water, with a greenhouse directly atop our underground plant. Heat, after all, rises. Most data centers blow it into the atmosphere. We reuse it. With Canada's long, cold winters, it's beneficial to be in a business that generates abundant free heat. We believe we're demonstrating something useful about the ways data centers can serve their communities. The nearby agricultural college likes it. Our agricultural endeavors also give us bona fide farm status, which lower our property taxes, and other related overheads (including diesel fuel costs). Try saying that about your server farm. I'd rather see produce grown locally - fueled by free heat, a common data center waste product - than see refrigerated trucks ship it thousands of miles from California and Mexico. + More carbon offsets. -I don't think it takes one-cent kilowatts to justify site-selection criteria. We're paying about seven cents now, and as we scale into higher purchasing volumes our tiered average will be in the five cent range. With a PUE like ours - if we compare it to *your* data center - that's an effective rate of a third to less than half what we all pay - with nice carbon offsets to boot. Come by and visit, guys. We'll give you some real PUE metrics to sink your teeth into once we've had a couple years' operating history, post upfits. Yours in Dataville, Anton E. Self Chief Executive Bastionhost Ltd.

  7. Fernando Afonso

    Thanks for the clarification Anton and the "larger" picture.

  8. Fernando Afonso

    Nice rebutal