The Data Bunker Boomlet

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The futuristic Bahnhof data center, located 100 feet beneath Stockholm, is one of many facilities built in nuke-proof subterranean bunkers.

The futuristic Bahnhof data center, located 100 feet beneath Stockholm, is one of many facilities built in nuke-proof subterranean bunkers.

The expansion by The Bunker reflects the growing niche for underground “nuke-proof” data storage facilities housed in former military facilities, mines or limestone caves. These subterranean fortresses have strong appeal for tenants seeking ultra-secure hosting that will survive any eventuality – including a nuclear blast.

This trend has given new life to aging military bunkers in the US, UK and Canada. Although security is usually the primary motivation for customers, underground facilities offer advantages to the data center operator. Chief among them is cooling, as these subterranean facilities typically have a natural temperature of 60 degrees or lower.         

There are challenges as well, especially managing humidity that can be harmful to servers. Underground data centers also can’t receive certification under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program for energy efficient buildings because the U.S. Green Buildings Council’s standards has no provision for subterranean facilities.

Here’s a list of all the underground data bunker projects we’ve been tracking at Data Center Knowledge:

  • Bahnhof Pionen: Better known as the “James Bond Villain” data center, this former military bunker is 100 feet underneath Stockholm, Sweden and features waterfalls, greenhouse-style NOC, glass-enclosed conference room “floating” above the colocation floor, and blue-lit diesel engines.
  • SmartBunker is an ultra-secure data center located in a former NATO command bunker in Lincolnshire, UK. The power used within the 30,000 square feet data centre is generated entirely from wind energy. SmartBunker says it is the first UK facility with no carbon emissions.
  • The U.S. Secure Hosting Center is an underground colocation center in Iowa that hosts the web infrastrucutre for Wikia, one of the projects of the Wikimedia Foundation.    
  • Iron Mountain hosts data center operations for Marriott Corp. and other customers in its huge data storage facility located 220 feet underground in a limestone cave outside Pittsburgh. The 145-acre facility has its own fire company, water treatment plant and 24-hour security and maintenance force.
  • Montgomery Westland, previously known as the Westlin Bunker, operates 40,000 square feet of underground data center and office space in Montgomery, Texas. The facility was initially built by Ling-Chieh Kung, a nephew of Chiang Kai-shek and founder of Westlin Oil. Fearing a nuclear war, the reclusive Kung built a nuke-proof survival shelter.
  • The Mountain Complex is a disaster recovery data center in a former mine built into the side of a dolomite mountain in the Ozarks near Branson, Missouri. The facility houses backup data for thousands of financial institutions.
  • The SpringNet Underground is a 56,000 square foot data center located 85 feet underground in a limestone cave near Springfield, Missouri. The site hosts mission-critical patient data for a network of hospitals.
  • The Bunker is a 10-year old ultra-secure colo facility built in former nuclear bunkers in Newbury and Kent in the UK. The company, which houses many financial services clients, recently announced expansion plans.
  • The InfoBunker is a 65,000 square foot ultra-secure underground data center in Iowa, built in a decommissioned Air Force bunker designed to survive a 20-megaton nuclear explosion. It features three-foot thick cement walls and shielding to protect equipment from an electromagentic pulse (EMP).
  • Cavern Technologies operates a 200,000 square foot facility near Kansas City that is 125 feet underground.
  • Sun Microsystems is among the participants in an underground data centers in Japan’s Chubu region in which 30 Blackbox (Sun MD) data center container units will be installed in a a former coal mine located 100 meters under the ground.
  • 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.
    StrataSpace, a 500,000 square foot underground data center under development outside Louisville
  • PrairieBunkers is planning to convert up to 184 World War II ammunition bunkers in central Nebraska into data centers.
  • Mountains West Exploration plans to develop former military ammunition bunkers as ultra-secure storage.

Know of any underground data bunkers we’ve missed? Tell us about them in the comments.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor-in-chief 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.

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6 Comments

  1. Clearview recently announced the development of a bunker data center in Waco, TX as a DR/DC facility to support synchronous replication and recovery from Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas. More info at the link above. Link for T1R article: http://www.t1r.com/client/view.php?rid=57209&source=search-web

  2. Rich: Thanks for the interesting article yesterday on bunkers, which listed our site, Prairie Bunkers, as well as others around the world. Because our bunkers are above ground, albeit insulated on three sides and top by prairie earth/grass, we are advised that they can be LEED-certified, unlike the other truly “subterranean” facilities profiled. Presumably, this would also apply to “The Bunker” you profiled in the U.K. We would appreciate a note in Data Center Knowledge pointing out the difference for your readers. Of course, our above-ground “bunker” still has the insulation advantage but also has other advantages not available in subterranean facilities, including immunity from floods because we are four feet above grade and can also make more efficient use of low ambient air temperatures via air economizers. Thanks in advance for making the distinction. Gary Hultquist, Chairman Prairie Bunkers, LLC

  3. Marc

    A new one in the Netherlands: http://www.govnoc.com and http://www.bunkerdatacenter.com.