When it comes to data centers, the features that tend to be prioritized are things like security and overall performance. Rarely do we take time to consider their looks or their locations. However, there exists a collection of unique data centers around the world that, through their architectural design or unconventional locations, defy the mundane and set new standards for what data centers can be.
Here are eight amazing data centers with designs or locations that are particularly unique.
Green Mountain, SVG1-Rennesøy, Norway
Previously known as DC1-Stavanger, Green Mountain's SVG1 data center is located in Rennesøy, Norway. This unusual data center has undergone a remarkable transformation. "The most unique feature is that the data center is built inside a mountain," Green Mountain CEO Svein Atle Hagaseth told Data Center Knowledge. "We have converted a former high-security NATO ammunition storage facility into a 22,600 sq.m colocation data center. It comprises six mountain halls, each with a two-story concrete building. This extremely secure data center can withstand a nuclear bomb and natural disasters."
Another unique feature of this Green Mountain facility is its sustainability. "When it comes to sustainability, the data center truly ticks all the boxes," says Atle Hagaseth. "It's powered by 100% renewable hydropower, it uses the adjacent fjord as the cooling source, and the waste heat generated will support a land-based lobster farm that is currently being built."
Microsoft, Project Natick, Scotland
While internet service provider Bahnhof chose to bury their unconventional data center under bedrock, Microsoft went with a different medium. Sunk 117ft deep into the water off the coast of Scotland's Orkney Islands in spring 2018, Microsoft's Project Natick was developed to test the feasibility of underwater data centers.
This ambitious venture aims to demonstrate the economic viability of manufacturing full-scale undersea data centers powered by 100% locally produced renewable energy sources. The success of Project Natick so far suggests a promising future for sustainable, secure, and efficient underwater data infrastructure. A Microsoft spokesperson told Data Center Knowledge: "While we don't currently have data centers in the water, we will continue to use Project Natick as a research platform to explore, test, and validate new concepts around data center reliability and sustainability."
Pionen White Mountain, Sweden
Few people walking along the quaint cobblestone streets of Stockholm realize that below their feet lies one of the most secure and unique data centers in the world. Originally built as a civil defense facility, the subterranean space was converted into a data center in 2008 by the Swedish Internet service provider Bahnhof.
The 12,916 sq.ft facility is buried 100ft underground under solid granite and, according to the architects, its futuristic design was inspired by sci-fi and Bond films. Said to be able to withstand a hydrogen bomb attack, the facilities also feature workplace-friendly amenities like fountains, greenhouses, simulated daylight, and even a saltwater fish tank.
Nautilus Data Technologies Data Centers
While interest in liquid cooling for data centers has increasingly gained favor over the last few years, Nautilus Data Technologies was at the cutting edge of water-cooling designs by pioneering waterborne data centers. This unique strategy involves strategically placing data centers on bodies of water, such as barges or ships, which would let them take advantage of the inherent cooling properties of water to significantly enhance energy efficiency.
Their groundbreaking methodology is the patented zero-water cooling system, which utilizes water as a medium to absorb heat generated by the data center equipment, facilitating efficient cooling without water consumption.
Google Hamina Data Center, Finland
With print continuously giving way to digital media, it seems fitting that Google would take over a disused paper mill to house one of its data centers. Lying in the Gulf of Finland among the fjords, Google's Hamina data center would likely win the award for most picturesque data center – but it's eco-friendly, too.
One of the 172,000 sq.ft facility's key draws for Google was its sustainability. "The unique location of the data center site in Hamina next to the Gulf of Finland allows us to use seawater for cooling the site and return the water directly back to the gulf, which significantly minimizes our local water consumption," explains a Google spokesperson. "Google takes a climate-conscious approach to cooling decisions for data centers around the world, which includes evaluating the local environment to determine the best cooling solution to minimize net climate impact."
Iron Mountain's WPA-1 Data Center, Pennsylvania
Some data centers seek security underground, while others focus on sustainable cooling power but what if you could have both? Iron Mountain's WPA-1 unusual data center in Pennsylvania is nestled 220ft underground in a former limestone mine near Pittsburgh. This 330,000 sq.ft facility not only boasts top-tier security and disaster resilience, but it also has access to the cooling power of an underground lake.
Iron Mountain highlights its commitment to sustainability by being the first company to construct a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) design-certified data center in North America. BREEAM is a widely respected method of assessing and certifying the sustainability of buildings.
Barcelona Supercomputing Center, Spain
Technology and spirituality harmoniously co-exist at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, which is housed in the historical Torre Girona Chapel in Barcelona, Spain. The deconsecrated chapel was originally built in the 19th century and was repurposed to accommodate the BSC, showcasing a unique blend of traditional architecture and cutting-edge technology.
"In 2004, BSC director Mateo Valero received a proposal from the Spanish government to manage and install the first MareNostrum supercomputer on the campus of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC)," Sergi Girona, operations director at BSC, told Data Center Knowledge. "We had a major handicap: they only gave us four months to set it up and we didn't even know where to put it. We needed a space of 160 sq.m, with no columns to get in the way, high and available. We only had the chapel." Obviously, it was a heavenly match.
You can book an in-person tour of this amazing data center facility or peruse it online.
Equinix MI1, Miami
What makes Equinix MI1 in Miami such an amazing data center is its remarkable resilience in the face of extreme weather conditions; notably it was built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. Equinix MI1's robust design includes advanced structural reinforcements, hurricane-resistant materials, and redundant power systems, making it a reliable fortress for critical data amid severe storms.
So how does Equinix plan to accommodate growing demands for power, space, and connectivity? "To keep pace with expected future growth, we continue to prioritize innovation in designs and efficiency in our operations through the work of our Energy Efficiency Center of Excellence (EE COE) and Co-Innovation Facility (CIF) partnerships,” says Raouf Abdel, executive vice president, global operations.
Paving the Way for More Unique Data Centers
Given increasing demands for security and sustainability, it's likely that innovation in the field of data centers will continue to grow. Whether through the repurposing of existing structures, exploring novel environments, or coming up with creative cooling solutions, the data center industry is poised for ongoing evolution.