Data centers get religion

Would you house a data center in a diamond mine or an old chapel? These organizations did, with great success.

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A real bunker mentality

If you want an even more hardened environment for your data, you might look at the aptly named InfoBunker in Boone, Iowa, about an hour outside Des Moines.

It's about as hard-core as you get -- a 1960s era "purpose-built" underground site that once housed communications equipment used by the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the U.S. Air Force.

Conversion started three years ago, with the site opening for business last October, says Jason McGinnis, president of InfoBunker.

"We have two major sale pitches: One is a lot of open space. We provide standard racks and also private rooms, which have special cooling for equipment," McGinnis says.

The other is sheer security. The 65,000-square-foot, five-story site is dug deep into the ground. No one gets in without passing though the 4.5-ton steel door and then a three-step process. A scanner uses radio frequency to read the would-be entrant's skin as a biometric identifier. He then needs to use a keycard and enter a code on the keypad. This three-tier security is standard for high-level military installations, McGinnis explains.

The site itself offers the speedy network, the power and the cooling -- "everything a modern computing site needs except the computers," McGinnis says.

InfoBunker's Cold War roots show in its three-foot-thick reinforced concrete construction built to survive a "maximum probable event." That would be a 20-megaton nuclear blast at 2.5 miles away. The facility was constructed to keep operating in complete isolation mode -- cut off from the rest of the world and all its amenities -- for three months, according to InfoBunker's Web site.

Other perks: Electro Magnetic Pulse protection up to military standards, multistage air filtering to screen out particles larger than three microns. Dust and particles are not a computer's friends and can really gum up the works. Also on-site are a 16,000-gallon water supply for fire suppression, a six-day fuel reserve and a backup 750 kW generator.

The site is equipped with the Nortel communications systems and American Power Conversion power gear, including line conditioners.

Going green with renewable energy

In contrast to the data centers described above, which force-fit technology gear into existing structures, started from scratch to build a "green" data center relying on alternative energy, says Phil Nail, chief technology officer at Affordable Internet Services Online Inc., a Web hoster and design firm in Romoland, Calif., which hosted the Live Earth Web effort, uses solar panels to run its IBM X Series servers, NetApps clustered SAN servers and a whole lot of VMware. It also relies on solar tubes to pipe in natural light and recycles its "gray" water for landscaping. Special air conditioning units monitor outside temperature so when it drops to below 60 degrees outside, the building brings that air inside.

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