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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Nail estimates the energy investment paid for itself within a few years.

The 2,000-square foot data center is steel-framed and uses no wood except for its interior door frames. Walls are 12 inches thick and are insulated with recycled material. Not to rest on its laurels, is now working on a green roof -- basically a rooftop garden that will be stocked with drought-resistant plants. That addition should reduce its cooling costs by more than 50%, the company says. is redundant to a fare-thee-well, Nail says. "We use remote management, we have redundant monitoring servers. I even carry two cell phones on two different providers in case there's a problem with [cell] coverage," he explains.

In the mines

DeBeers Canada put the data center for its newly opened Snap Lake diamond mine into two cargo ship containers retrofitted with doors, windows and insulation for IT use. The environment is punishing. The data center is in Canada's Northwest Territories in the Arctic Circle, some 190 miles north of DeBeers' regional office in Yellowknife. Temperatures at the mine site can hit the 90s in the summer and plummet to negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.

DeBeers' data center, in the Arctic Circle, in two retrofitted shipping containers.
DeBeers' data center, in the Arctic Circle, in two retrofitted shipping containers. (Click image to see larger view)

"We built out walls, windows and have two racks of servers and put in giant truck air conditioners on both ends," says Ben Lacasse, IT superintendent. Shipping containers don't have windows and have cargo doors instead of the usual type, so windows had to be put in after the fact.

While the mine just opened for business, the data center itself has been in operation for a year, and has handled the load and temps just fine, Lacasse said.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-based freelance writer, can be reached at

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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