Some cool data centers that also keep it cool
Thursday, Feb 27th 2014

A cool data center is one thing. A data center that finds a way to be cool while remaining literally cool is another. After all, data room cooling is one of the most important components of data center maintenance. Without a suitable means of keeping servers cool, centers run the risk of exposing their data and servers to heat that could destroy information. It is a formidable challenge, but for these data centers, it is a fun challenge as well. Here are some examples of data centers that take great care of their data while clearly having some fun with the center's design:

1. Pionen data center (Stockholm): Its cavernous, underground design makes it look like a relic from the past - a Cold War bunker that now houses computers. And that's because it is: The entire facility is housed in a former nuclear bunker below the hustle and bustle of Stockholm, according to Pingdom. The designers of this facility went to great lengths to ensure that it would be like no other data center on the planet. In one room, exotic plants line the walls and a whisper of fog constantly hangs in the air. Meanwhile, the floor of the "conference room" is designed to look like the moon's surface. Count greenhouses, fish tanks and a waterfall among its other accouterments.

According to the center's CEO Jon Karlung, "Since we got hold of this unique nuclear bunker in central Stockholm deep below the rock, we just couldn't build it like a traditional – more boring – hosting center … We wanted to make something different. The place itself needed something far out in design and science fiction was the natural source of inspiration in this case."

But amid the singularly incredible ambiance, designers did not forget the importance of data room cooling. The center has equipment that funnels 1.5 megawatt of cooling throughout the facility, lending this center utility as well as beauty.

2. Google Data Center (Hamina, Finland): Most people do not enjoy punching into the office each morning. Unless, of course, that office is a sauna that overlooks some of the most picturesque rolling meadows imaginable. While the sauna does not constitute the entirety of Google's Finnish center, it is one of the options available for employees on their work breaks. Where the Pionen center was previously a bunker, Google set up shop in a former paper mill. Now the only thing that gets milled is data, overseen by employees who sit in chairs designed by noted local architect Alvar Aalto. It also features a cooling system with the efficiency (and simplicity) to match the rest of the center. To keep the center cool, water from a nearby Gulf of Finland is purified and funneled into the center. When the water is spent, it is set back to the temperature from which it was taken and returned to the Gulf, making this cooling process not only efficient but environmentally sound.

3. Deltalis Radix Cloud Data Center (Attinghausen, Switzerland):  Few locations can offer the natural beauty of the Swiss Alps. And buried within those mountains is a data center whose operations are no less beautiful. Building a data center deep in a mountain range is no easy feat, but the Deltalis RadixCloud facility proves that such challenges can reap extraordinary rewards. According to Green Data Center, the facility is able to keep server room temperature optimal by churning in nearby glacier water, a process that, like Google's, is cost-effective and eco-friendly.  

4. Iron Mountain Data Center (Pennsylvania): This is a facility that lives up to its title, since it is built into a former limestone mine. According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, this center has 3,000 employees, and they all have to travel 220 feet underground to get to work.  Like the Google and Pionen centers, Iron Mountain's has a variety of cool adornments including prints from various films lining the walls. It is also a vast repository of data, storing information for more than 2,000 enterprises in the United States. The underground location makes the center a fortress against natural disaster. Its location also provides significant data cooling center benefits, with consistent naturally occurring temperature of around 52 degrees Fahrenheit, perfect for data room maintenance. Nick Salimbene, director of business for the facility, said that despite the innovations going on 220 feet below the earth, the center's priorities lie above ground: "The most important thing for us is that our customers feel secure having their items located here."

As remarkable as these data centers are, even they need temperature and humidity monitoring equipment to ensure optimal functionality all year. Fortunately for the data centers on this list, their chosen location provides significant natural benefits which play a key role in cooling the facilities.