The Hidden World of Underground Data Centers: Unveiling Their Advantages and Challenges

In a world where data is at the core of our daily lives, data centers play a vital role in storing, processing, and securing this invaluable resource. Traditionally, data centers have been above ground, but there’s a growing trend towards underground data centers due to several unique advantages they offer. A recent interview with Bluebird Networks’

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Greg Cantrell, Facilities Manager at Bluebird Underground (BBU), a pioneering underground data center in Springfield, Missouri, shed light on the intriguing world beneath our feet and the factors influencing the adoption of underground data centers.

Geographical Location Matters

The geographical location of an underground facility is one of the critical factors influencing its feasibility. Moisture and humidity can pose significant challenges in underground data centers, particularly in underground mines. Bluebird Underground’s unique advantage lies in its dry mine location. With no nearby rivers or lakes to push water into the sides of the mine, they can maintain a consistent 60% humidity level, eliminating the need for extensive humidity control.

Size Matters

Size indeed matters in the world of underground data centers. Smaller facilities may not have enough room for critical infrastructure like generators and cooling, which can leave them vulnerable to external elements. Larger facilities, such as Bluebird Underground, can accommodate these components while offering the benefit of additional space for future expansion.

Weather and Disaster Resilience

Underground data centers have a clear advantage when it comes to weather resilience, particularly in regions prone to natural disasters like tornadoes. The absence of the need for weatherproofing and the natural shelter provided by the underground environment can lead to cost savings and increased data center speed to market. A prime example of the risk posed by tornadoes was the Joplin tornado in Missouri, which impacted a small data center within a bank.

Earthquake and Flooding Concerns

Customers considering underground data centers often express concerns about earthquakes and flooding. While earthquakes are more prevalent in certain regions like California, Springfield, Missouri, isn’t in a high earthquake risk zone. Engineers designing Bluebird Underground took precautions by leaving more columns and rocks in the mine to ensure it remains intact even in the event of an earthquake. Flooding concerns are addressed through geographical factors and meticulous engineering, which prevent water from seeping into the mine.

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Expansive Underground Space

The potential for expansion is a crucial consideration for any data center. Bluebird Underground, with an 80,000 square foot facility, has access to an astonishing two million square feet of unfinished mine space, providing ample room for growth. They also have the right of refusal on an additional 100,000 square feet around their current location.

Unique Operational Challenges

Operating an underground data center comes with unique challenges. Careful planning is necessary for drilling holes to bring in utilities, exhaust hot air, and manage resource delivery. The constant ambient temperature of 65 degrees and year-round humidity around 60% underground offer significant cooling benefits. This stable environment allows for efficient data center cooling systems, resulting in energy savings and extended equipment lifespan.

Enhanced Security and Sustainability

Underground data centers have an added layer of security as they remain hidden from public view. Additionally, they often employ stringent security measures and controlled access. Clients seeking added data security, like healthcare providers and managed service providers, are particularly attracted to underground facilities.

In conclusion, the world of underground data centers holds a treasure trove of unique benefits, from enhanced weather resilience and security to sustainable cooling solutions. Geographical location, size, and thoughtful engineering are key factors contributing to the success of these innovative data centers. While the adoption of underground data centers may be influenced by various factors, their resilience and energy efficiency make them an intriguing option for the future of data storage and processing. To truly appreciate this hidden world, a visit to a facility like Bluebird Underground may be a fascinating experience, revealing the immense possibilities that lie beneath the Earth’s surface.

To learn more about Bluebird Network’s Underground Data Center, please visit their website.