Unusual Data Center Locations
To save money, consider sites that are off the beaten path.
Data center managers are concerned about going green because doing so potentially saves a lot of money. There are altruistic reasons for going green, but from a business standpoint, measuring your power usage effectiveness (PUE) and reducing the amount of power a data center consumes allows companies to be more efficient power consumers. This focus on energy efficiency yields savings that can be seen on the bottom line.
There are other ways to find dramatic bottom line savings that have nothing to do with energy use. Recycling is green, especially when recycling real estate. Finding inexpensive real estate and converting it for data center hosting can potentially save lots of money that shows up as bottom line savings. But you have to think creatively to find esoteric yet compatible real estate sources. That is exactly what data center providers Vaultas and Cavern did.
Building a brand new data center is an expensive affair. A site has to be selected, a building constructed, and then racks, power, and cooling are ordered on a formulaic basis depending on how the space will be used. Occasionally, you get lucky by finding a space that can be converted to a data center location less expensively than building a new location. Even more rarely, you are exceptionally lucky and find a location that is built up and ready to use with existing equipment and infrastructure in place that requires minimal rehabilitation. Vaultas fell into this exceptionally lucky group.
Vaultas took over a data center that is a 10,000-sq-ft, Tier III facility expandable to over 20,000 sq ft. The data center facility is located in the Blatz Brewery Complex on Market Street in historic downtown Milwaukee.
Milwaukee has a long history with beer as anyone who ever watched Laverne and Shirley or watched a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game knows. At one time, Milwaukee was home to Blatz, Miller, Pabst, and Schlitz, which is “the beer that made Milwaukee famous,” according to their ads. Milwaukee still retains the historic ties to beer through many small breweries and the Milwaukee Miller-Coors brewery complex.
The Blatz Brewery Complex was mainly developed in the 1850s to 1870s. The Vaultas data center is housed in the Blatz Brewer Wash House building, which is located right next to the brewery. The original wash house was where Blatz washed the yeast so it could be reused for the next batch of beer. The current office building was built in 1960 and called the Wash House for historical continuity since it was built on the same location as the old Wash House.
Pabst later sold the site to Ameritech, who decided to build a data center space because of the close location to a carrier hotel located just a few blocks away on 324 E. Wisconsin. SBC Communications purchased Ameritech in 1999 and AT&T in 2006. After SBC acquired AT&T, it made no sense for one company to maintain both the Ameritech and AT&T data centers in Milwaukee, so plans to build the Wash House data center were halted and the space was sold.
Vaultas has been developing data centers since 2009. They recognized the value in acquiring the space with so much existing infrastructure in place, so they moved in and took advantage of the opportunity. The data center provides 150 W/sq ft. It has 2 MW of power capacity fed from a redundant 5 MW power loop. The site has twin 300 KVA UPSs and a 500 KW generator.
There are four onsite fiber carriers with access to 25+ carriers through its close proximity to the carrier hotel. The site has fiber and copper cross connects. Vaultas has a carrier-neutral and vendor-neutral business model. They will allow customers to access any carrier that they require. Vaultas provides access to whatever carrier networks or full service managed IT service providers that the customer requires.
From a security standpoint, the Vaultas location is SSAE 16 compliant. It is outside of the 500-year flood zone. The location is key carded and has man traps. There is also closed circuit TV with 60 days of video archives.
Many data center managers have visited or managed data centers that would be considered just some hole in the wall. But a hole in the ground is something completely different and putting a data center in a cave is one of the more unusual locations.
Cavern Technologies Inc. has been in business since 2007. They recognized an opportunity and acquired the “land.” Cavern has 60,000 sq ft of purpose-built data center space currently online. They are breaking (under)ground on another 100,000 sq ft. According to Kevin Fleming, vice president, business development, Cavern will be the largest data center in the Midwest after it adds the additional space and grows to 160,000 sq ft.
Why would you ever consider putting your data center underground? There are some unique advantages to locating your data center in a cave.
• The space is secure from natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and other acts of Mother Nature.
• It is protected from flooding by being in one of the high points in the county.
• It is 300 miles away from the closest fault line.
• The space is energy efficient. It has a constant 68°F ambient temperature because it is underground and surrounded by limestone.
• It is an Energy Star® rated facility.
• The location has a 50 MW capacity. It has dual power feeds coming from separate substations. All the mechanical equipment is underground in the hardened facility.
• It offers private data suites.
Cavern Technologies operates the data center in a cave in Kansas City which is 125-ft underground. The data center is part of a larger 3 million-sq-ft facility. The entire location is operated by Meritex, a Minneapolis-based commercial real estate development firm.
Collocating your data center in a cave may seem unusual. However, many companies have realized the benefits of this unique location. More than 90 companies have moved into the space, including health care, financial, legal, and technology companies.
Cavern also offers bandwidth from multiple carriers including Centurylink, TW telecom, AT&T, Time Warner Business Class, and Surewest underground fiber cables that enter the below ground facility through diverse routes. Their SONET ring ensures total network redundancy. They have access to numerous power substations and deep electric capacity. Kansas City Power and Light Company electricity attracts data center deployments to the region because of their low rates and reliability. The power rates in the Kansas City metropolitan area is 3.5 to 4.5 cents/kWh.
Cavern also provides security accreditation through their SAS-70 and SSAE 16 Type II certifications. They also provide a wide range of access control systems including biometric key locks, camera systems, key card access, and motion sensors.