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The world's coolest data centers

Data centers gobble up energy and generate heat, but here are some data centers that try to do it with their own flair

  • Lakeside Technology Center, Chicago: Formerly the printing facility for the Sears catalogue, this building has been converted to a 1.1 million square foot data center. The reinforced floors, tall ceilings and high-capacity air ducts needed to accommodate printing presses proved suitable for data center equipment and cooling needs as well. Now a telecom hotel leased to Equinix and Global Center, the building has room for 210,000 computer servers and stores 300,000 gallons of fuel to for backup generators.
  • Data centers need to be secure, temperature controlled, spacious, redundant, reliable – nothing sexy. But that doesn't mean they can't be. Here are a few that rise above the crowd and take advantage of the possibilities.

  • Pionen Data Center, Sweden: Located in a Cold War era defense bunker, this data center could take a hit from an H-bomb and keep on ticking. It takes advantage of some other military technology, enlisting dual submarine engines to power backup-generators in case the conventional power grid fails. To make the working day bearable in a granite cave 100 feet below the streets of Stockholm, the facility has greenhouses, an artificial waterfall and a 686-gallon salt-water fish tank.
  • Clumeq, Université Laval, Quebec, Canada: Housed inside a renovated Van de Graaf particle-accelerator facility used for atomic research. Data gear is distributed over three circular floors totaling 2,700 square feet.
  • Citi Data Center, Frankfurt, Germany: The facility uses fresh air for cooling, reverse osmosis to reduce sediment build-up in cooling towers and thereby saving 13 million gallons of water per year and uses virtualization to reduce the number of physical servers needed. But the building also has a green roof made up of living plants that help reduce runoff from the building and to keep it cool. The green wall shown here is made up of living plants that don't improve the efficiency of the center, but promote biodiversity at the site.
  • Emerson Data Center, Ferguson, Mo.: To help reduce the enormous power demand of this 35,000-square-foot data center, the rooftop is mostly solar panels that can generate 100k watts of power – not a lot by data center standards, but helpful.
  • Iron Mountain Data Center, Butler County, Pa.: Built in a limestone mine, this experimental data center room cools equipment directly into the limestone, which can absorb 1.5 BTUs per square foot. Because of this absorption, the test room uses no cooled raised flooring, and it directs heat through ceiling panels and blows it across the roof of the shafts to cool. The facility also uses water from an underground lake to cool. The goal is to determine the site's geothermal properties and take advantage of them to save money.
  • InfoBunker Collocation Facility, Near Des Moines, Iowa: Built as a U.S. Air Force bunker that could survive a nuclear attack, this underground facility's only outward sign is the communications tower left over from its military use, a parking lot and a few outbuildings, as shown in this photo by blogger Brian Tiemann, who took this picture during his visit there. The rest is underground. It is shielded from electromagnetic pulses, features isolation pads to shield equipment from shocks, stores enough diesel fuel for six days and 17,000 gallons of fresh water reserves.
  • i/o Data Centers's Phoenix ONE, Phoenix: Ranked among the top 10 largest data centers in the world by Data Center Knowledge, Phoenix ONE occupies 538,000 square feet and is collocated with the company's corporate headquarters. Among its innovative features are cooling tanks filled with a mix of ice balls and glycol that are cooled during the night when electricity is less expensive, then help keep the solution cool during the day when it is used to keep temperatures down in the data center. It also uses low-power LED lighting to keep down heat and reduce overall power consumption.
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