A Literal Data Mine

Author

Hugo Moreno, Contributor

March 8, 2016

Deep underneath Norway’s craggy northwest coast, through tunnels hollowed out by miners decades ago, preparations are under way to transform a man-made mountain hall into a massive datacenter. At a planned 200 megawatts, Lefdal Mine Datacenter has the potential to become the largest in Europe. A recent Forbes Insights case study sponsored by IBM, “In the Hall of the Mountain Data King,” takes a look at the datacenter’s development.

It may also be one of the greenest datacenters on the planet, powered by renewable energy and cooled by water from a fjord just south of the mine. And it will be one of the most resilient as well. More than 100 meters of high-density rock provides natural protection from electromagnetic disruptions, and the single point of entry is concealed in the mountain and secured by a series of steel doors.

Resilience is built in to the technical development of the Tier III datacenter as well. IBM is the technology partner for Lefdal Mine Datacenter, developing the technical design and providing an independent quality assurance for the entire blueprint from the beginning. IBM will also offer clients resiliency services for data and server protection from within the mine once the facility goes live in August 2016.

The mine was once a source for olivine, a dense mineral used in casting aluminum and steel because of its high melting point. But the mine has sat empty and nearly invisible for the last few decades. For Lefdal’s owners—a group of local residents and farmers who own the land above the mine—it was hard to visualize what to do with all that underground space. The idea came about seven years ago when the mine’s former CEO was on a hike: why not take advantage of the natural security of the existing structure, as well as Norway’s cool climate and surplus hydropower, to create a green IT environment for the 21st century?

Construction is already well under way at the mine, though it’s hard to see from the outside. The entrance to the mine is almost hidden from the two-lane mountain access road. It looks like the arched opening to a natural cave—except for the giant steel door and security features.

Even from the inside, it’s hard to imagine how massive the mine is. Picture a spiral road, gradually descending 150 meters through the rock. The spiral is 14 meters wide—wide enough for two tractor-trailers to pass easily—and connects to boulevards running across six levels. Radiating off the boulevard are streets running through the chambers that will hold the servers.

The chambers are where the servers will live, stacked on top of one another in containers. The 75 chambers in the mine are 11 meters to 18 meters high, giving them the feel of a cathedral. Each will be able to hold multiple containers, two on either side of the road and stacked three or four high, connected within each chamber by a series of walkways and stairways. Using server and power modules, housed in standard shipping containers, will allow for quick installation in the mine and easy placement and movement.

Above ground, a reception area and an office building are under construction. Datacenter clients will have access to designated office space, meeting and staging rooms, secure storage areas for deliveries and nearby accommodation facilities. Existing fiber rings connect the mine to Europe and to Asia through northern Russia. Fiber also runs near Lefdal, across Iceland to North America.

 

This article was written by Hugo Moreno from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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