An "Underview" of Data Centers

Michael Morey, President and CEO, Bluebird Network and Todd Murren, General Manager, Bluebird Network
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Michael Morey, President and CEO, Bluebird Network

Giants like Google have vast data centers to store their customer information and resources, with some of that protected information being stored in the cloud. Smaller data centers may host cloud computing operations or offer rack space for companies to store, power, and run Internet to their equipment. As the demand for more power and higher security presents itself, so does the demand to make sure that data centers are secure, efficient, and more powerful than ever before. To do this, we need to head underground.

  â€‹Humidity, temperature, and air flow are just a few of the key characteristics that can be controlled to ensure optimal data center operations. 

When choosing the location for the Bluebird Underground data center, we chose a facility built into a limestone shelf and surrounded by solid rock. To be straight forward, there is less to go wrong when you are in the middle of a rock. The rock protects against natural disasters such as tornados, earthquakes, and floods. The facility itself is in the middle of the Midwest which enables Bluebird Underground to be centrally located as well. However, you don’t have to go underground to have a facility surrounded by stone.  

Tucked away in the Cheyenne Mountains there lies another hidden facility. The Cheyenne Mountain Complex located in Colorado Springs takes advantage of the environment surrounding it. Carved more than a mile deep into the mountains, the former military bunker now houses electronics in a facility that can survive a nuclear attack. This is all made possible by utilizing the Earth’s natural structure and incorporating facilities with the rock solid infrastructure that she provides. This highly secure and disaster proof facility is so reliable that NORAD continues to house their equipment there.  

Now the Bluebird Underground data center doesn’t have 23-ton blast doors like the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, but it is more than eight stories below ground. When you take your operations underground, you quickly see the light. The improvements to efficiency and climate control are just a few changes you will see. By being underground, you eliminate nearly all of the potential threats that would be present for a surface data center.  

Having your data center facility located underground enables you to create a “biosphere” of sorts. Extreme temperature highs and lows can affect the performance of equipment. For example, by being located in an abandoned limestone mine, Bluebird Underground maintains a consistent year round temperature between 64-68 degrees. You have lots of control over the environment within the data center space. Humidity, temperature, and air flow are just a few of the key characteristics that can be controlled to ensure optimal data center operations.  

When there is a huge storm and thunder is rolling every which way, if lightning strikes your data center, you’re done. However, the question may present itself, “Why do I need to worry about that when I have backups in place and ready to kick on at a moment’s notice?” Are your backup generators underground? If not, there is a good chance they could be at risk too. At our facility, the backup generators and other necessary equipment are located underground which eliminates another potential risk associated with above ground data centers. Natural disasters can leave a data center without power which in turn leads to possible data disasters and costly downtime. 

Moving your operations underground not only increases the security for the equipment, but it also puts you out of sight. With over 2,000 satellites hovering around the earth, they can take a picture of just about anywhere. On the surface, that is. Having an underground facility or having your equipment in one, makes you invisible on Google Earth and Google Street View. These satellites can pick up the general area you may be in, but they cannot pinpoint an exact location. The same can be said about the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. The entrance can be found, but exact locations cannot be acquired. Being above ground also poses a danger from trespassers. Individuals without the best intentions may be able to gain access to your data if it is accessible through a public street. Being underground eliminates the potential for many threats that above ground data centers could be prone to.  Todd Murren, General Manager, Bluebird Network

From a network perspective, you are looking at diversity. Having multiple options for getting in and out of a data center as well as having multiple providers to carry you in and out is important to many customers. This direct connection to a diverse network easily connects our customers whether they need to access local or national locations. The facility that Bluebird Underground is located in, Springfield underground, is about two square miles. Some carriers come into 

it from different places, then when they converge and come in through the data center, they come in through five different physical ports in the building. That two mile zone also serves as a buffer zone to other potential issues that go could go wrong such as power lines, transformers and more.  

Bluebird Network, the parent network company of Bluebird Underground, must be able to connect with all types of telecom characters. WISP (Wireless Internet Service Providers), R-LECs (Rural Local Exchange Carriers), cable companies, and other communication carriers need a fast and reliable method to transport their data to the data center and back to where it needs to go. Being diverse also means that customers have options when it comes to entering and exiting the data center. Bluebird Underground has five different potential ports that customers can utilize, giving them the diversity they desire.  

Once you make the decision to move your operations underground, you need to dig below the surface and find out the types of security and disaster precautions that are in place to best protect your data. After uncovering the qualifications of the facilities, you can then best select which underground data center is best suited to your business and begin to relax knowing that your data and equipment are safe, secure, and protected from disaster. 

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