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Iron Mountain's Experimental Room 48 87

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the secret-lair-anyone dept.
twailgum writes "Twenty-two stories underground in Iron Mountain's Western Pennsylvania facility, 'you'll find Room 48, an experiment in data center energy efficiency. Open for just six months, the room is used by Iron Mountain to discover the best way to use geothermal conditions and engineering designs to establish the perfect environment for electronic documents. Room 48 is also being used to devise a geothermal-based environment that can be tapped to create efficient, low-cost data centers.'"
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Iron Mountain's Experimental Room 48

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  • YES! (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Nothing like a geo-thermal, 20+ story deep, deep-mountain lair.

  • by Icegryphon (715550) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:30AM (#30376750)
    Ever since I have seen the History channel [history.com] episode I found the idea quite fascinating.
    Always wondered who and how they plan out which direction they use to cut new rooms.
    • by The Archon V2.0 (782634) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:52AM (#30378128)

      Always wondered who and how they plan out which direction they use to cut new rooms.

      Computerized simulations. Right now they have a massive military force built up just in case they hit adamantine and follow the vein to a glowing pit.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      I actually like the office [computerworld.com] that the Vice President of Engineering has. Wouldn't it be much fun to walk into an underground lair to work every day?
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "Wouldn't it be much fun to walk into an underground lair to work every day?"

        As long as it isn't room 101...

    • Am I the only one thinking Planet of the Krell" [imdb.com] here? Waiting for the giant spark-emitting elevators next.
    • by Kapsar (585863)
      Having been in this facility, and know people who work in it, I have to say it's a rather surreal experience to go into it. The entrance is tall enough and wide enough for two or three semi-trucks to drive through. The walls look like they should be in an old time superman tvshow. They just look fake. They pipe in three or four radio stations from the area. It's also an extremely high security area, there are guards outside with machine guns. After 9/11 there was a rumor that Cheney was moved there fo
    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Always wondered who and how they plan out which direction they use to cut new rooms.

      They used state of the art simulation software [bay12games.com], of course.

  • by zmaragdus (1686342) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:32AM (#30376772)

    perfect environment for electronic documents

    Kernel Butler: Would you like a defragmentation this evening, sir?
    Document: No thank you. I would however like an integrity scan.
    Kernel Butler: Right away sir. Anything for Mrs. Backup?
    Backup: No thank you. I just got all my bits redone at the BZip2 fitness center. I've been trying to watch my size and nothing's been working until -
    Document: Oh, do be quiet. You've been prattling on about your size for ages. Nothing's wrong with size. I've just cleared 1MB and I'm none the worse for it.
    Kernel Butler: Anything else, sir or madame?
    Document: No, that will be all.
    Kernel Butler: Thank you. I will schedule your scan immediately, sir. Goodnight.

  • by manyxcxi (1037382) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:34AM (#30376778) Journal
    I wonder if the cost of digging into the side of the hill and carving out all these facilities is recouped through energy savings very quickly. I guess it all depends on the number of machines they would be running and the cost of electricity in their area- but if it takes 20 years, or even 10 to recoup the cost is it worth it?
    • by Thud457 (234763) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:44AM (#30376846) Homepage Journal
      The Iron Mountain facility in PA is recycling a old limestone mine, so it didn't cost them anything (extra) to dig out the space.
      • Good bit of trivia, that. Dew you think they considered incorporating Lime Mountain? Probably left a bad taste in someone's mouth.

    • by ServerIrv (840609) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:46AM (#30376878)
      The probability of digging into any old hillside and create a facility like this is quite low and would be quite expensive. The reason this exists is due to a (profitable) mining operation in the first place. So, that should answer your question. Yes, mining is a profitable business and it is worth the cost to take natural elements out of a mountain. Once the resources have been harvested simply starting a data center in the space left over would be worth the cost. Another geological bonus for this location is a nearby underground lake that can be used as for thermal transfer.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by truthsearch (249536)

      I'm wondering the same thing. I'm also curious about environmental impact. Less cooling systems mean less carbon emissions, but that's possibly offset by the all the work to excavate.

      I guess it all depends on how long the data center runs down there. Eventually running cool underground could pay off because it could be used for the next 100+ years.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Stachybotris (936861)
      Pennsylvania is riddled with old mines, both from limestone and coal excavation. It's relatively cheap to purchase 'waste' space that another company excavated fifty to seventy years ago.

      Also, I'm a little remiss that I never knew this existed. I grew up one county over from Butler County and would have loved to have toured a facility like this. Then again, it probably didn't exist in its present state when I was growing up...
      • by nitehawk214 (222219) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @10:55AM (#30377562)

        I am from the area, and the Pennsylvania mine was almost solely government records for a long time. Iron Mountain took over in the late 90's. You see Iron Mountain trucks all over Pittsburgh collecting records now.

        • I am from the area, and the Pennsylvania mine was almost solely government records for a long time. Iron Mountain took over in the late 90's. You see Iron Mountain trucks all over Pittsburgh collecting records now.

          Yes. As a matter of fact, they were going door-to-door. A few weeks ago, I got a knock on my door. Turns out it was some Iron Mountain dude, wanted to know if I had any electronic records I cared to offload. Said he'd free up some GB for me.

    • I wonder if the cost of digging into the side of the hill and carving out all these facilities is recouped through energy savings very quickly. I guess it all depends on the number of machines they would be running and the cost of electricity in their area- but if it takes 20 years, or even 10 to recoup the cost is it worth it?

      It's an old question - opex vs. capex. For long term value, where you see the expense would be accelerating for one factor over time (energy costs) it may make sense to make a large capital expenditure to bring that down. A loan is something a business can eventually pay out to zero. If it's an element that's core to your business, it makes even more sense.

      Energy use is a large part of the cost of any data centre. Cost is likely to go up over time.

      One of the cool things about digging down for a DC is th

  • by vvaduva (859950) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:37AM (#30376808)

    Very cool stuff, but the rest of us who don't own mines don't really benefit from this solution. TFA says the mine layout and the underground lake are an "anomaly" of nature to begin with. We need solutions for "normal" data centers.

    Either way, this was a great read. Thanks for sharing.

    • by Thanshin (1188877) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:47AM (#30376890)

      Very cool stuff, but the rest of us who don't own mines don't really benefit from this solution. TFA says the mine layout and the underground lake are an "anomaly" of nature to begin with. We need solutions for "normal" data centers.

      Ah, the classic Dwarven Fortress "Your build only works with an underground lake, a magma river and a giant spider inhabited chasm" problem.

      I suggest the classic Dwarven Fortress solution: "Select your site based on the natural elements and build the artificial ones." Oh and also "Don't let workers bring cats to the data center."

    • by Tekfactory (937086) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @10:03AM (#30377028) Homepage

      Well, if you don't want any geothermal heat for electricity, you can use one of these for just cooling.

      I worked for an outfit where I had to audit a facility that was built in an old Limestone Quarry (basically a flat underground mine, not an open pit mine) there were 3 million square feet of useful space underground around 80-100 feet deep. There are lots of these facilities in the Kansas City area, most of them are used for warehousing.

      Anyhow for our needs it was constant temperature in the 60s and constant humidity, unfortunately despite poured concrete floors, and cinder block partition walls, there was a lot of dust from the unpainted ceilings. Also folks periodically found rocks in their workspaces that would fall from the ceiling.

      It worked really well for paper records, but until we dealt with the dust, it played merry hell with our drive arrays.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AdmiralAl (1136661)
        I currently work in one of these Kansas City area limestone caves. My company runs a datacenter/colo here and we don't run into this problem of dust playing merry hell with the drive arrays. The solution...paint the ceiling and install ceiling tiles to create a "normal" room. No rocks, no dust, just a clean and efficient datacenter.
    • by Aeros (668253)
      what? you have no mine? Sorry to hear that.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:47AM (#30376886) Journal
    Geothermal energy to heat homes is either renewable or cheap, not both at the same time.

    I had a colleague from Europe, where geothermal heating was very popular in 1980s. What they did not realize was that the earth is such a insulator that the available "heat" from the ground slowly gets used up and over some 20 years there is nothing left, the earth surrounding the buried pipe got so cold and the heat from the surrounding does not flow in fast enough.

    Not an insurmountable problem. They should pump heat back into the ground in summer by using the same pipes as the radiator for their A/C. But if they cheap out during installation, the geothermal heat wont be renewable.

    • Can you renew it with an underground detonation?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jazz-Masta (240659)

      They should pump heat back into the ground in summer

      This is why man invented global warming.

    • by mollog (841386)
      I was planning to use my well for a water-source geothermal heat pump for my home. The electric furnace needs work and is expensive to operate. From what I hear, I can get 300-400% efficiency with this type of system.

      It is interesting to hear that the ground in the European installation got cold. I would have expected that heat would migrate up to re-warm the earth. But I'll be both cooling and heating my system with the ground water.
      • by JSBiff (87824)

        If what the GP says is true, probably what happened was they were just using the heat available from too small of a volume, I imagine.

        I'm no expert on Thermodynamics, but I did decently well in my college physics courses, so my slightly educated guess is that they were drawing the energy from too small a volume of earth. If I bury a heat exchanger underground, then start using a heat pump to draw energy out of the earth at some rate per second, let's call it R, I can do that with a small heat exchanger buri

    • Interested to hear about your reference on "the earth's energy being used up" - do you have any references? I thought that using the earth as a storage device was more about the ground gathering solar heat and giving it up slowly during the winter, a bit like the sea (amelioration effect near the seaside for coastal towns), and also heat gradually permeating up from the centre.

      Really interested to hear if the storage of heat gets "used up" and takes several years to warm up to the temperature of the ground

      • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:29PM (#30379258) Journal
        Will find citations about this problem. Essentially Geothermal building heating systems bury a large loop of pipe in the ground well below the frost line and circulate water through them. They use a heat pump (air conditioner running in reverse) with the ground as the source and the building as the sink. You need to put in mechanical energy to keep the system going. Figure of merit is the measure of how many units of heat is delivered to the building for each unit of energy used to drive the heat pump. Back when I was doing Thermody I (thank you Dr Bhaskar and Dr Venkatesh) this number was between 6 and 8. Now a days I see high efficiency aircons with efficicency ration in the 12, 13 or 14. Not sure if this is directly figure of merit of the heat pump or some factor involved.

        Coming to the "earth heat being used up", essentially as the pump operates the earth in immediate contact with the buried loop starts cooling down and heat from further up would "flow" towards the buried loop. After running this system for decades there will be temperature gradient next to the loop. Most places in USA the frost line is 42 inches. That is no matter how cold the air gets, it can not raise the temp 42 inches below the ground above freezing! Shows how good an insulator earth is.

        After two decades of operation the ground next to the loop reaches freezing temp. There is the temperature gradient, even though the temperature beyond three of four feet is much above freezing and places six to eight feet from the loop is practically not affected by heat pump running for decades, the heat pump becomes very very inefficient.

      • by lgw (121541)

        The total net outflow of heat from the Earth's core isn't that large. It's about 1/10000 of solar power (per square meter of surface area) on average, IIRC. There are a few locations where it's plentiful, but on the whole it's just the ground storing solar thermal heat.

      • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

        Ground temperature at the surface to a reasonable depth (not sure exactly what that is) is equal to the average annual temperature. The problem is doing horizontal pipes below the frost line vs. vertical bores spaced adequately apart.

        We looked at doing a geothermal project for a limestone mine to be converted to a data center, but it wasn't practical as they filled it in to reduce flooding risk and chamber height. Best approach is heating/cooling the aquifer, but that has similar problems at a macro-scale

    • by Anonymous Coward

      [citation needed]
      Seriously, I live ub the middle of Europe, and I am very interested in renewable energy (because once I can afford a house, I will most certainly not be able to afford oil) - and I have never heard about anything like that.

      Do you have something more credible than "my colleague told me so"??

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      They kind of imply this as a "growth option/plan" in the TFA.

      The owner wants to pipe cold air down to the underground lake in the winter to freeze it, and use the lake for cooling.

      It reminds me of someone who built a year-round refrigerator that basically operated by freezing water into a giant chunk of ice in the winter, and then using that ice for cooling year round. They used a homebrew heatpipe system, and took advantage of what is normally a problem in heatpipes - they only work if your heat source is

  • to establish the perfect environment for electronic documents.

    Ten 0s for every 1?
    • Should be no problem, there are plenty of "electronic documents" that have characteristics "of a highly stimulating nature".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @10:01AM (#30377012)

    I find it funny that this is being run as an experiment since I work at a mine.

    We've had our datacenter down a '2 level' (~300ft) for years where it's secure (IE: Hard to get to) and a constant 4 celcius regardless of the season.

    Only major issue we've had is with regards to humidity and ensuring that the dewatering pumps keep running. (Although... at a 5200 ft in depth it would take a few years for the water to get to the DC if the pumps shut off)

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      They mention in TFA that the geology of the Iron Mountain mine is somewhat unique in that it has a shale cap - the end result being that the mine area is very dry until you descend to the level of the lake.

  • Iron Mountain cut energy consumption for cooling by between 10% and 15% compared with the company's traditional data centers

    For now, Iron Mountain uses the lake water .... the 50-degree water could eventually be circulated to the data center and back to the lake to naturally expel heat .... "We'd like to get to the point where we expend no energy for cooling," Doughty explained

    They are awesome. It's like Zion.

  • ..Also includes the T-Virus...
  • It seems to me that moving the power distribution out of the mine NEGATES the supposed archive integrity of the deep mine.
    Experts?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mollog (841386)
      Out of the mine, or out of the datacenter?

      They are already moving warm air out of the datacenter. I would suppose that air can then pass through the power room to cool it, too.
  • Ever since I had to travel to our BC/DR data center I find these stories bland. We are using a decommissioned Cold War Era federal government nuclear fallout command center.

    Would you rather have your digital documents stored in a mineshaft, or in a data center rated to withstand nuclear bombs and EMPs?

    http://infobunker.com/ [infobunker.com]

    • by karnal (22275)

      I'd much rather be in that facility myself - rather than my digital documents - if nuclear bombs started falling close to my location.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by plover (150551) *

        I'd much rather be in that facility myself - rather than my digital documents - if nuclear bombs started falling close to my location.

        I think I'd rather be out getting a suntan that day. Do you really want to spend the rest of your very shortened life starving to death while defending a concrete hole in the ground from roving gangs of mutants? Surrounded by a post-apocalyptic wasteland? The only settlements will make Bartertown look like a nice family-oriented place to live. And don't forget the cannibals. And probably zombies, too.

        Nope, the cockroaches are going to be the only winners of that battle; why fight them for the crown?

      • by Akita24 (1080779)
        Not me. I like things indoor plumbing, fresh, running water and the Internet. If we're going to end civilization as we know it I'd rather be at ground zero sipping on a Guiness. You can have the post-apocalypse all to yourself.
    • Meh. In the war of the mission statements, Iron Mountain wins.

      Infobunker: InfoBunker is committed to providing our clients with the most secure, robust and flexible data storage environment attainable while maintaining affordability and delivering the utmost in customer service.

      Iron Mountain: Helping businesses solve information management challenges.

      I mean seriously, did the infobunker folks run the Buzzword Mission Statement generator when coming up with that, or are their marketing execs truly that

      • Meh. In the war of the mission statements, Iron Mountain wins.

        Infobunker: InfoBunker is committed to providing our clients with the most secure, robust and flexible data storage environment attainable while maintaining affordability and delivering the utmost in customer service.

        Iron Mountain: Helping businesses solve information management challenges.

        I mean seriously, did the infobunker folks run the Buzzword Mission Statement generator when coming up with that, or are their marketing execs truly that... um, talented?

        Meh. In the war of nuclear bombs, InfoBunker wins. I mean seriously, nuclear bombs.

        • A couple of miles of limestone are as effective as a lesser quantity of lead ... that is to say after a certain distance, 100% effective.
          • A couple of miles of limestone are as effective as a lesser quantity of lead ... that is to say after a certain distance, 100% effective.

            Ok well then is it N+2, can it sustain human life for 3mo after the nukes go off, does it have multiple fiber connects, microwave, and satellite networking? Does it filter the air to .3 microns? You're not doing a good job of convincing me that an old mineshaft is better than a purpose built, to military spec, nuclear fallout command center.

            • I've no idea, tell you the truth. I'm not a salesperson for them, I was just shooting for a vaguely witty remark indicating that at first glance, infobunker seems more about a keen slogan than a useful service. Clearly there's more to them than first impression.

              But here goes anyway - damn you for making me use my brain. I am making certain assumptions based on what I've read -- primary among them being that IM didn't just jam a data center into the old mine any way it would fit.

              It seems that the bigg

  • Expansion is difficult, and the setup is very expensive to begin with.

    I wonder how this compares cost-wise with Google's offshore data centers.

    http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2008/09/06/google-planning-offshore-data-barges/ [datacenterknowledge.com]

    • by onepoint (301486)

      Anything at sea will always be slight more expensive when it comes to the ware-and-tear section of the spread sheet.

      they have to deal with salt spray and fresh water rain. both different oxidation processes and air pollution ( amazingly enough from my own observations, salt spray does not increase damage on exhaust vents, but fresh water does, this is just an observation, I have yet to do a controlled experiment on this, i think it's based on the reaction of fresh water with the acids of the exhaust but sal

  • by Tired and Emotional (750842) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @12:37PM (#30378686)
    ... a direct hit by a Sarah Palin
    • Yeah, you want to guard against that. She knows all about computers 'cause she can see one from her porch.
      Then again, a direct hit is unlikely, because she'd have to, you know, "...do a whole buncha boring technical stuff just to get ready...", and quit before she ever got close.

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