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Florida Town Builds Data Center In Water Tank 104

Posted by Soulskill
from the zombie-proof-computing dept.
miller60 writes "The Florida town of Altamonte Springs has converted an old water storage tank into a new data center. The decommissioned tank previously held up to 770,000 gallons of water, but its 18-inch-thick walls provided a hurricane-proof home for the town's IT gear, which had to be relocated three times in 2004 to ride out major storms. The Altamonte Springs facility is the latest example of data centers in strange places, including chapels, shopping malls, cargo ships, old particle accelerators and caves."
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Florida Town Builds Data Center In Water Tank

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    You just dive in and swim to the server racks.

    • by bysin (173686) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @12:05AM (#33866064) Homepage

      You just dive in and swim to the server racks.

      There's a new job opening in Altamonte, a sysadmin that is SCUBA certified.

      • by b4upoo (166390)

        I live in a hurricane zone in Florida. The joy of a water tank is that it will not flood. Flooding is perhaps the greatest hazard of hurricanes. Some storms drop tremendous amounts of water and if those storms are moving slowly they can stay overhead for a solid week. Huge rains accompanies by abnormally high tides with storm surges as well all lead to a sudden aquatic environment. It can get very deadly at times.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Gilmoure (18428)

          I worked at Eckerd College, in St. Pete, back in late '90's/early 00's. Now, this school is right on the inter-coastal waterway (has it's own private beach) and about 2' above sea level. Man, ever try unracking every farking server in a small school and man handling them up through an uncooled attic opening, there to be wrapped in multiple layers of plastic? In the summer?!!!

          They finally got funds to build a real data center (instead of using old admin offices on ground level) and now the machines are at le

        • by vgerdj (742840)
          you could have just left out the 'in a hurricane zone', as it is redundant
    • by santax (1541065)
      Well actually, if they would fill it with pure water that would give no problems. Doesn't conduct electricity and it will cool those servers down.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Thinboy00 (1190815)

        The energy costs etc. of keeping it pure enough to not conduct would far exceed the energy costs of sufficient AC.

        • by santax (1541065)
          yeah, but that's not cool. Hmm.
        • by wisty (1335733)

          Vegetable oil and lard both have very low conductivities. But then you would need a sysadmin who is SCUBA qualified AND doesn't mind swimming in oil or pig fat.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by pantherace (165052)

          You could use Fluorinert and avoid having to deal with purity, but that would still far exceed the cost given the one time I got a price on it...

          Apparently, it's sold more widely now, so at $40 per 5 mL, to fill the 770,000 gallons... $23,318,136,600

          (Probably cheaper in bulk) I wonder about Google going to this someday.

      • Pure Water leads to other issues. H2O is not a happy molecule and tends to rip ions from other atoms to stabilize itself. AKA Pure water + electricity lead to very fast rusting. Not too mention the Electrolysis. Though that could then be used for a fuel cell.
      • by nmg196 (184961)

        > Doesn't conduct electricity and it will cool those servers down.

        Pure distilled water certainly does conduct electricity! Throw a hair dryer or toaster in it and it will go bang. The hope you'd have of keeping equipment up and running in water is to keep the high voltage power supplies out of the way. 12 and 5V lines probably won't be affected much but 110V and 240V PSUs will simply go bang the second they hit the water.

      • by Myopic (18616)

        Wow, that's quite an "if".

    • Better, if IT doesn't make their deadlines you could threaten to close the doors and drowned them like rats in a bucket. Muaahahahahaha!

  • Why didn't they just use some colo company and save a bunch of money on maintenance and headcount?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by c0lo (1497653)

      Why didn't they just use some colo company and save a bunch of money on maintenance and headcount?

      (tongue-in-cheek) why not outsource outside USA? I heard some geos have much cheaper labor, that should be good for the town's budget.

    • by tempest69 (572798) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @12:12AM (#33866106) Journal
      I'm betting that the warm fuzzies of having undeniable 24/7 access had some appeal. Plus the sense of control. A point of failure (the colo) is removed, The uncertainty of how the contract renewal is removed. And the jobs stay in town, which matters to government.
    • by ebuck (585470)
      Maybe because private enterprise can't be trusted with public (yet sensitive) data? Maybe because the other nearby companies are underwater during the same outage periods? Maybe because it actually costs more?

      You can't assume that it's cheaper just because a corporation does it. With plenty of competition, sometimes the corporation is cheaper; but, that doesn't mean it's always cheaper (or that there is even sufficient competition in your area).
  • by wagadog (545179) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @12:06AM (#33866072) Journal

    ...is more compute power, memory and disk than the Cray-2 I did my dissertation work on.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ndege (12658)

      ...is more compute power, memory and disk than the Cray-2 I did my dissertation work on.

      yes yes, but could you actually do your dissertation work on your droid today?

      <rant>
      I have heard many people claim things like, "my wristwatch has more power than a supercomputer in the 60's that took up an entire floor of the building". The next question to ask is, what did that computer that took so much space do? The response is something along the lines of, "it ran the payroll for 190k employees." I then ask if their wristwatch can run the payroll for 190k employees. Then it dawns on them tha

      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        Your rant has some merit on regarding a wristwatch. An Android phone? Not so much. For all intents and puroses it's a fully functional programmable computer (and programmable from a realistic standpoint, not from the "everything's programmable standpoint). Sure the input is a bit tedious compared to a full-sized keyboard, but on the other hand I'd wager it's a lot more friendly than punch-cards.

        About the only major downside is the small screen, which is annoying, but doesn't limit capabilities in any si

        • by ebuck (585470)
          You run your payroll for 190K employees on your cell phone? I didn't think so.

          With transportation we seldom make the same mistakes we make with computers. All transportation is equivalent, but depending on distance, people to convey, time available, existing infrastructure, etc. some forms of transportation are infinitely superior.

          Good luck having your employees submit all their time cards using your cell phone's touch screen keyboard. Just because they both compute doesn't mean they are equivalent u
  • The next one in... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by c0lo (1497653) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @12:09AM (#33866082)
    Crystal Peak? I guess O'Connor would deserve a more modern equipment.
  • Totally off-topic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @12:12AM (#33866104) Homepage Journal

    I lived in Altamonte Springs for three years, working as a contractor in the area. Nice place, if a little on the warm side in August. :)

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      Could be ontopic... was worried about how it will handle refrigeration, and air circulation in its current shape, and if the place in August is hot maybe could be a problem there.
      • Well, there's always the Space Shuttle, couple miles away, as a backup

        But yes, Altamonte is indeed nice as the GP says. For them balmy days, they could run with the top up, I guess.

        • by spamking (967666)

          But yes, Altamonte is indeed nice as the GP says. For them balmy days, they could run with the top up, I guess.

          Or just open the hatch . . .

  • Strange places? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wvmarle (1070040) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @12:19AM (#33866130)

    How are this strange places? A data centre doesn't need windows, doesn't need easy highway access, doesn't need to sit next to the subway station or even close to high populated areas (close as in walking distance) - it's a bit like a "build and forget" kind of structure that are best kept a bit out of the way.

    So you're naturally looking for cheap space, that is safe against the elements. Existing strong buildings come in play of course - like this water tank. Chapels are also often constructed well. Same for former bunkers and other underground locations like abandoned mines.

    Yes it's interesting, maybe not obvious, but thinking about it this are not strange places but actually quite logical places to build your data centre. The only one that sounds strange to me is the shopping mall one. Space in shopping malls tends to be pretty expensive.

    • Yes they don't need all those things but that doesn't make these locations any less strange. Also taking into account what they do need: good cooling, a dry environment, fairly easy access for personell, somewhere your average idiot isnt going to stumble in (as you said build and forget) as well as protection from the weather. I don't know about you but the last place I would ever think to find a data centre would be inside an old water tank or a Particle Accelerator some of these other locations aren't th
      • Just wait until the server is still online, but nobody knows where the physical location is anymore. It'll be much fun trying to find them.
    • by espiesp (1251084)

      Think run-down no longer profitable smaller shopping mall that gets completely bought out for the sole purpose of using it as a datacenter/office space. Unfortunately those malls are usually not in the best parts of town. Maybe that's good in a way because property is cheap and it's not bad for business.

    • by glwtta (532858)
      How are this strange places?

      Well, let's see you try to squeeze an article out of this non-story!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AJWM (19027)

      The only one that sounds strange to me is the shopping mall one. Space in shopping malls tends to be pretty expensive.

      The retail space, yeah. One of my first jobs was in a data center (mainframes, this was in the late 70s) in a shopping mall, in the basement. Maybe they got a break on the rent for helping heat the place ;-) (This was Ottawa, Canada -- they spend far more of the year heating living areas than cooling them.)

      • Not lately, I'm afraid. Summer is longer than it used to be, and hotter. We've had temperatures in the 40's (celcius) much more often in the summer, and it doesn't get nearly as cold as it used to in the winter, either... three winters ago, I didn't even turn on the house furnace until mid-January.

    • Are you talking about Rackspace in San Antonio? If so, they actually purchased an abandoned shopping mall so... no paying for rent.
  • by BaldingByMicrosoft (585534) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @12:33AM (#33866198)
    "Tapes are unreliable," DiGioia says. "Disaster recovery was nonexistent. It consisted of backup tapes in a box." ... "Backups are kept on disk for 30 days and then overwritten, and tape is no longer used. Documents are archived on optical disc and microfilm. "

    ...so, 30 days on a mirrored SAN. No monthlies, yearlies. Long term is on optical (what kind? Consumer media degrades... What's the retention target?) and microfilm (quaint).

    So, the quick recovery offered by the mirrored SAN is sexy, with an appropriate price tag. Writing off tape entirely seems very wrong.
    • by afidel (530433) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @12:43AM (#33866246)
      Agreed, another clueless soul bitten by AIT/DAT/DDS/QIC who will never understand real archival tape. If the data is worth anything (and government records are) then pony up a little bit of cash for a real tape solution. It might be as expensive as one or two of your servers but it's so worth it to actually have your data when you need it.
      • by ebuck (585470)
        The disaster they most encounter and must recover from is hurricane induced flooding. Tapes do not perform well when wet. Optical media can be recovered from a flooded storage area. They are probably using a Optical Jukebox much like a tape library. Even if they lose the machine, they can unpack the other one (in a sealed plastic bag) and be running in under an hour. With tapes, the water will loosen the magnetic film, or provide enough adhesive properties as it dries to damage magnetic coatings where
    • Archives are overrated. Long Term (15+ years) archives are unreadable. Not because the media has gone bad, but rather the mechanisms aren't readily available. We have old media but no way of actually getting the data off. The data is mostly meaningless.

      If you have to Archive something, print it out. If it isn't printable, it probably isn't worth archiving. And if it is worth archiving, you best make sure you're keeping the technology around that can read your archives.

      Besides that, only data that is worth a

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by phantomfive (622387)
        Print it out? You've got to be joking. So someone can scan it in 5 years from now? The advantage of digital is you can move it to any storage medium you like without losing any quality. If it was data you cared about, you should have moved it to more modern equipment. Archives have to be taken care of; this is true of both analog and digital archives. Even stone degrades.
        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          Why scan it in?

          And printing it out isn't that bad an idea.

          Most data that old is only for reference. Only needs to be read, never needs to be changed. It's kept for legal purposes ("look, I wrote that source code back in 1978! Here, a print-out of the then-current code base."), maybe for reference (checking old records).

          Having it digital rarely helps - having it printed out at least prevents accusations of easy tampering, and gives you a copy that 20 years from now is surely readable (provided you take pr

          • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            A CNC drill machine can work with an accuracy of less then a milimeter error. That means you could take a sheet or stainless steel and use one to drill or not-drill one million holes on a 10cm square. 125KB. Eight of those would store a novel - and it would still be readable in a hundred years, with nothing more than a magnifying glass. Make the plates out of gold and put them in a good box and safe place, and they'll be readable in a million years. How is that for long-term reliability?

          • More likely the 3.5 inch floppies themselves have gone bad. Floppy disks go bad. Newer CDRs and DVDRs do not last too long. For some reason the CDRs i burned back in 1996, 1997 still work fine while the CDRs and DVDRs from last year are falling apart.

            I would still say tape is the way to go. Also if you back something up and forget about it until you need it. You may be doing something wrong. As the medium changes shouldn't one also change the archives to the newer medium? I.E. Your long term backups are on

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Longterm archives are unreadable after 15 years? I disagree: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/15.01/nasa.html True, they never found the tapes they were looking for, but that's due to poor archival processes in the past. They were able to get the data off every tape they found which is how they know they never found the tapes they (and we) wanted. Properly maintained archives will last a long, long time.

    • Tape really is unreliable. Spinning media, never more than a couple years old and replicated over a network to more spinning media in distant places, is the most reliable thing we've got. And it has to be kept on a current software system!
      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        Can you still read old WordPerfect 5.1 files reliably? Or MS Word 5 files?

        • Yes... but that's because the current version of Office has import filters for both formats...

          Reading floppies that they're on? Not so much. But as it happens, those documents were transferred to IDE hard drives years ago, and have since found their way onto my network hard drive.

          Printing them out is still far more reliable, though. Anything that's important enough to store is important enough to store in a medium that'll still be readable 100 years from now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
      I run a network of two servers for a primary school, and even I have remote site NAS backup and bi-monthly tape archives, rolling semi-annually. It's not just the kids work (which is for all intents and purposes of sentimental value only); Financial records, HR, medical, disciplinary, software and hardware configuration time... Jeebus, I'd feel naked without a decent backup system!
  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @12:46AM (#33866258)

    Don't put your data centers in caves, mines, hurricane proof water tanks, etc.

    When the time comes that we need to unplug skynet, you are just making things hard.

    • Hard...or thrilling? I vote the next major data-center-put-into-a-news-worthy-location be put into a volcano.
      • by Cwix (1671282)

        How do you keep the volcano sated? Throw an intern (obviously a virgin) into it once a month or something?

    • by really? (199452)

      >hurricane proof water tanks

      What keeps the water out, can also be used to keep water in. So, when the time comes ... reverse the pumps.

  • by enoz (1181117) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @12:50AM (#33866282)

    Summary is inaccurate (as usual):

    TFS: 18-inch walls
    TFA: 8-inch walls

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Be the new you! Add or subtract 10 inches to your server room walls now!

      !!! www.v1agra-weigthloss-dietextension-serveroom.ru !!!

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      you read it wrong. It's:

      TFA: 8-inch walls
      TFS: 18-ch walls

      same thing.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The article states 8" concrete walls, although 18" makes sense as it is about the practical minimum if you design for crack protection. A concrete building is a natural for disaster protection, nothing too outlandish there. The last firm I worked for built a concrete vault for their server room, complete with bank vault door.

    Although a working water storage tank would be way more fun, basically using the water system as a giant heat sink!

  • by Glendale2x (210533) <<slashdot> <at> <ninjamonkey.us>> on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @01:20AM (#33866362) Homepage

    From the picture caption in TFA: The city's water tank data center: Wings were added to each side, one for networking equipment, the other for administrative offices.

    And in the body of TFA: Compared with the old setup, the new infrastructure offers improved uptime and superior disaster recovery capabilities. and The emergency operation center was shut down also because there wasn't infrastructure in place to support Internet access during a storm

    So then exactly why is the networking equipment outside of the protected space?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Florida town of Altamonte Springs has converted an old water storage tank into a new data center.

    Good thing they didn't convert a new water storage tank into an old data center.

  • by JanneM (7445) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @01:30AM (#33866400) Homepage

    "Area Data Center Actually Located in Data Center Facility; IT Experts Confused, Baffled"

  • The dome-shaped tank offered 8-inch-thick walls of reinforced concrete and was

    8, 18, close enough I guess.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The dome-shaped tank offered 8-inch-thick walls of reinforced concrete and was

      8, 18, close enough I guess.

      Try using that argument to defend a statutory rape case!

  • Strange places? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RichiH (749257) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @06:29AM (#33867534) Homepage

    DCs are not moving into strange places. It's just that people are starting to realize that _any_ large and reasonably well-built structure is suitable as a DC. Electric power is usually a given, AC can almost always be installed and then you are down to "is it cheaper to get (redundant) fiber to this old structure or to build a new DC".

    That's the beauty of a DC. The computers in there don't care where they are.

  • Per the article, the walls are 8 inches thick, not 18 as the article summary suggests.
  • Not to detract from DiGioia drastically improving the city's IT infrastructure and delivery, but how is this any different from the jobs thousands of IT managers/admins do every year? We're always looking to improve and re-use existing resources.

    I think the real story here is "previous IT manager was a major failure; ignored technology for 10 years." I didn't see anything truly innovative about what DiGioia did. I guess what also must be newsworthy is getting a city to part with that much money for that bi

  • I suppose in a hundred years or so, the LHC will make a great datacenter :)

  • Water tanks have interesting radiological properties. http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2008/03/lux-lucis-tepida.html [blogspot.com] They are above ground source radiation and shielded by air and the bottom of a water tank is pretty well shielded from cosmic rays which might help with data integrity.
  • by habig (12787)

    I've often wondered why anyone would bother building a data center in a warm place like Florida. You double your power bill - paying once to use the power, and again to air condition the resulting heat away.

    Put the same equipment up north, and for much of the year you just have to open a window. Or, duct the waste heat over to an adjacent facility occupied by humans who will pay to use the hot air.

    No hurricanes to worry about, either.

    • by L3370 (1421413)
      cooling is only part of the problem. There are tons of data centers in the Arizona desert region, where temperatures can be over 110F for months straight. But they put them here anyway because insurance and disaster preparedness is dirt cheap enough to offset power cost. Natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and forest fires rarely pose a threat to property there.
  • My first thought is Multivac [wikipedia.org].

    I realize that Multivac was just underground, but this seems like a good place to start.

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