Going Under: Secure IT Environment Mines New Prospects in Norway

By: Doug Bonderud| - Leave a comment

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IT environment security is going under — way under. According to a new case study published in Forbes Insights, “In the Hall of the Mountain Data King,” Norway’s Lefdal Mine and IBM have joined forces to develop a unique data center model: Servers are stored almost 500 feet underground, powered and cooled by cold fjord water and defended by massive steel doors. Could this extreme be the future of the secure data center?

Lock It Down

Securing IT environments is critical for enterprises, and data centers often top the priority list. This is no surprise since big data is now widely regarded as a resource companies cannot do without. For example, Transparency Market Research predicted the data center security market will increase at a 12.6 percent compound annual growth rate through 2022 as organizations seek out advanced, redundant and reliable solutions to safeguard their data. This investment isn’t misplaced: As noted by Data Center Knowledge, even large networking technology vendors are still finding and fixing critical flaws in server code that has been publicly deployed for years.

So when Lefdal Mine’s former CEO started thinking about possible uses for the massive, secure space and its renewable power source after being shut down nearly two decades ago, an idea took root: Why not covert the mine into the world’s largest and most secure IT environment? With nearly 1.3 million square feet of space, a single entry point and easily accessible fiber connections to Europe, Asia and North America, it wasn’t hard to convert big dreams into active construction. The facility is now scheduled to open in August 2016.

Fire It Up

Going underground also comes with the big benefit of reduced cooling load. As noted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the power necessary to keep traditional data centers up and running is closing in on 100 billion kilowatt-hours per year in the U.S. alone. By 2020, the power needed will cost American companies $13 billion annually and pump out almost 100 million metric tons of carbon pollution. The Lefdal case study also tackles power consumption: If the global data center industry were considered a country in terms of energy use, it would rank No. 11 in the world, one place ahead of the entire U.K.

How does the mine plan to tackle this problem? First is the passive benefit of Lefdal’s ambient temperature: It’s 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit all day, every day. Water in the nearby fjord is a chilly 45.5 degrees, making it the ideal cooling solution. The result is a projected power usage effectiveness (PUE) of just 1.1. Almost all power goes to the servers, and virtually none is required for overhead.

Keep It Safe

Lefdal comes with another big draw: built-in disaster mitigation. First is defense from physical threats. No one is coming or going through the single entryway, which is guarded by multiple steel doors, without permission. Companies are also protected from natural phenomena; tons of rock overhead make it an ideal electromagnetic bunker, and it’s all but immune to the forces of nature.

Making backups also makes sense at the mine site thanks to ample space and low power costs. Redundant servers could be kept in separate parts of the facility to ensure maximum protection. Simply put, the project is security- and disaster-focused by nature; there’s no need for potentially vulnerable, aftermarket defenses when Lefdal comes fully equipped to safeguard both data and equipment.

Deeper Meaning for the IT Environment

Until Lefdal is up and running, it’s hard to gauge its impact on data center environments worldwide, but the project itself speaks to a deeper need in IT environment security: end-to-end protection. Why? Because just as enterprises now recognize the inherent value of their data, malicious actors are also on the hunt for critical information they can lock out, steal or damage. Likewise, enterprises are much more acutely aware of the need for secure and reliable backups in the event of a disaster. As a result, CTOs and CISOs are seeking data center solutions that both recognize the value of this virtual resource and offer a power consumption model that satisfies CEO and CFO spending constraints.

Bottom line? Heightened security and increased power efficiency may depend on how deep companies are willing to go.

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About The Author

Doug Bonderud

Freelance Writer

Doug Bonderud is an award-winning writer with expertise in technology and innovation. In addition to writing for Pivot Point, Security Intelligence, The Content Standard and Kaspersky, Doug also writes for companies such as McMurray/TMG and Straight North.

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