Bunker2 data centre addresses growth, green needs

The Bunker2 is designed for growing data centre needs as well as environmental demands.

Security is the focus of the Bunker, an underground data centre housed in an old Ministry of Defence command and control centre built to withstand a 22-kilo thermonuclear bomb. The Bunker2, a 12,000-square-metre data centre planned for the same military level security site in Sandwich, Kent, will have an equal focus on security but will also meet modern environmental demands.

The Bunker2 is scheduled to be complete in spring 2011, built into the side of a hill. It will use tri-generation of power (see sidebar), pumping waste heat out for use in local agriculture.

The Bunker2 will share the18-acre site occupied by the Bunker and was conceived to address some of the issues with the existing Bunker. Simon Neal, the director of data centre services, says, "The barrier with the Bunker is because of the nature of how it was built; it was designed to withstand the blast of a 22-kilo thermonuclear bomb so it has a lot of smaller rooms to dissipate the blast away from the central core.

"If somebody wants maybe 10 or 12 racks, then the Bunker is fine. If they want anymore than that, we can't do it in one continuous room. That was becoming a problem because people were saying we need 50 or 100 racks and we couldn't suit those needs."

Addressing growth and green data centre needs
Customers of the Bunker include banks, financial institutions, medical firms and education companies. At present, environmental concerns are not a high priority, but Neal believes this will change: "We respond to a lot of requests for information which mention the green aspects and credentials, but they tend to be an item which gets ticked and then moved on from very quickly at the moment. That said, we are aware that green is becoming huge, so what we have done is to design the Bunker2 to be as green as possible.

"The Carbon Reduction Commitment will change the market dramatically, and then you have the EU Code of Conduct on data centres, which although voluntary, will have an impact."

The Bunker2 will be 'as invisible as we can make it' so it has been slightly buried into the ground and will have grass roof. The development will include wildlife ponds and use local materials and rainwater harvesting where possible.

"We are also looking to do some stuff with the warm air. Because we are in the country, we can vent out to local greenhouses for tomato growing etc.; we are talking with the local farmers," says Neal.

The new Bunker will use power from the grid but also incorporate tri-generation. "Tri-generation is really quite exciting and brings your PUE [power usage effectiveness] ratings right down. We are also looking to use free air-cooling. In this country, for over 85% of the year you can use free ambient outside air. A lot of data centres run at 19 to 22 degrees, and in this country the temperature is rarely above that."

The data centre will also have hot and cold aisles with PUE ratings running at about 1.6 or 1.7

Neal noted one environmental factor that he said is often overlooked: "The risk of flooding in London is quite a big one. If you look at the Environment Agency website and tap in the postcode of some of the London data centres and look at the actual risk that they have of flooding, it is certainly food for thought."

"There is an overdependence on London for data centres," he said. "The majority of them are all around the Docklands because that is where all the fibre comes in and terminates. If London was for whatever reason to go black, it would be a huge problem, so what people are looking for now are facilities outside London. That fibre comes in from the States, meets in London and then comes out through Kent, and we sit right on the crossroads of where the fibre goes out Europe. We can jump right onto those and have very low latency."

Tracey Caldwell is a contributor to SearchVirtualDataCentre.com.

Read more on Datacentre energy efficiency and green IT