Chris J Powell

Does your Data Need to survive the Apocolypse?

Doomsday may be just around the corner, sure the first date came and went when Harold Camping said it would on May 21 but he has now corrected himself and states that the Rapture will complete in October.  Then we look at the Aztec Calendar and global catastrophe is supposed to happen in 2012.  What is an IT Leader supposed to do.  The amount of critical data being stored in the fragile Infrastructures of today’s Enterprises WILL not be able to survive a catastrophe on a global scale!

Now the Second Coming of Christ is not something that is usually included in a functional Disaster Recovery Plan but amazingly enough there are companies that will provide the protection that the ultra paranoid CIO needs to have a modicum of piece of mind.  A trend in Co-Location Facilities is the focus on “Bunkering” and today I will look at a couple of samples of what it means to make your Data Center Physically Safe!

Over in the UK there are two facilities provided by and in summary The Bunker’s hosting facilities are:

  • Ultra secure – our state-of-the-art data centres are ex-Ministry of Defence command and control facilities that provide an ultra* secure environment for your systems.
  • Ultra available – our dual-delivery capabilities can provide you with 100% uptime – in addition to auto-failover, we replicate your systems in one of our secondary nuclear-grade delivery centres.

This company is not a flash in the pan and in actuality I would say that it is actually an interesting concept.  As we turn weapons into plowshares around the globe there are hundreds of decommissioned military bases and these types of Command and Control Bunkers that were built to survive a Nuclear Blast so when you can buy a ready built piece of real estate that already has security in mind…why not.  Check out their brochure here.

The Brits are not the only ones to take Data Security to the Extreme though.  In Sweden, there is a facility called “Pionen” that is run by Bahnhof (Swedish Only Unfortunately).  From the ground up this facility was built to be state of the art.  If you are running an evil empire this site looks like it is right out of a Bond Film and would make the perfect back drop to an enterprise bent on Global Domination.

Now the silver lining to this facility is that it is not only a solid Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Site it has also looked at it “Carbon Foot Print” and have established some solid Green IT practices.  Some Stats about this facility:

  • Originally a nuclear bunker: The data center is housed in what was originally a military bunker and nuclear shelter during the Cold War era. The facility still has the code name from its military days: Pionen White Mountains.
  • Located in central Stockholm below 30 meters (almost 100 ft) of bedrock: The facility has 1110 sqm (11950 sq ft) of space and is located below 30 meters of solid bedrock (granite) right inside the city.
  • Fully redesigned in 2007-2008: Pionen was completely redesigned in 2007-2008 to become the data center that it is today. More than 4,000 cubic meters (141,300 cubic ft) of solid rock was blasted away to make more room.
  • Can withstand a hydrogen bomb: The bunker was designed to be able to withstand a near hit by a hydrogen bomb.
  • Houses the Network Operations Center for one of Sweden’s largest ISPs: The bunker houses the NOC for all of Bahnhof’s operations. They have five data centers in Sweden, Pionen being the largest. The facility also acts as a co-location hosting center, so you can actually put your own servers here.
  • German submarine engines for backup power: Backup power is handled by two Maybach MTU diesel engines producing 1.5 Megawatt of power. The engines were originally designed for submarines, and just for fun the people at Pionen have also installed the warning system (sound horns) from the original German submarine.
  • 1.5 megawatt of cooling for the servers: Cooling is handled by Baltimore Aircoil fans producing a cooling effect of 1.5 megawatt, enough for several hundred rack-mounted units.
  • Triple redundancy Internet backbone access: The network has full redundancy with both fiber optics and extra copper lines with three different physical ways into the mountain. Pionen is one the best-connected places in northern Europe.
  • Work environment with simulated daylight and greenhouses: For a pleasant working environment the data center has simulated daylight, greenhouses, waterfalls and a huge 2600-liter salt water fish tank.
  • Staff: 15 employees, only senior technical staff, work full time in Pionen.

There are more than a few providers that are looking for your dollars.  Will you be able to provide your Paranoid CEO with the piece of mind he or she needs???  Here are some links from our friends at Data Center Knowledge to assist you:


  • SmartBunker is an ultra-secure data center located in a former NATO command bunker in Lincolnshire, UK. The power used within the 30,000 square feet data centre is generated entirely from wind energy. SmartBunker says it is the first UK facility with no carbon emissions.
  • The U.S. Secure Hosting Center is an underground colocation center in Iowa that hosts the web infrastrucutre for Wikia, one of the projects of the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • Iron Mountain hosts data center operations for Marriott Corp. and other customers in its huge data storage facility located 220 feet underground in a limestone cave outside Pittsburgh. The 145-acre facility has its own fire company, water treatment plant and 24-hour security and maintenance force.
  • Montgomery Westland, previously known as the Westlin Bunker, operates 40,000 square feet of underground data center and office space in Montgomery, Texas. The facility was initially built by Ling-Chieh Kung, a nephew of Chiang Kai-shek and founder of Westlin Oil. Fearing a nuclear war, the reclusive Kung built a nuke-proof survival shelter.
  • The Mountain Complex

    is a disaster recovery data center in a former mine built into the side of a dolomite mountain in the Ozarks near Branson, Missouri. The facility houses backup data for thousands of financial institutions.

  • The SpringNet Underground is a 56,000 square foot data center located 85 feet underground in a limestone cave near Springfield, Missouri. The site hosts mission-critical patient data for a network of hospitals.
  • The Bunker is a 10-year old ultra-secure colo facility built in former nuclear bunkers in Newbury and Kent in the UK. The company, which houses many financial services clients, recently announced expansion plans.
  • The InfoBunker is a 65,000 square foot ultra-secure underground data center in Iowa, built in a decommissioned Air Force bunker designed to survive a 20-megaton nuclear explosion. It features three-foot thick cement walls and shielding to protect equipment from an electromagentic pulse (EMP).
  • Cavern Technologies operates a 200,000 square foot facility near Kansas City that is 125 feet underground.
  • Sun Microsystems is among the participants in an underground data centers in Japan’s Chubu region in which 30 Blackbox (Sun MD) data center container units will be installed in a a former coal mine located 100 meters under the ground.
  • BastionHost has purchased an former government continuity bunker in Nova Scotia as part of its plan to build a “Dataville” of data centers in the province.
    StrataSpace, a 500,000 square foot underground data center under development outside Louisville
  • PrairieBunkers is planning to convert up to 184 World War II ammunition bunkers in central Nebraska into data centers.
  • Mountains West Exploration plans to develop former military ammunition bunkers as ultra-secure storage.

I work with many clients that are struggling with Data Center Co-Location and Data Security but this is a bit of overkill although again I state that the properties are already there, built to withstand a direct hit from a Nuclear Warhead and will more than likely help your organization survive the inevitable Zombie Attack that Hollywood wants us to believe is coming.  To add Zombie Attack to your DRP…here are some great steps to assist you:

IT is not always about Bits and Bytes…..sometimes it is down right STRANGE!!!

Cheers and have a great day,

Chris J Powell

1 thought on “Does your Data Need to survive the Apocolypse?

  1. Great video. I’m kicking yelmsf, too, that I missed Porthmadog when I was in Wales a couple of years ago. I walked or played something like 16-18 courses, and that was one I missed. I was even in the village of Porthmadog on my last day in the country and decided I’d played enough golf, so I bought a ticket on the little narrow-gauge Ffestiniog Railway and choo-choo’d up in the mountains for the day. Touristy but fun. And wouldn’t you know it, Porthmadog had bunkers worthy of Kyle Franz sketches! Just proves the point that you can never travel enough or see too many courses..

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