10 weird places your data gets stored

Cloud computing? Down-a-mine computing, more like

One of Sun s Blackbox self contained computing facilities

Cloud computing doesn't really mean storing your data in a cloud: it means your stuff's been stuck on a server in an enormous temperature-controlled room somewhere.

That doesn't mean it has to be in a boring building, though: it could be down a mine, in something that looks like Dr Evil's control centre or even off the coast of Suffolk.

Here are 10 weird places that data can be, will be or has been stored in.

1. In a former nuclear fuel facility

1&1 Internet's data centre in Hanau, Germany - currently under construction - is in a facility called New MOX. The facility was originally built in the 1980s to produce mixed oxide rods from enriched uranium and plutonium, but it never became operational.

OneandOne data center

Image credit: 1&1 Internet

2. Underneath a cathedral

Never mind backups: wouldn't it be great if your data was protected not just by reinforced concrete, but by God too? That may have been the thinking behind Academica's data centre in Finland, which is located in a former World War II bomb shelter underneath the Uspenski Cathedral. Its waste heat will be pumped into the city's heating grid, which heats water in pipes to warm local homes.


Image credit: InvictaHOG on Wikimedia

3. In a car park

In a trend magnificently dubbed White Trash Data Centers by The Register, firms such as Sun Microsystems, HP and Microsoft have stuffed entire data centres into shipping containers that can be dropped off in a company's car park, hooked up and switched on.

White trash data center

4. In a nuclear bunker

Never mind mere bomb shelters: if you want to turn other ISPs green with envy, you need to follow Swedish ISP Bahnhof's lead and stick your data centre in a nuclear bunker. Not only that but you also need to add waterfalls, greenery and lighting that makes it look like something from a video game.


Image credit: Bahnhof

5. Six miles off the coast of Suffolk

Sealand - or the Principality of Sealand, to give it its full name - was built to defend British shores from the Nazis. Its owners, the Bates family, believe that it's a fully independent nation, although the British government would disagree. In 2000 it became a data haven for firms and individuals who wanted to keep their data away from the mainland's authorities. The Pirate Bay nearly bought it in 2007 but the deal fell through, and hosting firm HavenCo went offline in 2008.


Image credit: Octal on Flickr

6. In a shopping mall

Remember the shopping mall zombie game Dead Rising? Replace zombies with servers… that doesn't really work, does it? Never mind. Lifeline Data Centers turned the Eastgate Mall in Indianapolis into a data centre. It's no ordinary mall, though: thanks to tax credits for fallout shelters, the mall's designers made liberal use of reinforced concrete and dug hardened shelters underneath the shops.

Eastgate mall

Image credit: Lifeline Data Centers

7. In a chapel

Chapels appear to be great for data centres: the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre stuck its MareNostrum supercomputer in the 19th century Chapel Torre Girona, while Boston College stuck its own data centre in the empty St Clement's Chapel.

Boston college

Image credit: Boston College

8. In an air base

Data centre provider Advanced Data Centers took on part of the McClellan Air Base in Sacramento, California, building an enormous and relatively environmentally friendly data centre that uses 38% less energy than traditional data centres.

McClellan air base

Image credit: ADC

9. At the bottom of a coal mine

In 2007, Sun Microsystems announced plans to chuck 30 Blackbox self-contained computing facilities down a Japanese coal mine to create an underground data centre. Mines are cold, and that means no need for air-conditioning - so a 30,000 server core data centre would save $9 million a year on its electricity bills.

Black box

Image credit: Sun

10. In a Van De Graaf silo

Remember the Van De Graaf generators that made your hair stand on end in school? Imagine a truly enormous one, decommissioned and filled with servers. Compute Canada's CLUMEQ project has three floors of concentric rings, which hold server racks boasting some 12,000 processors.

Van de graaf silo

Image credit: Compute Canada

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