The locations of some of the data centers that currently exist in the world are worthy of the novels of Jules Verne or Dmitri Glujovski. While it is true that most of them are in modern buildings of technological and industrial poles, in Engadget we have found at least ten that would delight any adventurer. From a former Nazi submarine base to a facility at the bottom of the sea, passing through Abandoned mines, Cold War bunkers and 19th century churches, these are the DPCs with the craziest locations on the planet.
A Nazi submarine base in Marseille
The Dutch company Interxion has taken advantage of a submarine facility that the Nazis abandoned in Marseille during World War II to build one of its data centers. The company explained in 2019, the year in which it opened, that it had chosen that old base, closed since the 1940s, because it had several advantages for the CPD: large amount of space, proximity to the sea for refrigeration and strong security measures given its military origin.
The Nazis designed the base to house up to 20 submarines, but they did not finish it before their retreat and defeat.
Under the sea
In 2018 Microsoft decided to tackle the problem of cooling, one of the biggest challenges facing data center builders, with water, lots of water. He created a CPD inside a huge metal cylinder and plunged it to the bottom of the sea, about 35 meters deep, off the northern coast of Scotland.
The facilities contained 12 racks with 864 low-power servers and, after two years submerged to test their operation, they were removed in 2020 to check if it had worked correctly and if its components had been better or worse preserved than on the surface. Microsoft then reported that the experiment had been a success because it had deteriorated less than on land and its energy consumption had been lower thanks to the natural cooling of the sea.
Before they protected from Armageddon, now they save data
Interxion is not the only company that has repurposed military facilities to locate its data centers. The Swedish telco Bahnhof reused an old nuclear bunker located in Stockholm to create its data center 30 meters underground. Like the Dutch, military security, natural cooling and available space – 1,100 square meters – were the main arguments for choosing this old shelter that currently houses 8,000 servers. It is the largest in the Scandinavian country.
Not far from there, in neighboring Finland, another bunker now serves similar functions. In this case, it is an air-raid shelter from the Second World War that, for added peculiarity, is located in the basement of an Orthodox cathedral in the town of Upsenki, in Helsinki. In these facilities, temperatures play a double role: on the one hand, The cold outside helps to cool the facilities, on the other hand, the heat generated by the devices is used as heating for some 500 homes in the area.
The cult of data
The one in Upsenki is not the only temple that has been converted into a data center. In Leeds, UK, the old Salem Chapel, built in the 18th century, has housed the CPD since 2001 of the telecommunications company AQL, as well as its central offices, a bar and a conference auditorium with capacity for 350 people that, as a curiosity, has a glass floor and, under it, the data center in view of anyone who enter the enclosure.
And a little closer, in the Pedralbes neighborhood of Barcelona, we find the data center of the National Supercomputing Center of Spain, located in the chapel of the Girona Tower enclosure, an old summer estate of the Catalan bourgeoisie. This building houses the famous Mare Nostrum supercomputer.
Near the North Pole
Another company that searched the cold Scandinavian environment for suitable environmental conditions to cool its data center was Facebook. Those of Mark Zuckerberg decided to locate in the remote Swedish city of Lulea, a few kilometers from the Arctic Circle, his first CPD outside the United States in 2013.
In this case, the facilities do not have much mystery or history: it is a high-tech center as gray and modern as any other, although, yes, subjected to extreme temperatures most of the year that ensure equipment does not get too hot without the need to invest in large cooling systems.
From breaking stone to storing data
A quite popular location among the creators of particular data centers, in addition to the old military installations and the temples, is the abandoned mines. In the foothills of western Pennsylvania, the Iron Mountain Company reused an ancient limestone excavation to open a huge CPD which, according to the company, has an area of more than 4 million square meters on different levels.
In Norway, another mine houses the Lefdal Mine Data Center, which with its 120,000 square meters is one of the largest data centers in Europe. It is located near the town of Måløy, on the west coast of the Scandinavian country, a location that allows cooling its systems with the icy waters of the Norwegian Sea.
Sealand, the micronation that The Pirate Bay wanted to buy
The Principality of Sealand, a sovereign nation whose territory comprises the facilities of a former United Kingdom military fort in the North Sea, off the coast of Suffolk, England, also once housed a data center, although it was abandoned.
The case of this CPD was very popular due to the particular characteristics of the country that hosts it, a self-proclaimed micronation by a former radio host, and because in 2007 The Pirate Bay wanted to buy it to be able to locate their servers there without any copyright law persecuting them. Ultimately that transaction did not take place.