Thursday, 21 March 2013
New Bahnhof Data Centres Push the Envelope
In the world of datacentre news, there are many interesting developments being reported on every day. Some stand out more than others do, as is the case with some recent announcements coming out of Sweden's Bahnhof. As a cutting-edge ISP company, Bahnhof's claim to fame is coming up with extraordinary and somewhat eccentric data centre designs that often include re-purposing vacant buildings.
Their latest plan involves converting a former natural gas storage facility that is now more than 100 years old. According to reports, the Stockholm-area gasometer was erected in 1893 as a huge, five-story storage tank for natural gas. The brick and steel structure is incredibly solid as well as being aesthetically pleasing thanks to its exposed, wooden beam interior ceiling structure.
An important part of Bahnhof's operating model is to go well beyond just IT services and hosting by supplying vented heat to community-based heating systems. The gasometer project will harness exhaust heat and return it to Stockholm's district heating and cooling system. Not only is the plan environmentally friendly but it lets the company earn additional revenues from heat that would normally be vented into the atmosphere.
While the new Stockholm project is unique, it is just the latest in a long line of innovative Bahnhof projects. One of their other data centres currently under construction sits atop an already existing building owned and operated by Swedish energy company Fortum. Exhaust heat from the centre will be pumped down to the building underneath. Bahnhof has also built data centres in other unusual places such as a former nuclear bunker underneath bustling Stockholm streets.
As for the gasometer project, Bahnhof plans to install thousands of servers there and make them available to large IT companies with extensive hardware requirements. The architecture of the building will provide the large areas of open space needed for maximum efficiency.
As time goes by it is becoming more apparent that just offering a traditional data centre with IT and collocation capabilities is not going to be enough. Companies that want to remain on the cutting edge will have to embrace green ideas like re-purposing old buildings and harnessing exhaust heat.
The projects undertaken by Bahnhof act as an exhibition, demonstrating the things that can be accomplished with a little bit of imagination and a desire to push the boundaries. Companies that do these sorts of things are leading the way with new technologies like modular data centres and environmentally friendly power options and cooling systems.
While a former five-story natural gas holding tank may not be the first thing one thinks of when deciding where to build a new data centre, thinking outside the box demonstrates the facility is a perfect fit. If it's successful - and we have no reason to believe it won't be - it opens the door for re-purposing all sorts of vacant buildings including underground storage facilities, manufacturing buildings, etc.
It certainly is an exciting time to be in the data centre business!