After the Great Recession, there was a glut of data center-ready real estate. Today, that real estate is disappearing, prompting greenfield builds. Surface builds are expensive and retrofits are difficult, leading more companies to consider the underground route for a secure data center design at a lower cost and with more flexibility.
"We had been looking in the Kansas and Missouri market for 18 months and had fits and starts with traditional retrofits," said Jim Masterson, CEO of LightEdge Solutions Inc. The colocation and managed services provider is the anchor tenant of SubTropolis Technology Center, an underground data center in Kansas City, Mo.
"Underground [data centers] are generating a lot of interest for the future. And there are proven examples around the U.S.," said Jim deVenny, an independent consultant on the SubTropolis project for Hunt Midwest Real Estate Development.
SubTropolis isn't unique in its underground data center build. Iron Mountain Inc.'s Boyers, Pa., underground data center opened in the 1980s, a natural evolution of the company's underground document security operations in an old mine. Recently, the company expanded its data center offering in the mine, with colocation, wholesale data center space and some managed services. Iron Mountain is in the process of adding 9 megawatts of data center power to the design, which it refers to as a destination colocation for high-security computing.
"With an aboveground data center, all you need is an 18-wheeler to break in," said Dan Golding, Iron Mountain's vice president of data center operations.
In underground data centers, access points are limited. Iron Mountain also has armed guards in the facility. A new data center infrastructure-management system for the site will also increase operational visibility without bringing more people into the environment.