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Converted-mine data center tour amidst rocks and racks

Data center colocation providers have gotten creative with where they place facilities to save energy or increase security, and one cloud provider has found its home underground.

Lightedge Solutions, a cloud infrastructure and colocation provider in the U.S. Midwest, opened a facility in SubTropolis Technology Center, a converted limestone mine in Kansas City, Mo. The underground data center build eschewed precast walls and typical construction, saving 3-6 months on the new build compared to an above-ground data center, according to president and COO Jeffrey Springborn.

“Looking back, everything has gone really smoothly for a first project in a retired mine,” Springborn said.

Inside Lightedge Solutions' underground data center.

Figure 1. The limestone walls act as external insulation, absorb heat from the electronic equipment and provide natural security for equipment hosting corporate and sensitive data. “It’s a hardened facility that’s ready to go in a cookie-cooker fashion,” Springborn said. Pictured: Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, whose family owns SubTropolis Technology Center, speaking with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon at Lightedge’s grand opening in April 2014.

Lightedge colocation and cloud hosting infrastructure

Figure 2. The hardened environment of the underground mine appeals to high-security industries, Springborn said, such as government and medical IT. But cloud infrastructure is so hot, the mine’s users will also include a mix of local enterprises that want to migrate off -premises to cloud or to colocate their own equipment. The cloud hosting infrastructure that Lightedge uses in the Kansas City facility matches the infrastructure in its other facilities. Because of its mix of enterprise customers, Lightedge’s facility provides private cloud hosting without shared equipment.

Lightedge's connectivity-inspired entrance

Figure 3. Lightedge’s cloud hosting infrastructure comprises Cisco and EMC hardware with a VMware cloud layer. It uses high-speed 10G network connections between data centers and software-defined networking to ease network management, symbolized in the lightscaping at the colocation facility’s entrance.

The chiller and generators at Lightedge in SubTropolis

Figure 4. Because Lightedge was the first data center built into the former limestone mine, the company had to plan the portal in and out of the mine for its above-ground generators’ and chiller’s pipes. Pipe location and design must support future expansion of the data center, while accommodating the mine structure and easements.

Lightedge colocation center site plan

Figure 5. Without requiring a typical above-ground building, Lightedge will deploy new 10,000 square foot quadrants in four to five months. Building above ground, Springborn said, Lightedge would have put in the shell infrastructure for 50,000 to 100,000 square feet, paying for and maintaining the structure before it was useful to the business. This site plan shows the grid-like configuration of Lightedge’s data center.

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