Cavern Technologies

Data Centers Beneath America's Surface

  1. The Cloud, Underground

    The Cloud, Underground

    As greater quantities of data and software are stored in the so-called cloud, technology giants Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), Apple (AAPL), and Facebook are among the companies building data centers aboveground across the country.

    Some businesses that seek additional security and protection from disaster are putting their data centers underground. Former mines and Cold War nuclear bunkers have been converted into rooms filled with servers that process data and can function as backup facilities in case of an aboveground outage. Most underground spaces are safe from tornadoes, ice storms, and other natural disasters. Some are safe from man-made disasters, too: One can survive a 20-megatron nuclear bomb detonated just a couple of miles away. An unexpected benefit is that constant underground temperatures make these spaces energy-efficient. With companies spending millions of dollars annually to power data centers, reduced energy consumption means lower electric bills.

    Among the following data centers, most offer only approximate locations because many companies prefer to keep exact locations private as a security precaution.
    Cavern Technologies
  2. Another 9 Data Centers

    Another 9 Data Centers

    Tarrytown, NY

    This co-location facility was originally designed in the 1970s as a bunker for an international corporation, which housed its mainframe computing system here. Today this facility offers offsite data backup services and services to help companies retrieve data in the event of a disaster.
    Another 9
  3. Cavern Technologies

    Cavern Technologies

    Lenexa, Kan.

    About 15 minutes from Kansas City, this facility was originally a mine for a company that sought limestone to make asphalt. It was converted into commercial space in the late 1990s. Located 125 feet below ground, this data center is protected from the strongest tornados and other natural disasters.
    Cavern Technologies
  4. Iron Mountain

    Iron Mountain

    Western Pennsylvania

    In 1954, a former limestone mine 200 feet underground became a safe haven for companies' vital records. Today it holds information of all types, including Iron Mountain's (IRM) primary data center. More than 2,700 employees work in underground record vaults. The 130-acre facility has its own restaurant, fire trucks, water treatment plant, and a week's worth of backup power. Room 48 (pictured here) uses ducts in the ceiling to push cold air down, using less power than the conventional approach of blowing air up through a raised floor.
    Iron Mountain
  5. Montgomery Westland

    Montgomery Westland

    Montgomery, TX

    When Louis Kung constructed the headquarters for his company, Westland Oil, he secretly built a 40,000-square-foot nuclear bomb shelter next to the office building. It was designed to house 350 adults for as long as three months in the event of a nuclear attack or a breakdown of civilization. The facility contains diesel generators, two water wells, decontamination showers, jail cells, a full surgical suite, and a multichamber chemical, biological, and radiation air-filtration system. Today it's a data center that performed without interruption during Hurricane Ike. It serves Fortune 500 and government-agency customers.
    Montgomery Westland
  6. The Mountain Complex

    The Mountain Complex

    Branson, Mo.

    This ground-level mine was built into the side of a dolomite Ozark mountain. The facility contains more than a million sq. ft. of data-center space. No trucks or trains are permitted inside the mountain, maintaining high air quality and security. The floor of the complex stands more than 100 feet above the top of Table Rock Dam and is several hundred feet above the nearest flood plain, so the space is dry.
    Getty Images
  7. Prairie Bunkers

    Prairie Bunkers

    Hastings, Neb.

    These bunkers were constructed during World War II as a large Naval ammunition depot. Some of the bunkers have since been used for agricultural purposes, including grain storage. These highly secure spaces are technically above ground, but the roof is covered with earth. Converted to a data center in 2009, the facility is connected to inexpensive electricity at 2.57¢ per kwh and to broadband fiber optic connections from Level 3 (LVLT).
    Prairie Bunkers
  8. Springfield Underground

    Springfield Underground

    Springfield, Mo.

    A former limestone mine, this space is located 100 feet below the surface. Many different types of businesses operate in this facility, from food manufacturing and packaging to records storage and data centers. Springfield Underground contains 2.4 million sq. ft.
  9. StrataSpace


    Louisville, Ky.

    Carved out of solid limestone, this facility is completely underground and is located 260 feet above the level of the Ohio River, the nearest major water source, so it won't flood. StrataSpace is naturally cooled and heated and maintains an innate temperature of 59 degrees year-round. StrataSpace will custom-build data centers for clients.
    Getty Images
  10. 85 Under

    85 Under

    Springfield, Mo.

    Also carved out of limestone, this space is 85 feet under the earth's surface and boasts a year-round temperature of 60 degrees to 64 degrees Fahrenheit. The facility's security system includes guards, card-key access levels, visual inspection, video monitoring, and biometrics.
    85 under
  11. U.S. Secure Hosting Center

    U.S. Secure Hosting Center

    Monticello, Iowa

    The U.S. government built this facility during the Cold War to protect critical communications infrastructure. It was designed to continue operating during—and for two weeks following—the detonation of either a 20-megatron nuclear bomb at a range of 2.4 miles from the facility or a 1-megatron bomb at a distance of one mile. It is designed to operate autonomously for two weeks.