Launch Slideshow

BahnhofAlbert France-Lanord09-2008

Data Centers

Data Centers

  • Pionen, a 1,200-square-meter (13,000-square-foot) data center designed by Albert France-Lanord Architects, is located in a former nuclear bomb shelter 30 meters under bedrock in Stockholm.

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    Pionen, a 1,200-square-meter (13,000-square-foot) data center designed by Albert France-Lanord Architects, is located in a former nuclear bomb shelter 30 meters under bedrock in Stockholm.

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    Åke E:Son Lindman

    Pionen, a 1,200-square-meter (13,000-square-foot) data center designed by Albert France-Lanord Architects, is located in a former nuclear bomb shelter 30 meters under bedrock in Stockholm.

  • Bahnhof, an Internet service provider, wanted Pionen to appear both welcoming and futuristic. In retrofitting the space, Albert France-Lanord Architects envisioned the granite rock as aliving organism.

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    Bahnhof, an Internet service provider, wanted Pionen to appear both welcoming and futuristic. In retrofitting the space, Albert France-Lanord Architects envisioned the granite rock as aliving organism.

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    Åke E:Son Lindman

    Bahnhof, an Internet service provider, wanted Pionen to appear both welcoming and futuristic. In retrofitting the space, Albert France-Lanord Architects envisioned the granite rock as a living organism.

  • For its first enterprise data center, located in Prineville, Ore., Facebook had an internal infrastructure team that worked with Sheehan Partners Architects to design everything from the building form to the servers. Though data centers are typically nondescript buildings, Facebook modeled this LEED Goldcertified facility after the traditional residential architecture found in the regions arid desert climate.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp6EE8%2Etmp_tcm20-1631138.jpg

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    For its first enterprise data center, located in Prineville, Ore., Facebook had an internal infrastructure team that worked with Sheehan Partners Architects to design everything from the building form to the servers. Though data centers are typically nondescript buildings, Facebook modeled this LEED Goldcertified facility after the traditional residential architecture found in the regions arid desert climate.

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    Alan Brandt / Courtesy Facebook

    For its first enterprise data center, located in Prineville, Ore., Facebook had an internal infrastructure team that worked with Sheehan Partners Architects to design everything from the building form to the servers. Though data centers are typically nondescript buildings, Facebook modeled this LEED Gold–certified facility after the traditional residential architecture found in the region’s arid desert climate.

  • Just two years after opening the 343,000-square-foot NY4 data center in Secaucus, N.J., Equinix is buildng NY5, a 400,000-square-foot data center just two doors down. Both NY4 and NY5 are designed by Sheehan Partners.

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    Just two years after opening the 343,000-square-foot NY4 data center in Secaucus, N.J., Equinix is buildng NY5, a 400,000-square-foot data center just two doors down. Both NY4 and NY5 are designed by Sheehan Partners.

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    Bilyana Dimitrova

    Just two years after opening the 343,000-square-foot NY4 data center in Secaucus, N.J., Equinix is buildng NY5, a 400,000-square-foot data center just two doors down. Both NY4 and NY5 are designed by Sheehan Partners.

  • The interstitial waiting room for visitors seeking to enter Equinix's NY5 data center

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    The interstitial waiting room for visitors seeking to enter Equinix's NY5 data center

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    Bilyana Dimitrova

    The interstitial waiting room for visitors seeking to enter Equinix's NY5 data center.

  • The server rooms of Equinix's NY5 data center

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    The server rooms of Equinix's NY5 data center

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    Bilyana Dimitrova

    The server rooms of Equinix's NY5 data center.

  • Sheehan Partners Architects also designed Equinix's SV5 Data Center, a 126,000-square-foot, LEED Certified data center in northern California.

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    Sheehan Partners Architects also designed Equinix's SV5 Data Center, a 126,000-square-foot, LEED Certified data center in northern California.

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    Jonnu Singleton

    Sheehan Partners Architects also designed Equinix's SV5 data center, a 126,000-square-foot, LEED certified data center in northern California.

  • The server cages of Equinix's SV5 data center

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    The server cages of Equinix's SV5 data center

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    Jonnu Singleton

    The server cages of Equinix's SV5 data center.

This is where the difference between a colocation data center and an enterprise data center matters. The most-efficient data centers often fall into the latter category, where the building owner not only has input on the facility’s design, but also in its implementation and use. When Google designs a center, Google gets to pick what kind of servers it uses, when to use them, how to cool them, and where the energy comes from. If a company owns the entire center, and all the processing within it, it can be bold in its approach. So, HP can batch its server usage to coincide with down times in demand, and Facebook can run its servers at a slightly higher temperature.

At NY4, these options don’t exist. Poleshuk has his job because he can guarantee his clients three things: first, they can run whatever processes they need at whatever time of day; second, their servers will remain a specific temperature; and third, power will be supplied. When asked about the amount of power NY4 uses, Poleshuk shrugs. “We need these computers,” he says. “We need these centers.”

Shapeshifters
The evolution of data center design remains open-ended. Some architects believe that data centers will become smaller and more modular. They might be little boxes on telephone poles, or they might be mobile and cater to user demand. The advent of cloud computing might result in fewer, larger data centers where processing is pooled or, conversely, it might lead to smaller, scattered data center facilities owned by individual businesses. Colocation centers will then have to find ways to increase the flexibility of their internal structure.

Regardless of the form data centers take, one thing is certain: they will continue to rise in sheer numbers. Two years after NY4’s completion, Equinix is building NY5, a 400,000-square-foot data center, just two doors down.

Despite interacting with them thousands of times each day, communities for the most part will remain oblivious to the existence of the data centers that are quietly multiplying in their backyards. This suits data center owners just fine. For security and safety reasons, they embrace the anonymity of their buildings.

Two hours after first pulling into NY4’s parking lot, I begin my trip home to Brooklyn. At a stop sign, I type my address into my phone. In a split second, a little blue line appears, plotting my route through the Holland Tunnel and across Manhattan. And somewhere in the world, a server deep inside an unmarked building is spinning frantically to process my request.