Hong Kong faces challenges in building data centers

Stefan Hammond/Computerworld Hong Kong
09 Oct 2013
00:00

As data centers increasingly power the "information superhighway," space and cooling issues become ever more critical. In areas like Hong Kong, where land is scarce and older industrial buildings aren't suitable for truckloads of servers, going underground has appeal.


The image of massive underground tech installations seems taken from a James Bond movie. A villain stroking a fluffy white cat behind a wall of tech-monoliths with blinking lights. In a massive cave.

But as datacenters increasingly power the “information superhighway” (remember that term?), space and cooling issues become ever more critical. In areas like Hong Kong, where land is scarce and older industrial buildings aren't suitable for truckloads of servers, going underground has appeal.

Advantages of sheltered earth

Last year, engineering consultancy Arup published a report which claims that about two-thirds of the HKSAR boasts land of “high to medium suitability” for digging data center-friendly caverns. Five areas were highlighted as “strategic cavern areas”: Mount Davis on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon's famed Lion Rock, a couple of sites in the New Territories (Tuen Mun and Shatin) and one on Lantau: Siu Ho Wan.

These areas are big (each could accommodate multiple cavern sites), and the report claims underground facilities in Hong Kong can increase datacenter security owners “as [an underground facility] reduces the risk of accidental impact, blast and acts of terrorism.”

Underground datacenters aren't unprecedented. Green Mountain in Norway is cooled by an adjacent fjord and claims to be the “greenest datacenter in the world”, while Cavern Technologiesruns an underground datacenter in Kansas City (Bloomberg published a video report on the Kansas data cave this July). The USA has other underground data facilities: below the cornfields of Iowa lies InfoBunker.

Let's take a look at some benefits that don't seem lifted from a James Bond movie.

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