Licence to keep
11/23/2015 | Words: Yvonne Wirth | Pictures: Bahnhof AB
Data Center, James Bond, MTU Series 2000
A steel door opens the way to the underground world of Pionen White Mountains in Stockholm, Sweden. On entering the former nuclear bunker one is met, contrary to expectations, by pleasant, bright light. It is almost as bright as the daylight outside. We walk along corridors lined by solid stone white walls that take us 30m below ground. We then cross a long, suspended walkway into a circular office with glass walls. Below it there are row upon row of white servers. It looks like a scene from the James Bond movie Skyfall. But though it resemble the headquarters of a bad guy, in actual fact it is a data center located directly below the Vita bergen park right in the middle of Stockholm. As the largest computer center of the Swedish Internet service provider Bahnhof AB, it covers an area of 1,100m2. As many as 8.000 servers safeguard an infinite number gigabytes of data for clients all over the world, clients like the whistleblower website Wikileaks.
In memory of its military origins, the cave is called Pionen located in the White Mountains in Stockholm. As well as the name, another reminder of its past are the 40cm thick steel doors and the claim that the data center is capable of withstanding the force of a hydrogen bomb. To make sure the data center staff feel comfortable deep underground, Bahnhof has thought up a whole raft of refinements. Apart from daylight simulation there are greenhouses, a waterfall and a 2,600l saltwater aquarium. But it is not only physically that the largest data center of the Swedish ISP Bahnhof differs from others of its kind. Bahnhof itself is not like other operators. Because for years it has been an advocate of protecting personal rights and freedoms in cyberspace and opposed to state surveillance of electronic media. It also destroys the IP addresses of its customers so as to undermine the Swedish anti-file-sharing laws. Maximum security is a vital part of the deal between Bahnhof and their clients who have high requirements regarding the digital safety of their data information. ”Among our clients we have media houses, finance companies and others who want to prevent their information from ending up in the wrong hands. For the sake of our customers’ privacy, we do not name any specific refernces without their permission, but our solutions are proven and market leading,” explains Jon Karlung, CEO at Bahnhof.
Backup power especially important
So that the servers can be accessed even if there is a mains power failure, the availability of an emergency backup supply is essential. "Without a functioning power supply backup our clients would not be able to access their data in an emergency. Losses in the millions would be the consequence for most of them," Jon Karlung points out. To prevent the data center going off-line at all, two MTU Series 2000 engines will be on standby in future. "Our engines provide 100% primary output during a power cut. If the mains power is off for 24h, they can even be operated at a permissible average output of 1,030kVA each," explains Ralf Patschke from the Sales Department at MTU Onsite Energy. "In addition to that, they are extremely reliable and very economical." The engines were installed by the MTU distributor Swed Motor. Engineers from Swed Motor also take care of the service. Bahnhof has even thought up something clever for the gensets. "We finished the gensets in a special white aluminium paint," Patschke recounts.
"This is the first time MTU gensets have been used at Pionen White Mountains," Ralf Patschke reveals. "In the past they used MTU diesel engines were originally used in submarines." The two 12V 493 units had been in service since 1970 and were only replaced by the new gensets in 2015. As a little joke, Bahnhof installed a real german submarine hooter to signal the alarm in an emergency.
Eco-friendly data storage
But Pionen White Mountains is capable of more than securely storing vast quantities of data. "An enormous amount of heat is produced in a data center, and that heat has to be removed to prevent damage to the servers," explains Jon Karlung. "What is more, Sweden is a very cold country. And added to that, Stockholm has one of the largest district heating systems anywhere in the world." The domestic properties need hot water all year round. In addition, the homes of the Stockholm residents have to be heated in the cold winter months. So why not make use of the surplus heat from the data center? That is precisely what Bahnhof thought and it was the idea behind the decision to develop an environmentally friendly data center in collaboration with the Swedish Fortum Varme. "We use the heat produced here to heat homes. The heat generated by the computer systems is fed into the Stockholm district heating system and so used directly to heat residential properties," explains Jon Karlung. "That means the entire generation process is carbonneutral and based on renewable energy. That reduces the reliance on conventional heating."
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