10 more of the world’s coolest data centers

From a repurposed chapel to inflatable modules, data centers don’t fit the same mold

It’s been another year since we’ve taken a look at the coolest data centers in the world, determined either by architectural innovation, green design, innovative reuse of existing buildings or just sheer size. Here are 10 attention-grabbing examples from around the world that show data centers aren’t simply big rooms with lots of refrigerated air to keep servers from overheating.

For more cool data centers: The world's coolest data centers

More of the world's coolest data centers

Bahnhof modular data center, Kista, Sweden
Bahnhof modular data center, Kista, Sweden

Bahnhof leases traditional data center space from a variety of locations, but outside Kista, Sweden, it is building a modular facility made of a central, inflatable hub that can connect to three portable armored-steel rooms that house data center hardware. When it opens this spring the inflatable hub will serve as an office as well as a space for unpacking gear headed for the hardware rooms. Bahnhof says the modular nature of the facility means it doesn’t require a huge initial investment and it can grow as demand grows.

Google Data Center, Hamina, Finland
Google Data Center, Hamina, Finland

This former paper mill was chosen for its sprawling floor space but also for being sited directly on the Gulf of Finland, source of an inexhaustible supply of frigid water for cooling the facility’s servers. This involves pumping the water through a 450-meter tunnel to heat exchangers where the fresh water that actually circulates within the server area is cooled by the seawater before the fresh water is recirculated. The warmed seawater is remixed with cold water from the bay to cool it closer to bay temperatures before it is returned, reducing the environmental impact of warm water. The facility has no compressors or refrigerants for its cooling. Oh, and it has a sauna on site for employees.

Princeton High-Performance Computing Research Center, Princeton, N.J.
Princeton High-Performance Computing Research Center, Princeton, N.J.

This new 47,000-square-foot High-Performance Computing Research Center at Princeton University is automatically tuned to maximize energy efficiency, earning the facility a Leadership in Energy Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the United States Green Building Council. Heating, ventilating and air-conditioning are controlled by gear from Automated Logic. The hardware in the data center powers diverse studies from propagation of gravitational waves to adding trees to Earth climate models.

OVH data center, Beauharnois, Quebec, Canada
OVH data center, Beauharnois, Quebec, Canada

OVH has remodeled a former Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum plant to fit its model of running data centers with efficient heat transfer. The general plan is to have all the hot aisles in the facility back onto a central air shaft that carries heat out the roof. The company says it doesn’t need air conditioners because it relies instead on proprietary technology it designed. Hydroelectric power from a nearby generation facility provides electricity. OVH says the new center has room for 360,000 servers.

Deltalis Radixcloud Data Center, Attinghausen, Switzerland
Deltalis Radixcloud Data Center, Attinghausen, Switzerland

As the former command and control center for the Swiss Air Force, this data center is plenty secure, reinforced as well as being tucked in the Alps. Due to its location in the mountains, it takes advantage of cool air and glacial waters to cool the facility at low cost. The data gear within the center is modular units made by Netherlands-based Minkels.

Microsoft Data Center, Dublin, Ireland
Microsoft Data Center, Dublin, Ireland

Microsoft’s first mega-data center in Europe, the Dublin facility encompasses 303,000 square feet. It uses ambient air to cool the hardware inside, taking advantage of the island’s climate where the temperature between 1971 and 2000 didn’t break 85 degrees F. Plus Microsoft runs the facility at 75 degrees, with occasional spikes to 85. The advantage: For more than 95% of the time the facility can run without mechanical or refrigerated cooling systems, and mechanical cooling systems alone in traditional data centers account for about 38% of power consumption. The data center uses no water for cooling.

Verne Global data center, Reykjavik, Iceland
Verne Global data center, Reykjavik, Iceland

Data centers don’t get much greener. The Verne Global data center at a former NATO airbase outside Iceland’s capital is powered by completely renewable resources – geothermal and hydroelectric. As a result it burns no fossil fuels. Even heat dissipation is done without using power; the 45-acre facility is cooled by ambient cold air. Verne Global has landed BMW as an anchor tenant.

Green Data Center, Syracuse University, New York
Green Data Center, Syracuse University, New York

Built in cooperation with IBM and New York State, the Green Data Center at Syracuse University is completely off the grid, generating all the electricity it needs using a series of 12 natural gas-powered turbines. Hot exhaust from the turbines is used to heat water for an adjacent office building and also is used in absorption chillers in which heat drives a refrigeration system. That system cools water that is used to carry heat away from the data center’s server area. Battery backup can keep the center running at full power for 17 minutes, long enough for an orderly shutdown of servers, if that is necessary.

Barcelona Supercomputing Center, Spain
Barcelona Supercomputing Center, Spain

The former Torre Girona Chapel on the campus of the Technical University of Catalonia is the home of the school’s supercomputer called MareNostrum. Housed in a glass room, the supercomputer sits inside the chapel, which was built in the 1920s. The school needed a facility it could quickly convert to a home for the supercomputer and the chapel was chosen because of its location on campus. It predates the green data center movement, but its location within the religious setting along with the subdued lighting make for an impressive visual experience.

SuperNAP, Las Vegas, Nev.
SuperNAP, Las Vegas, Nev.

This data center run by Switch, a collocation provider, already claims to be among the 10 largest in the world with nearly 10 acres of floor space. Located in the desert surrounding Las Vegas the facility has extensive cooling systems lined up on the ground outside the building to carry off the heat generated by the 1,500 Watts/square foot of server power usage the center supports. 50 generators capable of 100 million Watts of power stand by if the power grid fails. The building is protected by a 10-foot tall blast wall and features white-noise injectors, steel-lined walls and radio frequency shielding to protect customers’ servers from being spied on.