Aug 6, 2020

Cold storage: Inside the GitHub Arctic Code Vault

Critical Environments
Open source
Harry Menear
3 min
Deep within the arctic circle, GitHub has locked away a complete record of the world’s open source code, designed to last for a thousand years
Deep within the arctic circle, GitHub has locked away a complete record of the world’s open source code, designed to last for a thousand years...

Surrounded by raging, ice-cold ocean, home to polar bears and arctic foxes, halfway between Norway and the North Pole, Svalbard is one of the most isolated and inhospitable places you could ask for.

That’s not how the two and a half thousand or so people who live there say, of course. Residents compare it to an “arctic fairy tale”, where the sky dances with radiant colours in the depth of winter, and the sun never sets in July. 

Also, if 2020 keeps on going the way it has, it might be our species’ best hope of clawing its way back if the worst should happen. Svalbard island was already home to the Global Seed Vault - a vital repository of seeds and grains, and one of the best pieces of insurance we have against a global biodiversity collapse. “The Vault is the ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply, offering options for future generations to overcome the challenges of climate change and population growth. It will secure, for centuries, millions of seeds representing every important crop variety available in the world today. It is the final backup.”

The Seed Vault was set up in 2008, and today is home to more than 1mn varieties of seed and grain. 

More recently, the frozen archipelago became home to another potentially invaluable repository. Rather than seeds, however, this one is home to a wealth of human knowledge. 

“What will software look like 1,000 years from now? What will humanity look like? We can only guess. But we can help make sure that today’s most important building blocks make it to tomorrow,” wrote GitHub’s Shanku Niyogi at the end of 2019, as the company released its plans for the GitHub Arctic Code Vault, a secure storage facility, now home to a vast record of humanity’s open source code. 

On February 2, 2020, GitHub took a snapshot of all active public repositories on its platform. This was the start of a five month journey. 

First, the code was archived by the company’s project partner Piql, which transferred the 21TB of code onto 186 reels of piqlFilm (digital photosensitive archival film), creating a physical copy of our collective digital knowledge. 

Then, the project hit the same massive, crummy snag that the rest of us did: the global pandemic. Flights to the arctic circle were cancelled for months. “Our original plan was for our team to fly to Norway and personally escort the world’s open source code to the Arctic, but as the world continues to endure a global pandemic, we had to adjust our plans,” wrote Julia Metcalf, GitHub’s Director of Strategic Programs, in the company blog

Finally, Svalbard reopened its airport and the code landed in Longyearbyen, a town of a few thousand people on Svalbard, where it was stored overnight. The next morning, it traveled to the decommissioned coal mine GigHub has retrofitted for the purpose, set in the mountain, and then locked away in a chamber deep inside hundreds of meters of permafrost, where it will stay for the next 1,000 years. 

GitHub isn’t the only organisation preoccupied with preserving mankind’s digital knowledge. 

The Internet Archive, the Software Heritage Foundation and Project Silica are working to find long-term storage solutions in case the worst should happen. 

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Jun 15, 2021

Sustainability and PUE reduction in data centres

2 min
As green data centre design becomes mission critical, rigid evaporative media can be the key to reducing your PUE and increasing your sustainability. 

The data centre industry is at a crossroads. As demand for colocation, hyperscale cloud, and edge solutions continues to rise, operators and enterprises are also facing up to the reality that sustainable design and operating practice are a mission critical component of the modern data centre. Going green is no longer an optional extra.

Data centres are becoming an increasingly critical foundation that underpins the modern world, and the demand for them continues to grow exponentially each year. Data centres must remain in constant operation in order to provide the services for which customers depend on them. 

This mission critical need, combined with the sector-wide push towards reduced energy consumption and carbon footprint throughout the industry, is making the search for innovative evaporative media solutions that keep systems running at peak efficiency an equally mission critical priority.

The two main sources of energy consumption in a modern data centre are its IT equipment and the cooling infrastructure used to keep that equipment cool. A 2017 study found that energy consumption as the direct result of cooling data centre IT equipment can amount to over 40% of the total energy consumption in a facility. From air cooling to liquid and evaporative chillers, data centre operators, finding the right cooling solution for your facility is a top-of-mind goal for any data centre operator. 

Courtesy of Portacool
Courtesy of Portacool

Portacool: keeping it Kuul 

Based in Center, Texas, Portacool is a portable evaporative cooling solutions firm that has been pushing the boundaries of mission critical infrastructure cooling technology since it entered the market in 1990. 

Through constant embodiment of its five brand pillars - Safety & Liability, Total Cost of Ownership, Productivity & Performance, Sustainability & Social Responsibility, and Life & Comfort Enhancing Solutions - Portacool has grown steadily over the past 30 years, continually reinforcing its reputation for industry-leading cooling solutions. 

Portacool’s solutions have been successfully applied throughout the agricultural and horticultural, manufacturing, industrial, business, entertainment, sports, home, and hobby industries - “anywhere cooling is needed and traditional air conditioning is impractical or cost prohibitive.” 

The company’s sub-brand, Kuul, is Portacool’s answer to the growing need for reliable, sustainable cooling solutions in the data centre sector. Portacool manufactures three series of evaporative media – Kuul Control, Kuul Vitality and Kuul Comfort. Kuul Control is used in data centres, power generation and HVAC systems. Kuul Vitality is utilised primarily in the horticulture, poultry and swine industries. Kuul Comfort is exclusively made for usage in Portacool-branded portable evaporative coolers.

Kuul can help data centre operators lower their PUE dramatically, increasing the environmental sustainability of their facilities significantly as a result of its rigid evaporative media solutions. 

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