Jul 8, 2020

Pionen: Inside the world's most secure data centre

data centre
Security
Harry Menear
4 min
Located 100ft beneath the streets of Stockholm, Pionen White Mountain might just be the most secure (and unique) data centre in the world
Located 100ft beneath the streets of Stockholm, Pionen White Mountain might just be the most secure (and unique) data centre in the world...

Data centre security is an increasingly pressing issue around the world, and the number of digital and physical attacks that take place every year is on the rise. 

According to research by Bayshore Networks, the average cost of a cyber attack on a data centre is in the region of $4mn. “Vulnerabilities are everywhere. Security apertures can be opened by seemingly benign activities such as ping sweeps, use of sophisticated software applications, and, of course, by the use of default passwords,” adds the report. 

Driven by the increased adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, as well as the increasing sophistication of AI and machine learning-powered cyber threats, the danger posed to data centres has grown significantly in recent years. Also, the global migration of enterprise data into managed cloud data centres is making these facilities into even more tempting targets. Secure data centres have never been of more paramount concern, particularly as IoT adoption further blurs the lines between physical and digital security. 

While it’s hard to find a data centre operator that doesn’t take cybersecurity seriously, round the world, there are a number of facilities around the world that take their precautions to unparalleled levels. Facilities like DC1-Stavanger in Norway and Project Natick in Scotland take security to new heights (or, in Natick’s case, depths - the whole data centre, with its 12 racks containing a total of 864 servers and their necessary cooling infrastructure, sits at the bottom of the sea near the Orkney Islands), there is one facility that has stood for more than 10 years as an example of data centre security elevated beyond the norm. 

Welcome to Pionen White Mountain

Often compared to a set from a James Bond film, Pionen White Mountain is possibly the most secure data centre facility on the planet. Owned and operated by Bahnhof, the facility is located 100 feet beneath the Swedish capital of Stokholm, and is potentially capable of riding out a nuclear apocalypse with its contents still intact. 

A former nuclear bunker during the Cold War, Pionen was originally a 11,950 square foot facility nestled beneath almost 100ft of bedrock. In 2007, construction began, adding an additional 141,300 cubic feet of space and radically redesigning the interior. 

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Pionen is physically protected by a 40cm-thick steel blast door, and its servers are backed up by generators made from the repurposed engines of two diesel submarines. The facility produces more than 1.5MW of cooling for its servers - enough for several hundred rack mounted units. 

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Its cyber defences are just as formidable as its physical ones, and its triple-redundancy connection cables make it one of the most resilient and interconnected data centres in the world. The facility houses the network operations centres for one of Sweden’s biggest internet service providers, Bahnhof and was reportedly used as a colocation facility to WikiLeaks’ servers. 

One of the most interesting things about Pionen’s design, however, is its interior, which is on an artificial day-night cycle and brims with greenhouse plants, several waterfalls (didn’t we say it was a Bond set?) and a 2,600 litre fish tank. Its conference room looks like something out of 2001 and is suspended in the air above a server hall that is part Eden Project and partly the volcano lair from You Only Live Twice.  

“Rather than just concentrating on technical hardware we decided to put humans in focus,” said Jon Karlung, CEO at Bahnhof, in an interview with Pingdom. “Of course, the security, power, cooling, network, etc, are all top notch, but the people designing data centres often (always!) forget about the humans that are supposed to work with the stuff.”

He added: “Since we got hold of this unique nuclear bunker in central Stockholm deep below the rock, we just couldn’t build it like a traditional – more boring – hosting centre. We wanted to make something different. The place itself needed something far out in design and science fiction was the natural source of inspiration in this case – plus of course some solid experience from having been a hosting provider for more than a decade.”

“I’m personally a big fan of old science fiction movies. Especially ones from the 70s like Logan’s Run, Silent Running, Star Wars (especially The Empire Strikes Back) so these were an influence,“ said Karlung. “James Bond movies have also had an impact on the design. I was actually looking for the same outfit as the villain ‘Blofeld’ in Bond and even considered getting a white cat, but that might have been going a bit far.”

Pionen blends world-class security (both physical and digital) with thoughtful design and something that many utilitarian data centres often lack: a sense of style. 

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Jun 20, 2021

Schneider Electric reveals new IT Innovation report

SchneiderElectric
datacentres
CompanyReport
DigitalEmissions
3 min
Schneider Electric has released the Digital Economy and Climate Impact report revealing new innovations for sustainability and resiliency in data centres

Schneider Electric has released a new IT innovations report titled “Digital Economy and Climate Impact”, with the aim of gaining an understanding of how digitised and smart applications will be powered in the future. The company says that the report predicts that IT sector-related electricity demand is expected to increase by almost 50% by 2030. 

Despite this, the report also shows that emissions would not increase by more than 26% by the same year, following the decarbonisation of the electricity system. In an attempt to reduce this rise in emissions the Schneider Electric TM Sustainability Research Institute recommends continued efforts in achieving efficiencies on the IT and energy sides at both the component and system levels. 

The report highlights how the rise of edge computing technologies require a “specific focus” due to these systems being less efficient than hyperscale data centres. “When the world locked down, it also logged on and internet traffic soared,” said Pankaj Sharma, EVP, Secure Power, Schneider Electric. 

“It’s misleading to assume that digital activity will inevitably result in a deeply problematic increase in CO2 emissions. The analysis from the Schneider Electric Sustainability Institute puts to rest many of the worst-case scenario claims predicting IT-related electricity use will double every five years. That said, as an industry, we must remain vigilant in finding new sources of sustainability gains while ensuring resiliency as digital keeps life moving forward”, he added. 

As well as the release of the report, Schneider Electric also announced several updates to its EcoStruxure IT data center infrastructure management software, Galaxy VL 3-phase uninterruptable power supply (UPS), introducing an industry-leading single-phase UPS, the APC™ Smart-UPS™ Ultra. All introductions are designed to advance the industry forward in meeting sustainability goals while increasing the resiliency of IT and data centre infrastructure, the company said. 

Managing hybrid data center and edge IT environments

Also showcased in Schneider Electric’s report are the increasing demands on digital consumption. According to the company, these create a more complex hybrid environment inclusive of enterprise, cloud, and edge data centres. Addressing the unique management challenges of a hybrid IT environment, Schneider Electric has announced updates to its EcoStruxure IT software to increase efficiency and resiliency, including:

  • Increased remote management capabilities: New granular remote device configuration features enable users to change configurations on one or more devices – including the new Galaxy VL and APC Smart-UPS Ultra single-phase UPS units – from one centralised platform with EcoStruxure IT Expert. This update, combined with previously released software insights on device security health, enables the user to identify faulty devices or configurations and address them in a matter of clicks, keeping their hybrid IT environment secure.
  • Improved environmental monitoring: Environmental monitoring systems ensure users have eyes and ears on data centre and IT deployments from anywhere, anytime. With this update, users can push mass configurations remotely for NetBotz cameras 750 and 755 quickly and efficiently increasing security across the critical infrastructure.
  • Enhanced remote capacity modeling and planning: With EcoStruxure IT Advisor’s new capabilities, users can remotely compare an unlimited number of racks and easily identify available capacity, view what assets are deployed and their dependencies.

Sharma concluded: “Schneider Electric has been focused on sustainability for the past 15 years and was recently named the most sustainable corporation in the world. We have embraced the mindset that future innovation will deliver better efficiency across the broader connectivity landscape. By making smart intentional choices, our industry can help mitigate how much electricity and emissions result from the rising appetite for digital technologies”.

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