Seven of the most EXTREME (and surprisingly beautiful) data centres in the world

Whether it’s a deep hole beneath the South Pole, or buried under sea off the US Pacific coast, data is being stored in extreme places around the world. Searching for mysterious subatomic particles, performing superfast calculations and protecting US national interests, these data centres are at the cutting edge of data technology. Now, ComTec has compiled a list of the seven most astonishing data centres around the globe.

Under a snowy mountain

The Arctic World Archive has chosen Svalbard for its home because the archipelago is declared demilitarised by 42 countries

Soon your data might be saved from an apocalypse by storing it underground in a converted mineshaft in Svalbard near Norway’s famous doomsday seed vault. The Arctic World Archive is going to be built into the same mountain that houses the Global Seed Vault, where up to four and a half million samples of crops from all over the world are stored. 

The Arctic World Archive has chosen Svalbard for its home because the archipeligo is declared demilitarised by 42 countries, and is expected to provide a safe and secure home when all else fails. It is also expected to be one of the places to survive long term climate change. The Archive was opened on March 27th this year, with the first customers, Brazil, Mexico, and Norway,depositing copies of various historical documents in the vault.

A church in Barcelona


The Barcelona Supercomputing Centre is built in a 19th century chapel, called Torre Girona. The building is home to the most powerful supercomputer in Europe, called the MareNorstrum which has been there since 1991 when assembly of the machine started. The machine performs research in a variety of areas, from quantum information to geophysics

Yahoo’s chicken coup

Built in 2010, Yahoo’s most recent data centre is also its most environmentally-friendly. The 155,000 square foot (14,399 square metres) facility in New York uses 40% less energy and 95% less water than normal facilities. Its design is based on a chicken coup, called CapeCodder, and it’s impossible for hot air to get trapped in the coop – the warmer the roof gets, the more a draft is created.

Microsoft’s deep sea data 


In 2015, Microsoft started an experiment called Project Natick, where they plunged a data centre inside a watertight 38,000-lb (17,237-kg) cylindrical vessel measuring approximately 10 by 7 feet (3 by 2 m) into the sea, 0.8km (0.5 miles) from the US Pacific coast.

The company hopes the test could lead to long steel tubes transporting fibre-optic wires deep under the cold sea. As well as answering the tech world’s question of powering even more servers, and keeping them all cool in the process, Microsoft’s vision might also answer the call for more energy. The company could pair its underwater exploration with wind turbines or tidal generators, which in turn would boost supply.

Cyber security in the middle of the desert 


The United States Intelligence Community has a data storage facility in the Utah desert, called the Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cyber security Initiative Data Centre. Its storage capacity is estimated to be on the order of exabytes, one quintillion bytes, or larger. It’s built to support the Comprehensive National Cyber security Initiative (CNCI), but exactly what it does is classified.

Neutrino searching at the South Pole


Buried 2,452 metres deep under the Antarctic ice, researchers are searching for something that barely interacts with matter; the mysterious neutrino. Neutrinos are subatomic particles created in stars, during radioactive decay and when huge stellar explosions, called supernovae, occur. The particles are incredibly hard to detect because they interact so weakly with matter, meaning a huge detector is needed; this is where IceCube comes in. 

Housed at the Amudsen-Scott Station at the South Pole, the IceCube Lab has over 1,200 computing cores and three petabytes of storage and tethered to the underground Ice Cube Observatory. At as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius, the air outside has to be heated up before it can be used to cool the data centre. 

Norway’s Green Mountain


The most environmentally-friendly data centres in the world lies in the mountains of Norway. Built in an old Nato hide-away nead Stavanger, one of the Green Mountain centres use hydroelectric power and is cooled by water from a nearby fjord. The second data centre in Telemark (DC2-Telemark) is in the ‘cradle of hydro power’ in Norway with multiple local hydro power plants.

The owner Smedvig claims these two data centres have the world’s lowest Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating and almost non-existent carbon footprints.

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