VIDEO: Inside A Data Center, The Architecture Of The Cloud

Have you ever wondered where your information goes when you save it to “The Cloud”? The answer is within giant data centers. According to reports, Facebook and Google’s data centers resemble something from Science Fiction, while some could come straight from a Bond flick. In a new short film named Machine, Filmmaker and Visual artist Timo Arnall takes us where few have been granted access, showing the world what “The Cloud” really is – a massive architectural space with extreme energy demands. To experience the power surging and hear the deafening hum of a data center, check out the trailer above.

Where Does the Internet Live?

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One day, Andrew Blums internet stopped working. He called a repair man, who told him that, quite simply, a squirrel had chewed on his internet.

Blum was perplexed. The internet is a nebulous, untouchable “cloud” – isn’t it? Or, as Blum puts it in his TEDTalk: “The Internet is a transcendent idea. It’s a set of protocols that has changed everything from shopping to dating to revolutions. It was unequivocally not something a squirrel could chew on. But that in fact seemed to be the case. [...] And then I got this image in my head of what would happen if you yanked the wire from the wall and if you started to follow it. Where would it go? Was the Internet actually a place that you could visit? Could I go there?”

The question prompted Blum to explore the physical wires, cables, and boxes that make up the internet – an adventure he chronicles in his book Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the InternetA big part of that journey was visiting Data Centers, those power-guzzling monstrosities where all your Data (and we mean all your data) goes to live.

Curious for more? Check out Blum’s TEDTalk, and revisit our past coverage on Data Centers, including our Editorial “Data Centers: Anti-Monuments of the Digital Age

 

How to Hack (and Design) a Data Center

The bank architect’s goal is to create a secure edifice. The bank robber’s? To subvert the edifice. And yet consider their commonality: their interaction with space.  Both analyze plans and consider inefficiencies, both inhabit the space much differently than your average spectator. In fact, the Robber’s relationship with space is far more physical, urgent…nuanced. As Mehruss Ahi, a recent graduate from Woodbury University, puts it in his senior thesis: “The Architect is the Bank Robber…and the Bank Robber is the Architect.”

Ahi suggests a Robber-like “spatial hack” of the bank: an identification of its inefficiencies/vulnerabilities/paths of circulation. He also notes the necessity of giving priority to large storage space for goods rather than money (due to “the migration of banking services to the Web”). This new perspective, Ahi argues, will allow architects to design a smarter, more secure bank. The bank of the future.

Ahi’s assertion about the need for physical storage space (as turn to the Web), got me thinking. Our world depends less and less on physical storage, and more and more on the bits of information flying through the wires and cables of the internet. Ahi’s theory, while an interesting insight into bank design, is even more powerful when applied to the bank’s modern day equivalent: the Data Center.

Data Centers: Anti-Monuments of the Digital Age

375 Pearl, originally built in 1975 as a Telephone Communications building, was bought in 2011 to be repurposed as a Data Centers. The intimidating, unbroken facade is typical of a . Photo via Flickr CC User wallyg.

Your Macbook Air has come at a price. And I’m not talking about the $1,000 bucks you shelled out to buy it.

I’m talking about the cost of lightness. Because the dirty secret of the “Cloud” – that nebulous place where your data goes to live, thus freeing up your technological devices from all that weight – is its very physical counterpart.

Data Centers. Giant, whirring, power-guzzling behemoths of data storage – made of cables, servers, routers, tubes, coolers, and wires. As your devices get thinner, the insatiably hungry cloud, the data centers, get thicker.

So why are you struggling to picture one in your mind? Why do we have no idea what they look like? What they do? Where they are? Because Data Centers have been hidden away and, although carefully planned, intentionally “undesigned.” The goal is to make the architecture so technologically efficient, that the architecture becomes the machinery, and the machinery the architecture. In the words of author Andrew Blum, Data Centers are “anti-monuments” that ”declare their own unimportance.

But if architecture is the expression of our society’s values and beliefs, then what does this architectural obliteration mean? That we are willfully ignoring the process that creates the data we daily consume. As long as the works, who cares where it came from (or at what cost — and there is a considerable cost)?

So can design change our alienated relationship to our data? Should it? And if so, how?

Data Space / CLOG

“Every second, 2.8 million emails are sent, 30,000 phrases are Googled, and 600 updates are tweeted. While being absorbed into this virtual world, most rarely consider the physical ramifications of this data. All over the world, data centers are becoming integral components of our twenty-first city infrastructure [...] As cloud storage and global Internet usage increase, it’s time to talk about the physical space of data.” - CLOG (5)

What does it look like to give the virtual, physical form? As every CLOG edition, Data Space explores “from multiple viewpoints and through a variety of means, a single subject particularly relevant to now” (5) and this subject, how to design “the infrastructure of invisible data” (103), could very well be the defining question of our age

Data Center In Milan / AMA – Albera Monti & Associati

© Beppe Raso

Architects: AMA – Albera Monti & Associati
Location: Milan,
Architectural Project Team: Giovanni Albera [Principal in Charge], Mirjana Rikalo (Project Director), Nicolas Monti [Principal], Luciano Miano, Marilena Giupponi, Roberta Bettinzoli, Claudia Cimadori, Valentina Nardini
M.E.P. Design: Varese Controlli (Dario Bellocchio, Carlo Ascoli)
Structural Design: Corrado Danzo
Developer and asst manager: InPartner
General Contractor: Cile
Project area: 20,000 sqm
Project year: 2008 – 2009
Photographs: Beppe Raso

Architecture of WikiLeaks

© Åke E:son Lindman

Thanks to the New York Post article we noticed that this project Pionen White Mountain, which we featured November 24, 2008, is indeed the WikiLeaks Headquarters.   Pionen – White Mountain designed by Albert France-Lanord Architects is housed in a former 1,200 sqm  Cold War bunker (originally built as a World War II bunker); an amazing location 30 meters down under the granite rocks of the Vita Berg Park in Stockholm.

One of the original founders of WikiLeaks is architect John Young. Sections and more photographs following the break.

Update: It seems that the New York Post article was misleading. The Pionen – White Mountain facilities, a Bahnhof computer center, hosts two Wikileaks servers at these facilities and provides power, cooling, and Internet access to the servers.

Architects: Albert France-Lanord Architects
Location:Stockholm,
Program: Datacenter
Collaborators: Frida Öster and Jonatan Blomgren
Geology Consultant: Geosigma AB
Construction:
Client: Bahnhof AB
Construction Area: 1,200 sqm
Project year: 2008
Photographs: Åke E:son Lindman

Pionen – White mountain / Albert France-Lanord Architects

Architects: Albert France-Lanord Architects
Location:,
Program: Datacenter
Collaborators: Frida Öster and Jonatan Blomgren
Geology Consultant: Geosigma AB
Construction: Albert France-Lanord Architects
Client: Bahnhof AB
Construction Area: 1,200 sqm
Project year: 2008
Photographs: Åke E:son Lindman