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Photos: Inside vast abandoned mine set to be world's biggest data center

Norway's newest white-space data center has opened in a former mine. Lefdal Mine Datacenter could become the world's largest once of three of its five levels are filled.

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Topic: Innovation
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1 of 10 Lefdal Mine Datacenter

Growing space

The abandoned mine that will house the Lefdal Mine Datacenter was originally used for extracting olivine, a magnesium iron silicate. The facility is tunneled on six levels, featuring mountain halls with roof heights of up to 16 meters/52 feet, accessible via underground 'avenues' and 'streets' in a grid.

The maximum potential floor space is 120,000 square meters, or nearly 1.3 million square feet. The Statue of Liberty, Boeing 737, trailer and car on the lower right of the picture show the colossal scale of the facility.

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2 of 10 Lefdal Mine Datacenter

Modular design

The main idea of the data center is to offer a highly modular design. Servers and networks are built into racks, which are put into standard 40-foot containers, and the containers are stacked three high in the mountain halls. They will also offer more traditional data halls in the facility.

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3 of 10 Lefdal Mine Datacenter

First phase

In the first phase of its buildout, the Lefdal Mine Datacenter has installed cooling facilities with a capacity of 45MW on the third level of the mine. The coolant is seawater drawn at a depth of 500 meters, or 1,640 feet, from the fjord outside, which is heat-exchanged with the cooling circuits in the data center.

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4 of 10 Lefdal Mine Datacenter

Low PUE

The cooling topology is dimensioned to support up to 5kW per rack within the containers. The company guarantees that the facility's power usage efficiency (PUE) will never exceed 1.15, and its calculations indicate a fluctuating PUE between 1.08 and 1.15 in the data center.

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5 of 10 Lefdal Mine Datacenter

​High security

As the facility is inside a mine, it's easy to provide a high level of security. This illustration shows how the entrance to the data center will look when the installation is completed. The containers located by the access building are an emergency diesel generator farm for fallback power generation.

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6 of 10 John Kråkenes/Lefdal Mine Datacenter

​Level entrance

This picture shows the entrance from the access spiral road and into level three of the facility. The dimensions allow for trailers to deliver the data center containers right into the installation. Lefdal Mine Datacenter is in process of acquiring Uptime Institute Tier III certification on concurrent maintainability, which it expects achieve this year.

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7 of 10 Lefdal Mine Datacenter

​Access avenue

The main access road, or avenue, to the mine level is 300 meters/984 feet long and cuts through the mountain. The avenue is in turn intersected by the mountain halls where the actual data center facilities are located.

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8 of 10 Lefdal Mine Datacenter

​Industrialization

This image shows one of the mountain halls with giant racks for the 40-foot containers. Lefdal Mine Datacenter plans to offer set up the containers off-premise, and then just ship them into the mine to hook up power, networking, and cooling. Lefdal Mine Datacenter calls this approach "industrialization of data centers".

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9 of 10 Lefdal Mine Datacenter

​Networking

Even though the north-western coastline of Norway sounds very far away from everything, Lefdal Mine Datacenter promises network performance well within the limits for most applications.

Round-trip delays of 17 milliseconds to London and 21 to Amsterdam are achieved through partnerships with fiber operators that have cables crossing the North Sea.

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10 of 10 Lefdal Mine Datacenter

​High density

When the mine is fully populated, it will become one of the largest data center facilities on the planet. By today's standards, it will become the world's largest if three of the five levels are filled.

Because of the large amount of locally-produced hydropower totaling more than 350MW, Lefdal Mine Datacenter says that the mine will be "the greenest data center in Europe, if not the world".

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