April 11, 2014
Nukes. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. Everywhere you look today it seems like someone is talking nuclear arms. North Korea wants everyone to know they have them, Iran wants them, Pakistan is having it’s own nuclear version of a yard sale, and we have them but feel real bad about it. I was reminded of these facts the other day when I was reading an article that said a niche market was growing for companies providing solutions for customers seeking nuclear blast proof data centers. Talk about preparing for a black swan event. As I thought more about it, I must admit I began to think that maybe designing a facility to withstand a multi-megaton atomic blast didn’t make as much sense as you might initially think.
First of all, it’s got to be expensive. We build our data centers to withstand winds of up to 150 mph, but surviving a multi-megaton blast definitely kicks up the concept of “hardening” a notch or two. Maybe, to save cost, you could build one in an abandoned missile silo, and since the current administration is bent on creating more and more of these, you might be able to get a good deal on one.
Second, there’s the whole real estate aspect. As you might expect, you can’t just build one of these things anywhere. You’re not generally going to find a former intercontinental ballistic missile launch site as part of an area’s MLS listings. So, if you want your data center to carry the “Hiroshima Proof” seal of approval, the right location is going to be just a little bit harder to find than a few acres near a sub-station with a couple of fiber providers nearby. Your average real estate broker just isn’t equipped to handle this type of site selection.
And how do you get people to work in a nuclear strike proof location? While it might be pretty interesting to work inside a concrete bunker whose previous occupant was capable of vaporizing an area roughly the size of Delaware, wouldn’t it get monotonous after awhile? I mean, it’s not like anybody’s getting a window in their office. And what happens if the big one does hit? Do you really ever get a day off when you can’t go outside for about 100 years? And I don’t care how well stocked the vending machine, eventually someone’s going to have to eat those “Lorna Doone” cookies.
Perhaps most importantly, how do you know that, after all this time and effort, your nuke proof server fortress will actually live up to its billing and keep operating after its been zonked by a Russian ballistic projectile with its very own nuclear warhead? It’s not like the Uptime Institute has a Tier for that, and the last time I looked “nuclear blast” wasn’t on anyone’s Level 5 commissioning failure scenario list. And if it didn’t work, who would you talk to about a refund?
The other important question I think is, “if the world has been devastated by nuclear war, is it really that important that your data center survived?” Will there be millions of survivors just chomping at the bit to get back on Facebook to “Like” nuclear winter? Other than Keith Richards, and cockroaches, who is going to be around to follow anyone on Twitter? Even the vast stores of financial information at places like Citibank and Goldman Sachs will be rendered moot. In a post apocalyptic world, where your offspring may be born with three rows of teeth, folks probably won’t be too concerned with the status of their stock portfolio or be asking anyone if they accept Visa. I’m just saying.
For those of you currently grappling with the question of whether or not your next data center should be nuclear proof, I urge you to look to the classic television show, Happy Days, for direction. You remember, the episode where Mr. C won’t let Fonzie bring his motorcycle into the bomb shelter he wants to build in the backyard. After all the fuss, Richie tells him that the rest of the family has decided that a backyard bomb shelter just wasn’t worth it. Practical advice I’d say.