As I’ve watched the momentum of the Cloud, it’s caused me to reflect upon earlier discussions about data center physical security. It’s long been my opinion that physical security will soon emerge (or re-emerge) as a top issue in data center planning, since businesses and consumers alike are increasingly reliant on the data and transaction processing being concentrated into these facilities.
In the late ‚ 1990’s, I was in the UK prospecting for data center space for an initial European footprint for E*Trade. During that prospecting trip, I toured an old AT&T data center in a remote area North of London. This facility was surrounded by earthen berms at least eight feet high, as well as a very sturdy barbed wire fence. Why all this for a facility in the middle of the country side?
You may recall a period of time in the UK referred to as “The Troubles,” which was an ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland. The Troubles occasionally spilled over into England and other countries. The threat of bombings by the IRA caused planners of critical facilities to place this threat high on the matrix. Thus, the inclusion of blast deflecting berms around this data center was a pragmatic feature for the time and location.
In 2010, a similar exposure exists on a global scale. As more and more data and data processing, important to daily life and business operations, are consolidated into the data center, the facility structure itself rises in importance on the threat matrix of security planners. The momentum of Cloud services accelerates this.
In a recent interview for a magazine piece, I mentioned physical security as one of the top issues for data center planning in the coming decade. This morning, I read an article in Information Week about Terremark‘s new “ultra secure” cloud data center in Northern Virginia.
This new data center features 12 foot earthen berms, DoD-approved security fencing, blast-proof exterior walls, armed guards, and security dogs. Within the facility a Customer can order floor-to-ceiling concrete walls and steel mesh beneath the raised floor. Vehicles entering the facility face security screening similar to government sites, with vehicle traps (similar to man traps), inspection by guards, under-vehicle inspection using mirrors, and bomb-sniffing dogs.
For those that question whether such an investment in security sells, the site is reported to have 40 tours on any given day, and has sold out within five months. I expect to see similar features in data center plans much more frequently during the coming years, especially those that are built for Cloud Computing purposes.
I would welcome any stories you may have about robust physical security at other data centers. Please submit a comment and share your thoughts.