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North Slope Server Farm 151

Posted by timothy
from the shades-of-an-alistair-maclean-novel dept.
A nameless cringer writes: "Netricity proposes an Internet data storage center on Alaska's North Slope to take advantage of the isolation (maybe a polar bear would break in), cold (easy to A/C; just open some vents to the outside), and abundant natural gas to run the generators. There's already a fat pipe running down the Alaska Pipeline to 'america.' Oil pipeline & data pipeline -- two good targets ... " And like anything else about the North Slope, raises hard-to-answer questions about the preservation of nature vs. human comfort.
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North Slope Server Farm

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Yea but how likely is it that some dipshit in a backhoe is going to be out in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness digging up your fiber? Oh wait, nevermind. Backhoes must be magnetically attracted to fiber. :-)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I repeat, stronger than last time. No. [...] Note: I'm an east-coast lower 48er.

    I repeat: Go away, you Lower 48er environmentalist whacko luser. You don't have to live in Alaska: you've probably never been here. You've just swallowed some eco-terrorist propaganda about how precious our hunk of frozen tundra is. You're as clueless as the people who're wondering about volcanoes on the North Slope.

    Just because you dweebs down there screwed up your own backyards doesn't mean that you have some "been there, done that" morally superior position from which you can dictate to Alaska on how to balance environmentalism and economics.

    You want to talk to Alaska from the environmental high ground? Fix your own back yards, and stop trying to meddle in ours.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    That fat pipe runs to the "Southern" coast of Alaska... no further... either they are going to have to run fiber to the lower 48 (submarine cable or down ALCAN)... or have to do a satellite shot.. and satellite shots to Geosynchronous Satellites... from far North Lattitudes.... isn't the same cup of tea as from lower 48... if you don't understand the phenomena alluded to in this posting... then you don't know SHF RF in general or the dynamics of Satellite Links... from any perspective... Look it up... the Russians use Molnya (sp) orbits for Satellite comms... very different approach to business than GeoSync orbits..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 14, 2001 @07:50AM (#223801)
    You're a god-damned idiot. If you would bother to read the documentation, it says that it's good to -40 Farenheit. Jesus fucking christ. I mean, it's not like -40 C and -40 F are the same god damned temperature.

    Idiot.

  • Why are slashdot readers paranoid about *everything*?

    - A.P.

    --
    Forget Napster. Why not really break the law?

  • Sounds like an ideal place to work to me, check on the servers in the morning and go climb a mountain in the afternoon.
  • As far as ambient cooling, it's easy to forget that it can get fairly warm up there for 2-3 months of the year. The record high in Barrow, at the extreme northern tip of Alaska on the coast, is 78F. Inland (except at high elevation) it's going to be somewhat higher, and the normal summer temperatures will be substantially higher (Barrow's normal diurnal temperature range in mid-July is 34-46F). So there will definitely need to be air conditioning -- very substantial air conditioning -- for the 1-5% of the year when the temperature exceeds 50F. The daily insolation up there is also very high, due to the continuous daylight in the summer, even if the sunlight's weaker than at lower latitudes.

    To take this to extremes, the average annual temperature in Verhojansk, Russia is about 2F. Problem is that the record low is about -90, but the record high is 98F, which is probably a bit higher than the record high in Key West. Average case planning isn't enough; they've got to take into account worst cases, too. That means figuring out what to do up to temperatures of maybe 85F or higher.

    Dumping excess heat in the permafrost isn't a very good solution, either. Ice isn't a terribly efficient conductor of heat (neither is stagnant water), so it will simply melt the permafrost. That's bad news, because suddenly you're sitting on top of a swamp and your foundation isn't much good. Not to mention that it's messy environmentally, too. I believe the pipeline and associated structures are well-insulated, as much to protect the permafrost as to keep the oil flowing.

    It might actually make more sense to do this in Valdez, at the southern terminus -- it's a lot more accessible, it's still fairly cold most of the year, and the ocean is available as a heat sink all year round (the ocean up there is pretty cold at all times).
  • You're really not that far off -- the normal mean in Fairbanks in July is in fact 63, but again that's a) mean, and b) normal. It could be considerably higher during a warm summer, and even in a normal summer there could be days or weeks of very much warmer weather. The record high there is 99; the record high for Alaska is 100 at Ft. Yukon, which is above the arctic circle.

    Like I said in another post, Valdez would make a better site, anyway, if someone wanted to do this. Even there (or anywhere), there's the whole issue of single point of failure, which is bad juju however you look at it.
  • You have to think about earthquakes and volcanos: Alaska is not very friendly about that. Winter storms aren't precisely friendly.
    Whoever has this plan, also has a very romantic idea of Alaska.
    I think there are better places in North Russia, Norway, or Canada.
  • Hey if they need a SysAdmin with Linux experience I'll take the job. My perfect fantasy job is be isolated from everyone in the middle of nowhere keeping computers up and running. Ever since John Carpenter's The Thing I always thought it'd be kewl working that gig. No bosses to worry about, no people to worry about, just keep the computers from crashing and everyone will be a-ok!!!

    Considering with the Net I get all the luxuries UPS to me. If anyone has any leads let me know!!

  • Indeed Lord Ender, I've been running this same argument for years. As a philosophy major, I have honed my acceptable definition of the word 'nature' to the following:

    • Precise: 1. Whatever exists. 2. the set of all extant of which a tiny subset is dubbed artificial.
    • Colloquial: 1. Some warm fuzzy feeling about the good old days before we people screwed everything up. 2. generally meant as an antonym of artificial.

    Probable reasons for continued use of the poor colloquial definition: Locke's state of nature hypothesis. biblical notion of a pre-Fall more natural, i.e., better, state. the historical etymology from the Latin for born suggesting that what is there at the conception [of a thing, e.g., the earth] is what is natural, i.e., better, than what is unnatural [or artificial], i.e., worse.

    Street Creds - Yeah yeah, this sure looks like a poststructuralist account. Sorry about that, but a deconstruction, a genealogy, is occasionally useful, especially when dealing with such an obvious case of origin (see Derrida). That said, I am all about the precise usage of this word and generally prefer a different warm and fuzzy term for our simpler terran coinhabitants and the sorts of environment and ecology they each require for survival.

    -l

    n.b.- I have intentionally avoided any argument for or against protection of environments relatively devoid of artificial structures.

  • Things like thousands of miles of data cables. Never mind that you might want to hook up not just to North America, but also to Asia and Europe. Enviromental factors in terms of the cold effect on equipment. Effects from Solar Storms (northern lights, etc)

    Eh...ditch the thousands of miles of data cables and use a sattelite uplink. Encrypted, of course. The auroras might give some problems with this though - I'm no expert in that field, but it would seem to me that they might have some effect. Perhaps a way to utilize the periodic auroras could be found (ok, now I'm just getting silly and speculating)

    Now that I'm thinking about it, why not start junking the old obsolete sattelites up there and replacing 'em with sattelite-based data storage...oh...wait...NASA's too busy watching coffee grow...dang.

  • Hrmm..problem is the infrastructure is expensive and involves burying the cables, which is extremely poor for the environment, etc...etc...etc...

    Wireless seemed like a good idea, but if what you say is true, traditional sattelite methods wouldn't work too well.

    Sounds like we need something new to be able to do this well. Grr... And Alaska seemed so perfect a location for this type of thing. Maybe a giant spike at the rotational North Pole...nah ;P

    The idea of orbital datahavens still sounds good to me though - too bad it'll never happen.
  • Are they gonna hire the systems and network gurus for this brilliant project from the local population (think "Northern Exposure") or are they going to structure salaries and benefits to entice some pot smoking sysadmin to move due North from the Valley? :)

    I wouldn't mind the gig, but I think I'd freeze my nuts off. Hard to imagine the good aspects to watching a bunch of servers in a place where the main hobbies are alcoholism and insomnia.

    Wait a minute. That sounds like my current gig! Where do I sign up?

  • >Remember, it's the cost per megawatt that counts and solar isn't cost competative yet even if you could run a data center on only solar.

    Solar is very cost competative, especially when you factor in things that aren't explictly in the price of fossil fuels: cost of clean-up, quality of life, and the cost of maintaining a dependence on foreign oil. Protecting interests in foreign oil is very, very expensive.

    The U.S could have spent far less simply by investing in renewables.
  • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Monday May 14, 2001 @07:58AM (#223813) Homepage
    I think this plan is silly. Everyone knows there are no penguins in the northern hemisphere, no matter how cold it may be. Here's my proposed solution:

    Buy hundreds of laptops and fit them with wireless LAN cards. Remove the standard casing and put the insides into a penguin-shaped case. Put wheels powered by an electric on the bottom of each penguin and let them loose at the South Pole. You now have highly redundant, mobile, distributed data storage. If you can't visualize what I mean, watch a few episodes of the Batman TV series, I'm sure at least one must feature motorized penguins running amok.

    The only question is what OS to run on these servers.
  • "a fat pipe"
    ^
    Hurm, no thanks.
  • The nature/humanity dichotomy is, of course, baloney. That does not however change the fact that the activities of humans on this planet have placed us well into what is conservatively estimated to be the largest mass extinction since the end of the Cambrian era.

    Natural does not necessarily equal good, and while humans are natural, so is the black plague. For the most part, humans have played to their very lowest and most 'natural' instincts in short-sightedly laying waste to much of the earth.

    Nature is always changing, animals are always evolving and becoming extinct.

    That's a superficially sound observation, but it is also fundamentally utter bullshit. Humans operate in a timeframe far, far faster than natural selection, and no multicellular organism can evolve fast enough to survive the changes we are creating. Only organisms naturally well-adapted to humans -- things like rats, cockroaches, and various molds and mildews -- are benefiting from our presence. And only unicellular organisms are actually evolving fast enough to keep up with us, but these are mainly the drug-resistant pathogens that will probably wipe us out for our failure to regulate our own population.

    Recognizing that man is part of nature is not the same as recognizing man's place in nature. But that requires appealing to faculties that operate in higher parts of the brain than the R-complex.

    --

  • No need to go that far out of town.

    Soil maintains a constant temperature. Several thousand feet of it give an enormous thermal mass.

    Put server farms in played-out salt mines (they're already being used for document storage.) The holes, really BIG holes, are already there.

    Its dry, secure as Hell (you'd literally have to tunnel through thousand foot thick firewalls,) and you can put a power generating station near the opening.
  • The slope is already fully armed with sysadmin, tech support staff and everything else needed to survive for the oil company purposes. It wouldn't take much to lure more techies up there especially for a hosting company of some sort.

    Most permanent employees on the slope (aka north slope) work on shifts. Commonly a shift such as two weeks on, two weeks off. The average workday is officially 12 hours for most people but depending on your job/company/etc. it can be anywhere from 12-16. And yes, no weekends while you are up, you work 7 days a week.

    The advantages of this system? Unless you are a smoker you don't have to spend a single dime while you are up north (at oil fields alcohol is banned). At least working for the oil companies they supply everything from food/soda/snacks to living facilities and exercise areas. Then when you come home you are off... no office, no nothing. you can sleep all day and stay up all night and travel at any point as long as you are back at the airport to catch the plane to head back up for work (oh ya, the planes are normally company covered too). For someone who is a roamer or likes having large chunks of time off this is great. 6 months a year off of work and with many companies you continue to accrue normal vacation time too which is an extra bonus.

    Many like the wages, depending on the company its just like any other job, good, bad or otherwise but the thing that really pumps people up is the overtime since its 4 hours a day guaranteed and you are working 7 days a week so there is even more in there.

    Anyway, its not that bad. For me I like sleeping in my own bed but my experiences with the slope as a whole have been good. Lots of rules to follow (usually with good reason) but its a pretty nifty way to live for many people.

    With what I just said - its not a problem to lure people to the slope. Pay them well, tell them they will get all the soda and snack food you can stuff in their faces and that they will have 6 months off a year and they will come. Oh yes, they will come.

    -Alan
  • There's a convenience store in northern Minnesota, that's supposedly heated and cooled almost entirely by a large supply of ground water which is cycled through a heat exchanger.

    I'm not sure how much supplemental heat they have to use in the winter (-30F is not uncommon), but they're apparently able to run the coolers and the building A/C exclusively off of the ground water.

    Now if you could just steal enough electricity from the phone lines, you could run the heat pumps for free..
  • Having lived in Alaska for 3 years, I can tell you, it is going to cost big bucks. I have been waiting patiently for this to happen, though... the location is ideal.

    On the upside, there was a wealth of good tech talent up there that can be had relatively cheaply. Hell, I would go back up there for a while to help with that. (Still have family up there anyway)... where can I send my resume? 8^)

    Jethro

  • So what are they going to do if there is a major pipeline break that puts the pipeline out of service for an extended period?
  • Remember, it's the cost per megawatt that counts and solar isn't cost competative yet even if you could run a data center on only solar.

    I beg to differ. The price of solar energy has been lower than the price of fossil fuels for a couple of years now.

    And what's more... if you live or do business in California the state will share the cost of installation.

    http://www.AltEStore.com/cart/ [altestore.com]
    ____________________________________
  • There currently is no oil or LNG (Liquid Natural Gas)pipeline to the lower 48 as the post implies. Perhaps the poster was referring to the 800 mile Trans-Alaska Pipline>which runs from the North Slope to Valdez where it is shipped via tanker (remember the Exxon Valdez?) to the lower 48 and refineries in the Virgin Islands. [alaska.net]


    Presently, there are negotiations underway to run a full blown LNG pipeline down either the Alaska Highway or through the Mackenzie Valley in Canada's Northwest Territories from the North Slope to the lower 48. Like any project of this scale, there are many legal and environmental issues that have to be resolved before this happens.


    Incidentally, a data center of this size would require more bandwidth than the entire state of Alaska has running into it.

  • Who's going to mount an Arctic expedition just to hit Ctl-Alt-Del every time NT crashes? Talk about your Blue screens...
  • But only if I can admin remotely.

    I guess the current job, er, climate makes this the best time in the last decade to float such a scheme though.

    --
    Poliglut [poliglut.com]

  • generate some electricity, not nearly enough, but enough solar panels around will help the situation a lot.

    The one thing Bush got right was that the problem right now is that there is more demand than supply. He says that means we must explore more and relax environmental standards so we can build up our production capabilities. You say conservation is the way to go.

    I say, you're both wrong.

    We need to do both of what you guys say, but neither will solve the problem.

    The problem was demand exceeding supply. That situation did not come about because we didn't have enought conservation, nor becuase of environmental concerns. The problem came about because energy was so cheap in the early 90's that there was no money in building power plants. There are many now under way (see this [poliglut.com] story on Poliglut for a graph of the last twenty years), but the reason demand exceeded supply was because there was no money in building new plants for a while and that even now that there is, it takes a while to build them.

    P.S. None of this should be taken as an argument against conservation, just that it's a fools paradise to believe it would have helped CA this time.

    --
    Poliglut [poliglut.com]

  • by rw2 (17419) on Monday May 14, 2001 @07:54AM (#223826) Homepage
    Alaskan summers are nice and warm with mean temp of 75 degrees.

    Huh? Anchorage (one of the warmer parts of Alaska), for example, only averages above 65 for nine days in the heat of July, after that it's all downhill.

    On the North Slope things are much colder. That same July peak only has them at 46.


    --
    Poliglut [poliglut.com]

  • by rw2 (17419) on Monday May 14, 2001 @07:43AM (#223827) Homepage
    Who marked this insightful? Maybe funny, but really!

    a. Don't build them in hot climates.

    This is the only legit part of the post. Of course, if the cost of energy is less than the cost of labor (remember that a lot of the labor is in hot climates!) then hot climates still make a lost of sense. Labor is your largest cost after all.

    b. If you do build them in hot climates you should have to build a large solar panel array on the top of the facility.

    That's great as a throw away comment. That solar array isn't going to give you nearly the power you need, nor produce it efficiently. Remember, it's the cost per megawatt that counts and solar isn't cost competative yet even if you could run a data center on only solar.

    c. When it's cold outside, open the windows. Nothing is dumber than having the air conditioning on in the winter! If dust bothers you, suck in outside air and filter it.

    Think climate control, not air conditioning. The moisture is important too. Opening windows (except in a desert and you already said we can't build there) will corrode all your systems. In the colder days you talk about the air conditioners are very efficient in terms of heat transfer and act mostly as humidity control.

    d. In hot climates build them underground. Once you get a few feet down the earth's crust is actually pretty cool. Extend large heat sinks into the surrounding terrain to use the earth's natural cooling.

    Once again you have a decent idea for homes, but it doesn't scale to the energy requirements of a data center.

    e. the source of the problem is the heat generated by equipment, why not design coller equipment instead? This is possible, there just is a lack of motivation to do it

    They have. One P4 throwing off 50 watts, but running 200 web servers is a lot more efficient thatn 200 486's.

    --
    Poliglut [poliglut.com]

  • In order to keep your feng shui aligned properly, you SHOULD be concerned about views and climate.

    -Chris
    ...More Powerful than Otto Preminger...
  • by Xenu (21845)
    Get over it. Alaska is not your personal nature preserve. Too many tree huggers in the lower 48, make that the urban areas of the lower 48, think that every piece of federal land should be turned into a national park. Screw the people who actually live there. They should be content with being allowed to contemplate the natural splendor of the wilderness. So what if they don't have self determination, jobs or a functioning local economy. All miners and lumberjacks are environmental rapists.
  • An orgy room? Oh yeah, that's exactly what *I* want to see in such a facility.

    "Oh My God! Who shaved the fucking walruses?"

  • by tenor (29482) on Monday May 14, 2001 @07:31AM (#223831)
    Sure it is well-cooled and isolated. But who exactly is going to sys admin a site on the North Slope? How much will you have to pay to have a nerd give up his life to administer that site? Think about it: no women, no electronics superstore, no Borders, no cops, no boss on site, unfettered access to pr0n, nobody watching,... wait a minute, maybe it won't be that hard to find someone after all...

    j
  • I wonder what the ping times to alaska would be?
  • Oh, I dunno ... there are places that sound similarly confining (see HavenCo [havenco.com] ;)) and if you like snow, darkness and books, it might not be so bad.

    More importantly, though, it should be staffed like the Enterprise, with a co-ed crew made up only of attractive youngish people from all races in skin-tight clothing.

    With 1/2 a million (!! could that have been a typo?!!) servers, they could probably due with a small colony of sysadmins, build a small orgy room, holodeck, etc.

    timothy

  • Yes, there is some impact, thats why i said, no real impact rather then no impact at all. Truth is, the north slope is not what most ppl think. Durring the winter months it's basicly a wasteland. While there are a few heards of several thousand moose/caribou and arctic fox in the area, over the years they have learned to stear clear of the buildings and traffic really isn't a problem.

    The handful of roads and trucks that do exist there are built for the pipeline security and maintainace folks, this has been in place for years and no offence, but it's damn hard to miss a 7 foot moose with a 6 foot acrossed rack in a giant field of white. For the 14 years my relative worked up there, there was only 1 moose fatiality due to a truck and thats cause the moose rammed it while it was parked.

    This new facility in the short term will have some effect yes, due to noise of construction ect. Once the facility is built things will return to normal (if it can be called that). As for high voltage systems, guess they will have to use those fences or do what most of the buildings there do, keep them on the inside and underground. Same for the cooling systems.

    Most people don't know that almost everything ever done on the north slope had to go through tremendous amounts regulations as to have as little of an effect on the wild life as possible. So there was much moved into areas that just can't be accessed by animals. It's not perfect, but it's one of the best jobs that humans could do aside from not building anything there at all.

  • There really wont be any impact on the animal life in the area if this site goes up. I have a relative that worked on the North Slope for many years in the employ of the oil corp. While he was there he filmed the wild life and the effect that the oil facilitied had on them as well as human presence.

    Many were shocked to find that after the construction was finished the wildlife moved right back in and hardly payed the large pipes any attention. While they will keep their distance from humans they seem to care less about all the steel and concreat.

    As for who would stay up there and for how long, my relatives shift was 3 weeks up at the slope and 2 weeks at home and the company flew him there and back. He always seemed to like the schedule as he felt like he was always getting a 2 week vacation.

    The only real problems I can see with something liek this is hardware breakage and replacement. If something goes down and there isn't a replacement on site, it could take a few days pending on a few factors.

    1. Availability of a replacement
    2. Shipping time to a staging point (Usualy Ancorage)
    3. Flight time (weather is a massive factor here as the cross to the slope is well into the arctice circle and the plane must cross the Brooks Range)

    Other then those areas, the only other thing I could suggest is that there be 3-4 ppl on site all the time since human interaction is a must even for the most anti-social person in a place like that where going outside could mean facing -70+ temps and everyting is all white for most of the year.

  • this sounds exactly like my job now except for the trip to Mars bit.
  • If you insulate it properly you could probably just use the heat from the servers and powerplant to warm it to room temperature. Of course you'll need a backup heater in case everything gets shut down, who knows how being way below freezing would affect things.

    Just throw engine-block heaters on the suckers, for starting up only.
    --

  • There is more than enough cold wind swept barren earth in Wyoming for all the Teraflops anyone needs. Additionally, there is plenty of natural gas, coal, oil and...did I mention the wind?

    Also, if you buy 3 cows and graze them on your cluster farm, the state will lease you a few thousand acres for a little over a dollar - and then subsidize your water costs, which you could use for cooling purposes prior to hosing down the 3 cows (in the summer time, that is. In the winter cooling will be free, but you may need to buy a bit of hay for the cows...)

    At night, the SysAdmins (probably imported from Colorado) can sneak out and Tip The Cows Over [patent pending].

    I've been to the North Slope, I've been to Wyoming, and I think the choice is clear.

  • And like anything else about the North Slope, raises hard-to-answer questions about the preservation of nature vs. human comfort.

    "Preservation of nature"??!! Render unto me a ****ing break!


    A datacenter isn't even on the same order of magnitude as other, probably more vital, things we're doing in Alaska. On the grand scale of things, it's hardly even a blip. Only the most rabid, anti-development environmentalist would even consider the idea that it might be a problem. $DEITY save us from rabid environmentalists.
    --

  • If you have ever been there, or taken a decent look at tit on the map you'd know that it's so goddamn big you could probably put that datacenter there and noone would eever notice. If you didn't make it a huge skyscraper (which you wouldn't do in the arctic anyway) or make it too offcial looking and shit noone would even care. They just want thier dividend to increase (thats the check they get from the state goverment ever year. It's thier cut of the oil revenue generated for the state of AK, and no they don't pay any state tax.
  • I keep remembering the old saying about "Some days you get the bear and some days the bear gets you".

    What kind of hazard-duty pay for the admins?

  • Tundra wolves chewing on the fiber optic line.
  • ... subterranean data centers? No, this is not a "joke" post...

    It may be that this is already quite widespread, but that's not the case from my experience in the field (== substantial). Let's stop to think about this for a second.

    "Going down, instead of out" preserves land space and offers several additional benefits:


    Relatively constant temperature.

    Um, there is the phenomenon called "permafrost" which exists throughout the area. Assuming your post refers to the proposed server farm, the heat would melt this into a pudding-like mud.

    Heightened protection from the elements (earthqakes included to a certain degree, since your buidling won't "fall over."

    Yes, it would. Not quickly, but inevitably, see above.

    Maybe somewhat increased physical security (depends).

    This is true, since potential attackers would have a hard time finding the building once the mud had closed over the top of it.

  • Wouldn't this be more of a target out in the wild? Think about it, if your a company who's going to (fall for this `plan') wouldn't you think someone would have an easier time breaking into some place where they probably have about > 25 law enforcement agents, most of whom are likely not trained properly (not to troll, but think about some high tech espionage case) what are they gonna do call for Gentle Ben or something?

    Might sound like a cool idea but I think it has issues. Sweden, Norway, and parts of Finland (their nothern parts) have equally cool places full of the resources too, maybe the EU should jump at the idea. Maybe not, when the crap hits the fan who are you going to turn to an Eskimo who only knows fishing and shit?

    They should set up a colo space in meat market like environments filled with freon cooled rack spaces powered by potatoes is what I think somewhere in Idaho

  • Oh that's easy just use Intel P4 processors
    and insulate the room a bit. ;)
  • Alaskan summers are nice and warm with mean temp of 75 degrees. And of course 24 hours of daylight. So this facillity will have to have air as well as heat. Plus, if something goes wrong during a storm, the admin had better live in the building.
  • Wow, I stand corrected in a pile of FUD. The national weather service puts gives Fairbanks a mean temp of 63 F in July. I've been to Alaska several times in the summer, and it was really warm when it wasnt raining. Anyway, sorry about the fud.
  • by walnut (78312)
    I repeat, stronger than last time. No.

    Alaska is one of the last few true wildernesses in the United States. There is enough of an ecological threat to the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) from oil drilling, that tech-heads, imbuing urbanesque idealized idiocy need not contribute to the generalized threat to Alaska. Consider the ramifications of your actions to a fragile eco-system. Yes, cool weather is ideal for storage, but think about the infrastructure necessary to support such a data warehouse. Think about the land, think about the number of people which would be needed to maintain both the data warehouse and the line between there and the rest of the world.

    Yes, there is significant less ecological damage which a data warehouse specifically puts out than an oil drill, but you are still making an impact on the environment. Don't think in terms of local economic boosts, but think in terms of world environmental responsobility. We've already ruined a good portion of the lower 48 with overly congested highways, air pollution, and our ideals. Most of us have already entered into volounteer slavery to the allmighty dollar. Don't foist these mistakes on one of the last true paradises based on economic greed for both the corporations and the tech-centric living in the lower 48 (and elsewhere).

    Backpackers, environmentalists, and nature lovers in general have generally adopted a leave no trace philosophy, bent on maintainig the natural beauty of the land. Thousands of people spend many hours volounteering each year to repair simple hiking trails, which are well overgrown with people. Forget what sounds cool. Consider the consequences. We have as much a responsibility to maintaining the environment as we try to convice Brazil they do, when they slash and burn portions of the amazon. Alaska is one of the last few places in the US which is truly wild. Its not like we're taking an existing structure and refurbishing or rebuilding it, this requires entirely new construction on a massive scale. The pipeline already has caused major migration shifts for caribou and other animals. This is NOT like dropping in an alaskan office for IBM.

    Just because the dotcom-mega-spend plan fell through, don't start taking your business plan from big oil or timber. Make an effort to remain concious of the impact you truly make.

    Note: I'm an east-coast lower 48er.
  • by walnut (78312)
    I repeat: Go away, you Lower 48er environmentalist whacko luser. You don't have to live in Alaska: you've probably never been here.
    Its a shame you didn't post your actual account, I'd have been curious to see if you were really from Alaska or a Sunny Californian High School Poser...who has never been to Alaska.

    But anyway, wrong about both of those. For starters, I'm not an "environmental whacko" as you'd like to believe. While I do raise environmental concerns, its because industry, including the tech industry, commonly overlooks them. Constant industrial expansion without maintenance to the environment, is extremely nearsighted, and not planning for the long haul. Maine (where I grew up), has commonly sought the ballance between the timber industry and its environmental policies. Yes the paper companies bring in business, but go up to Millonocket and breathe the air on the east side of the city... Tell me if its healthy.

    While a data center doesn't cause that kind of direct polution it does cause other problems. For starters, you have increased emissions of vehicles during construciton and later as support to the structure. Ecologically whatever land within 25 miles of said construction will experience upheaval from noise (construction and vehicles frightening animals), pollution (tools and automobiles) and a degree of contamination (building materials). Expect major migratory patterns for some animals to be forced to change.

    The things about animals however, is that they don't change migratory patterns well. Usually they pick the "best route." Forcing them to take an alternate means that there may be less food or more dangers (of course the danger was expanded when the construction took place). This leads to a disruption in the food chain, and you start to see every aninimal which is intertwined in that be slowly driven down in numbers. Take a basic bio-101 and you'll learn it.

    Oh yeah, and I've done some pretty good backpacking and kayaking up in Alaska. Gotta say, the rain up there is pretty ...unique.

    When I state the ecosystem is fragile, I mean that minimal impact destroys a large portion of growth for a given year. Its like leaving a board over a portion of your front yard for a week, soon you find dead yellow grass under it, which will take about two weeks to regrow. Yet in a fragile environment, that may be a single night, and it may take a full year to regrow. That is common in Alaska, especially when you start to get as far north as the north slope.

    You've just swallowed some eco-terrorist propaganda about how precious our hunk of frozen tundra is. You're as clueless as the people who're wondering about volcanoes on the North Slope.

    While I do have some friends who did go the eco-terrorist route (really, tree sitters and everything)... I believe on working within the system, and making slow changes to a more environmentally friendly system. Its not an effort to limit expansion, its an effort to manage expansion in an environmentally friendly manner - which I believe is possible.

    In this case it means limiting such massive new growth in a highly under-developed area because the infrastructure growth necessary to supply the larger structure would be taxing on the environment. A better place winds up being North Dakota or eve the Upper Peninsula, assuming that they would want such development. Granted it is not as cold for as long, but cooling costs are minimized.

    Do I think that a frozen hunk of tundra is precious? Yes.

    Just because you dweebs down there screwed up your own backyards doesn't mean that you have some "been there, done that" morally superior position from which you can dictate to Alaska on how to balance environmentalism and economics.

    ...And I wouldn't propose such a thing. But the jump on the band wagon and get screwed by the tech-sector for a garounteed loss is probably not a good idea either. If you don't think that the tech sector is only looking at it because they think they can squeeze some lax regulations for a rotten business trade (growth is not just a good thing) then you are wrong. I garountee that they are trying to hoodwink what they percieve as a bunch of back-water buffoons.

    And I'm sure you've heard it before: Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    You want to talk to Alaska from the environmental high ground? Fix your own back yards, and stop trying to meddle in ours.

    And I promise you I spend my time working in my backyard as well...

    We (the human race) are parisites. We use until an area is destroyed, and then only (a few) try to fix the damages which we've caused. To not make any effort to learn from the past efforts (i.e. the lower 48) is asking to repeat our mistakes. If Alaska chooses to repeat such mistakes, don't be surprised when big business skips out on them as well at signs of trouble.

    I don't expect you to agree with me, I expect you to recognize my right to a differing opinion.
  • by walnut (78312)
    Good lord, I'll say you're a east-coast lower 48er. I'll also say you are an ass, to quote from Shakespeare.

    Northern as well... so don't forget the inclusion of "pomous" in your description as well. :)

    The whole "preserve the wildlife refuge" is such a piece of !@#@#!!! Do you even realize HOW big Alaska is? It's not a little bitty speck off of California, dude. It is gargantuan! You could cut it in half and make Texas the third largest state instead of second. :) I lived in AK for 25 years, and we Alaskans are quite proud of that statement. Of course, now I live in Texas... but it's the truth and I can't deny it.

    While I have been to Alaska, I'll freely admit that I can't fathom how big Alaska actually is. I spent a week there and didn't even cover a significant amount of one park let alone the entire state. I could spend my entire life there (hint hint) and I don't think that I would. But if you think that size is all that matters in terms of ecological risk then, you are wrong. There is so much more. Following your arguement in reverse, take all the land in the US, lump it together, and compare the park/protected land vs. the rest. It is a miniscule ammount, and Alaska contributes far more than the rest. But lets ignore that for right now...

    Did you know that the amount of State and Federal parklands and refuges already exceeds the a good deal of your east coast? I don't remember the exact figures but it is million of millions of acres of land-- already set aside. You can't even ride a bicycle through Denali National Park without a super-special impossible to obtain permit. A BICYCLE?! GIMME A BREAK! That is ridiculous.

    We are not talking about devistation on a percentage of the whole here, we are talking about devistation as a single event. If you inflict any ecological damage within a small portino of alaska, the ecological damage, is still severe to that area because it can't handle the growth, regardless of how much land you don't hurt. This isn't about minimizing an average ecological damage, this is about minimizing direct ecological damage. With the case of Denali (beautiful park), this is the exact problem. Any damage done to the area is still damage, and the question of what is a reasonable expectation for the land to cope. There are limits to

    Geez louise, I like hiking and having natural areas just like the next person. But you really need to charter a flight and try to see all of the natural area of Alaska before start spouting off something you don't understand.

    I've chartered the plane. It was awe inspiring. But you stated one of the big problems, you like hiking and having natual areas just like the next person. The question is, what are you willing to do to protect them, and insure their survival? Probably the same as the rest of the /. crowd, and "bitch" at best. The problemn is, this is NOT needed. This is NOT a necessity, which at least arguably the ANWR drilling project can be viewed as. (I agree with the expansion, I just vote for Wyoming instead of Alaska). This is a corporate whim, from an impearialistic corporation and nothing more.

    So go blow off, you East-coaster. Go pick hypodermic needles off your shore and hike your little bitty Apalachians and leave regional politics to those who know their region.

    And I'll continue hike the Candian Rockies, the Sierras, out through Yellowstone, through the Tetons, Denali, the obligatory Apalachians, and so on. Every single park I hit, I garountee I try to make some difference. I have a vested interest in both outdoor recreation throughout the US, including in Alaska. I also have a vested intrest in maintaining an awareness of what the heck is going on up there. I just wish you did too. If you've never seen what rapid corporate expansion does to a natural habitat, its a not a pretty sight. You won't see it in TX, as they've pretty much already succumbed to the allmighty dollar. A rapid insurgence of technology into an area usually comes at a massive ecological cost. It won't be different this time.

    Oh, and maybe I'll organize a beach cleaning in your name for next month.
  • Hey look, as long as you have a permit, hunt to your hearts content. Even trophy hunting has its place, though I think it is some what of a waste. Population control, especially in Alaska, is important to the ecosystem. Otherwise the animals overpopulate, kill the ground, then half of them starve to death and the cycle has to repeat itself at a loss. Usually there is some disease in there as well...

    Its probably good you can't finish the caribou in one sitting, otherwise you'd never get to experience caribou jerky, or freeze it, thaw it and grind it into caribou chili (not as good as moose chili though).

    As I said, I'm environmentally concious. I did not say I'm a (...ponder what I used to taunt my ex as...) a tree-hugging, whale-kissing earth-muffin with a big bowl of granola on the side.
  • I'm sorry, but this one trips by bogometer. Just about all the network connectivity into Alaska comes into Anchorage, where most of the people live - anything going up to the North Slope either gets there by way of one or two fiber routes, or by satellite, which are both expensive chunks of bandwidth. Yes, real estate's cheap, but realestate outside of Spokane Washington or Kansas City or for that matter Phoenix is also pretty cheap, and you can get multiple fiber routes connecting you to the Real World. Network Delay is another problem - round-trip time in fiber is 20ms per 1000 miles (or 1500km if you prefer), and the North Slope is Way Up There - companies like Akamai and AT&T and Digital Island get a lot of money for locating distributed web caching centers at network locations all around the US just to shave a few milliseconds of response time, and they're suggesting building far away? Trained workers are another problem - anybody in the Internet business knows that getting and keeping skilled operators who are trained on your particular system is a constant challenge, even in the current bust cycle; getting people who want a short gig up to the North Slope may be easy (I'd sure do it, if I could take a sabatical from my day job), but keeping people up there for a long time is something else entirely.

    Is this really a media hack to tweak people about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Buch League's plans to drill it for oil and cut down all the trees to make government paperwork?

    You'd have much better luck putting a hosting center on one of the First Nations reservations outside of Victoria BC. Some of them don't have treaties with the Canadian government, so there're interesting possibilities for using their sovereignty rights and tax status, and they're English-speaking and near the networks.

    For that matter, you'd have much better luck putting a hosting center on some or a [havenco.com]slightly-used nuclear missile bunker in the UK [slashdot.org].

  • Live near the facility?
    Live in the facility. Seems logical.
  • My point with the solar panels is that you should use every available resource to reduce your load on the power grid. Using solar power will:

    a. generate some electricity, not nearly enough, but enough solar panels around will help the situation a lot.

    b. Reduce the amount solar energy heating the building or getting reflected back into the atmosphere by converting that photonic energy into electricity. We should be mass-producing solar panels and putting them on top of all building in sunny areas.
  • by Madman (84403) on Monday May 14, 2001 @07:31AM (#223855) Homepage
    It isn't a lack of technology but a lack of regulation that's the problem. Nobody wants to make more efficient equipment of facilities because it's going to hit them in the pocketbook. So why not be smarter about it?

    Instead of building a co-lo facility where you couldn't find any skilled labor to run it, why not build one near a source of cool water instead. Then you could exchange the heat into a moving current of a large body of water. The heat you add would be negligible to the environment, and you'd save money. It could also be built near a source of skilled labor. Nuclear power plants already do this.

    Some more ideas on better co-lo facilities:

    a. Don't build them in hot climates.

    b. If you do build them in hot climates you should have to build a large solar panel array on the top of the facility.

    c. When it's cold outside, open the windows. Nothing is dumber than having the air conditioning on in the winter! If dust bothers you, suck in outside air and filter it.

    d. In hot climates build them underground. Once you get a few feet down the earth's crust is actually pretty cool. Extend large heat sinks into the surrounding terrain to use the earth's natural cooling.

    e. the source of the problem is the heat generated by equipment, why not design coller equipment instead? This is possible, there just is a lack of motivation to do it
  • You can't do anything underground anywhere north of about the 60th degree line. This is because of permafrost. Permafrost is a layer of frozen ground anywhere from a meter or two to hundreds of meters deep. Permafrost is permanently frozen, even on the days when the ambient air temperature at ground level is well above 40 degrees C (72 degrees F).

    Permafrost is totally unworkable. This is why the Alaska Pipeline is raised for well over half of its length. They would have buried it if they could, it would have been much cheaper and would have posed less risk for disaster. But the existence of permafrost made this completely impossible.

    I have personally seen bulldozers whose blades are bent and twisted from trying to dig down a foot or two into the frozen ground.

    The other nasty problem with permafrost, aside from it being unworkable, is that if you do manage to bury something within it the heat differential between the ground and the buried object is great enough at times to cause melting. Melted permafrost causes heaves and sinkholes to form as the thawing ground expands and contracts under thermal pressure. The ingenious solution that the pipeline engineers had for this problem (since even a raised pipeline needs buried supports) was to fill the support pylons with ammonia and put radiator fins at the tops of the pylons up in the air. The ammonia circulates from the bottom of the pylons where it heats up, then through convection raises to the radiator fins where it cools and then convects downward. This prevents the permafrost from melting.

    It is absolutely impossible to bury anything in the Arctic. Everything that is buried is either destroyed from the melting and refreezing process, or the ground itself can't be dug without high explosives.

    As for local geothermal energy, most of the Arctic is a barren treeless plain of nothing but wet, swampy muskeg and mosquitoes, with almost no major geological activity. There are thermokarsts, pingoes, and sinkholes caused by the freeze/thaw cycle, the occasional earthquake from shifting tectonic plates, and the slow but steady upthrust of the Arctic mountain ranges. Little in the way of exploitable energy sources, except for the obvious petrochemicals.

    Also, buried buildings stand a much *higher* risk from earthquakes in some areas, particularly because the surrounding earth has a tendency to collapse in on itself due to relatively low-density soil. Burying in bedrock alleviates this, of course, but increases the development expense dramatically.

    As far as actually building a networked computer processing center on the Arctic Slope, the whole idea is ridiculous. There isn't enough bandwidth as it is (the whole state has perpetually suffered from connectivity shortages and transient outages since its inception), the cost of moving people into the location is not economically feasible (the only reason the Oil companies have people up there is because they have to, not because it's cheap), the projected average cost of development in that region is higher than the projected average cost of development on the Moon (the Oil companies often joke about this, that they'd rather drill for oil on the moon because it'd be cheaper with less environmental constraints), and the permitting process for development in the region can take decades.

    Obviously this announcement was just a marketing ploy to make this company's stock price increase. There can't be any content involved here. Particularly because the story only made the Anchorage Daily News, not a real newspaper. It sounds to me like the article was bought and paid for, which is typical for the Daily News (who is often a mouthpiece for the local government and development companies).

    Let's just go back to the ANWR debate. At least that one has some realism to it. This is just Silicon Valley hucksters selling vaporous hype.

    (If you're wondering, I'm a lifelong Alaskan. I've seen this BS over and over. This is just like the Point Mackensie Tidal Power Plant Bridge, the Copper River Highway and the Million Dollar Bridge, the Wrangell Highway, the Nome to Siberia Tunnel, and the Delta Barley Project. Another giant project envisioned on a whim from someone with too much money, doomed to failure.)
  • by ckm (87462) on Monday May 14, 2001 @07:44AM (#223857) Homepage
    This is idiotic. The article states that there will be at least 1/2 million servers in the data center. Even if they had a farm of OS/390 machines, they would still need a large quantity of SysAdmins... Any benefit gained by this location (availability of natural gas, cold) would be immediately lost in paying experienced sysadmins hugh amounts to live near the facility.

    If they need lots of gas, why not locate near a gas pipeline, and for cooling, near a river or other large body of water? Nuclear power plants use rivers/lakes/ocean for cooling, why not data centers?

    Never mind the fact that there seems to be only one (!!) fiber optic cable connecting them to the internet.... Let's talk about the cost of laying another cable going through another location.

    Sounds like a stupid idea thought up by some marketing idiots.
    -- CKM
    internet systems architect - scalability - commerce
  • The operation would be linked to the Internet via the existing fiber-optic line from the North Slope, which connects with the North Pacific fiber-optic cable
    A giant colo center with only one link to the outside world? I think most colo customers want more redundancy.
    "All of our turbines would be spinning 24-7 to serve nothing but the needs of the data center."
    All? I guess that means no redundancy in the power supply. If one turbine goes down, some computers must go down. I doubt they're really this dumb - more likely this is a Vice-Presidential distortion.
    ...and its isolation provides security.
    A glib statement that doesn't withstand scrutiny. Colo security basically consists of preventing unauthorized people from sneaking in (access control), and preventing forced entry (physical security). If they abdicate the first responsibility based on 'isolation' then anyone can travel up there, waltz in and copy tons of credit card numbers. The existence of this inferior access control would become known and would provide incentive. Therefore, they can't skimp on access control. When it comes to physical security, isolation is even less beneficial. All physical barriers are designed to stall an intruder for a certain period of time. If a colo is in metropolitan area, the police can always respond before hostiles could take over the facility. But if this new facility is truly isolated, it risks 'SeaLand syndrome' - a violent attack with little risk.
  • by Life Blood (100124) on Monday May 14, 2001 @07:44AM (#223863) Homepage

    Just one problem with the whole river scheme, environmentalists are already criticizing nuclear plants for doing this. Its called thermal pollution.


  • I thought the days of insane dot-com concepts were over.

    Silly me.

  • They build the buildings on stilts. Not a big deal. About 8 to 10 feet off the tundra.

    Buildings that have to be on the ground, eg. Airplane Hangars, Firestations, have thermal siphons that are like radiators for the ground.

    They keep the ground frozen with metal fins and ammonia.

  • No. Not all. I'm sitting in one of those buildings right now. This building is 3 stories tall, can house 1200 and is on stilts.

    I have a fan running in my room and office because it's *over* insulated.

    Email me if you want a picture, i'll send you JPG.

  • I'm actually a contractor, working for myself as a database programmer here.

    The database is a real-time relational database, sort of like Oracle on good steroids.

    I work on tools for the petroleum engineers and operators to optimize oil production.

  • by Arctic Fox (105204) on Monday May 14, 2001 @08:32AM (#223871) Homepage Journal
    I'm sitting on the North Slope now, working for one of the oil companies mentioned in the article.

    The problem is going to be permitting. You can't build anything on tundra without asking all kinds of people. It's still years away.

    They could however lease one of the decommissioned facilities, if they are still around. They are *enormous* to put it lightly. Hell, there are oil storage tanks here that are 50,000 bbls of oil in volume.

  • by Arctic Fox (105204) on Monday May 14, 2001 @08:50AM (#223872) Homepage Journal
    To sound like a broken record, I work on the NorthSlope. I'm here now.

    We work shifts either 1 week or 2 week shifts. I'm a two weeks on, two weeks off schedule. I actually live in Philadelphia and fly up here every two weeks.

    and yes, the money is good enough for me to cover travel costs, and live pretty well.

  • by andy@petdance.com (114827) <andy@petdance.com> on Monday May 14, 2001 @07:23AM (#223876) Homepage
    Sure, it'd be easy to cool the place, but that's not the issue. They're going to have to heat it.

    Solid-state components prob'ly don't mind subzero temps, but the drives sure will. To pick one example, this Maxtor SCSI drive [maxtor.com] is only rated to run above 5C. Heck, NON-operating temperature is only -40C.
    --

  • As long as you stay happily with your computer, you're warm and safe. This should be a natural geek advantage where real estate is concerned: who needs to pay a premium for views or climate?
  • I am skeptical about the purpose of doing this. Granted it is isolated, but if you can get people and equipment there, it is not isolated enough to discourage anyone who really wanted to get there. Isolation has its disadvantages as well, the police/fire/rescue people would have as much difficulty getting there as anyone and not to mention replacement parts. Since there is only one pipeline, it is easy to cut. Alaska is still inside the United States and is therefore still subject to U.S. law and Alaska State law. I really see no advantage to building there as opposed to some other less isolated area such as Montana where there might be a road and a small town nearby. Heck I hear Area 51 is vacant now.


    Jesus died for sombodies sins, but not mine.

  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Monday May 14, 2001 @07:57AM (#223884) Homepage
    Humans are natural. Just because we make more noticeable changes to our environment than other animals doesn't mean we aren't nature. If a beaver dams a river it is nature, but if people do it, it is polution? There is no one perfect state nature can be in. We are not ruing a 'balance'. Nature is always changing, animals are always evolving and becoming extinct. There is no 'nature' to 'preserve' and we humans are natural, too.
  • I am a sysadmin for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company (the company that operates the Alaska pipeline), and have traveled to the north slope occasionally in that capacity. I would agree that the north slope would be an excellent place for a NOC/ASP/ISP/whatever.

    I would consider working for the company if I could be assured that I would get the standard 2 week on/2 week off slope schedule. The commute is a pain, though.

    #use Standard::Disclaimer;

  • This all just seems like a gimmick to me. I don't think this place really has that much advantage over a data center in a suburban industrial area. There's data and power there too. However, personnel costs are going to be much higher up there. Remote administration can help, but it can't setup new servers, or run cable. How many experienced administrators want to live up there in the freezing cold/middle of nowhere. Also, construction costs would be increased too! Plus, getting computers shipped there will be more expensive.

    It just doesn't add up to me.. I mean lately we've seen "lets build a data center on an island", and now "lets build a data center up in glacial cold of Alaska", what's next; "let's build a data center in the middle of the jungle (anyone who can get through all the vines would be good at cabling), or maybe "let's build a data center at the bottom of the ocean (everthing water cooled!, plus there's fat data lines, and power running down there too!"
  • I can imagine all kinds of pitfalls to this, just based on the location. But these could just be engineering problems.

    Things like thousands of miles of data cables. Never mind that you might want to hook up not just to North America, but also to Asia and Europe. Enviromental factors in terms of the cold effect on equipment. Effects from Solar Storms (northern lights, etc)

    I am not completely sold on this. Maybe something closer to the Bering Straights.

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

  • by acorliss (181527) on Monday May 14, 2001 @07:38AM (#223896)
    Having lived up here in Alaska since '96, *and* having worked for one of the major telecoms up here that own some of the fiber going down to the lower 48, all I can say is WTF? This is the most near-sighted view of the project to date. These nitwits are focusing on temperature, power, and security, forgetting that all the while that if people can't get to your service, they're not going to use it. No, I'm not talking about physically, but do any of you people realise what Alaska's bandwidth situation is? Right now, we have three companies that own fiber that will sell you bandwidth (one, Alaska Fiber Star, can't seem to give you a quote on provisioning to save their life, though--*&)(&*^(*&% sales people!). The remaining companies, ACS & GCI both have sold a good chunk of what they have, but neither of them are sitting on so much bandwidth that they can afford to provide the needs of a datacenter on that scale with any kind of real redundancy. In short, I think this is ill-concieved, and not very well thought out. People will very likely want to move a tremendous amount of data in an out of this facility on a regular basis, and I haven't heard anyone involved in this project consider this critical access issue.
  • by acorliss (181527) on Monday May 14, 2001 @08:30AM (#223897)

    Hogwash. The reality is that even with technologies like DWDM, you still have to have fiber that has sufficient reflective qualities along the walls of the fiber across a broader range of frequency. Yes, most fiber these days are adequate to one extent or another for DWDM, but you can't safely make that assumption when you're budgeting a project of this scale, can you? I thought not.

    Futhermore, a cable like GCI's, which lays in the ocean, requires repeaters at given intervals. Each repeater is designed to operate over a specific range of frequencies, so one again, you have no guarantees that they're already prepared to do heavy DWDM. As I recall, when they laid their cable, DWDM was still in the early stages in the industry, and didn't have the acceptance levels they do today.

    In short, don't think you can solve all of your problems by whipping some magic fiber-fairy out of your ass. Alaska is *not* the most well connected state on the Internet, and that *has* to be a consideration for any Alaskan-based data center.

    As an additional side note, did you know that Alaska wastes an incredible amount of bandwidth to the lower 48 just to view Alaskan web sites? The lack of a peering agreement between the two biggest players, ACS & GCI, forces any subscriber on one to send all of their traffic through Seattle, WA, just to visit a site on the other. It's things like that which should illuminate the somewhat ludicrous bandwidth predicaments we find ourselves in up here.

    • Solar power comes in... DC! Why is this important? Because it's what your computer uses natively and what plugs direct to telco equipment (and Cisco stuff too...) And it doesn't cost you much above the initial installation cost either.
    • Cold air with a high relative humidity (the number that matters) gets a lower relative humidity when it passes through the machine, or heats up at all. That's the reason we have dew points...
    • True, you can't cool just through heat sinks in the earth, but it helps
    • Athlons new Palamino chips and Transmeta's if they ever reach market...


    So you're a karma whore, eh? For the right price, I'll be a karma pimp...
  • Nice UID...

    First with DC voltage: DC voltage (I think) can be stepped down without AC conversion. If it couldn't, then why is your computer capable of running that proc of yours at different voltages just by changing a jumper? After all, the PS for a computer only puts out 5 and 12 volt DC. Feed it 12, and step down some of that to 5.

    As for the condensation: You only let in enough air to keep the temperature for the room at say 70.

    So you're a karma whore, eh? For the right price, I'll be a karma pimp...

  • Good sysadmin = paranoid
  • Uh, lets think about this two seconds? "...house at least half a million computer servers." I think these servers would provide sufficient heat. Keep in mind, the article is not thinking the building will just have open windows to the outside...it's not going to be a refrigerator with computers in it. There are HVAC (Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning) systems that use air from outside, filter it, and run it through the furnace (if need be...but I think they would just recycle a certain amount of air from inside, and bring in the rest of the air from outside to keep a constant temp.)
  • Using satellites that far north would be difficult. You'd have trouble seeing geostationary satellites; they'll be awfully low on the horizon, if they're even visible at all. Dealing with multiple satellites just adds more and more complication to the system. Running multiple fiber lines would probably just be simpler.
  • You have to stay in this underground bunker, stuffed full of servers and UPS, and you have to live on hot pockets and instant coffee. You can't go outside, since there's only frozen tundra there.

    But, you get full internet connectivity, and you can be put on the waiting list for a trip to Mars.

  • ...I'll keep that in mind.

    I love caribou, but I've never been able to finish a whole one at one sitting.

    Believe me, there is plenty of already less-than-pristine area to but a data center and its attendant folks on, even up on the slope. Too bad the oil company tore down the annex, would have made a good place for the workers building this thing, and the food was better than the BOC.

  • I would like to suggest to build a pair of data centers : on in north poal and the other in south. The issue is to utilize the solar power that you can switch from one to the other without providing extra energy. thank god. It is heavenly running, God bless them.
  • by HongPong (226840) <hongpong&hongpong,com> on Monday May 14, 2001 @09:47AM (#223918) Homepage
    In short, don't think you can solve all of your problems by whipping some magic fiber-fairy out of your ass.

    I think I am going to live my life by that axiom.

    --

  • The numerous disadvantages seem to greatly outweigh the few advantages. It's isolated? So what? How big of a problem are break-in's at the high security server farms in southern california? If its that big of a deal, isolation seems like it would only complicate matters! (serious raid, security people outnumbered, call for backup? riight!) And if their sole internet connection goes down, do they fall back to a satelite or something? It just doesn't seem practical. Is this serious?
    ---
  • Mmmm...hot pockets

    Mmmmm. Slow packets.
    ---
  • The technology exists to put all the world's traffic through a single fiber -- so wherever fiber exists, more bandwidht is just a matter of upgradeing the electronics at the ends, and that can be done just as soon as someone is wiling to pay for it.

    However, I've never seen any large server project so exposed to a single point of failure -- when frost heaves or sabotage break that fiber, it might take a week to get it back online.
  • First, most sysadmin work doesn't require physical presence -- you could do it from a terminal in NYC (although personally I'd rather be on the North Slope), or even from a _desirable_ location as long as it's got good broadbsnd access. You do need some techs to plug stuff in, trace down cable faults, and swap out dead servers, but those "250 jobs" mentioned in the article are probably mostly the construction crew. Second, for the necessary on-site staff, you do the same thing they do to get construction workers on the pipeline -- pay them so much that they'll be able to retire in ten years... High pay and nowhere to spend it sure builds the bank account.
  • I'd worry about the whole million-square foot building sinking in the permafrost... I suppose there must be construction techniques that overcome this, but they are expensive.
  • That would take _lots_ of stilts. Also lots of insulation under the floor; wind underneath a building will sure run up the heating bills, not to mention that it's going to be hard keeping techs if their feet get frostbit _indoors_. Pretty expensive. For something this big, I wonder if it might be better to just design it to float in melted permafrost.
  • This is vapor if I've ever heard it. I don't know where these guys are going to come up with all this "existing bandwidth" that they intend to utilize. I live in AK, and there is not nearly the connectivity to support a project like this. Even assuming that the bandwidth issue is magically taken care of, there are the logistic nightmares involved in building any kind of structure on permafrost, supplying and manning said facility, impact to local communities, impact to wildlife, etc. The list continues... No way is this happening. But for the record (and for all you lower 48'ers reading this), there ARE qualified SysAdmins already living up here, and you'd probably have to pay most of us a helluva lot more to move Outside than to take a 2 on/2 off job on the Slope! (Especially if we could get our hands on all that bandwidth...)
  • If you insulate it properly you could probably just use the heat from the servers and powerplant to warm it to room temperature. Of course you'll need a backup heater in case everything gets shut down, who knows how being way below freezing would affect things.

    Alternatively, you could set the place up to cool the solid state components separately from the drives.

    cryptochrome
    • High pay and nowhere to spend it sure builds the bank account.

    There's a rumour going roung that there's a couple of places selling stuff over the internet now. Also in return for your credit card number, apparently some nice foreign ladies will give you phone sex, but over the internet! Imagine that! ;)

  • everyone knows you don't get penguins near the north pole.
  • by Spamalamadingdong (323207) on Monday May 14, 2001 @10:08AM (#223941) Homepage Journal
    You're absolutely correct. To be a little more specific, the article talks about a 400 MW powerplant to run this data center, which has up to 500,000 servers (in 250,000 square feet; those are going to be tall racks). 400 MW is about 1.36 billion BTU/hour. If you assume that the inside temperature is 30 C, the outside temperature is -50 C, and the ceiling is insulated to R-10, the ceiling will leak 8 BTU/f^2/hour or 2 million BTU/hour total (you can probably ignore the walls). This is about 0.2% of the heat generated by server farm (500,000 servers at 800 watts apiece, total 400 megawatts).

    Cooling is going to be the problem, even on the North Slope. It would be smart to run a pipe out into the Arctic ocean and bring in cold seawater for cooling purposes; a secondary glycol loop running to chiller plates in the servers would make for a relatively cheap and reliable cooling system for the summers. For winter, just circulate the glycol through pipes on the roof or dry cooling towers.
    --
    Having 50 karma is an itchy feeling; I know I'll get



  • ... subterranean data centers? No, this is not a "joke" post...

    It may be that this is already quite widespread, but that's not the case from my experience in the field (== substantial). Let's stop to think about this for a second.

    "Going down, instead of out" preserves land space and offers several additional benefits:

    • Relatively constant temperature.
    • Heightened protection from the elements (earthqakes included to a certain degree, since your buidling won't "fall over."
    • Maybe somewhat increased physical security (depends).


    Of course, this doesn't help the environment out much on the pollution scene, unless of course you happen to utilize local geothermal energy. This frequently has the side effect of putting you at high risk for tremors, however...

    Any thoughts?

  • Does the spec for IPv6 include a few bits for an "eh?" after every few packets?
  • by chemical55 (446280) on Monday May 14, 2001 @07:30AM (#223946)
    A New York Jew who gets Fed loans to complete his college education in computer science at NYIT is forced to work in Alaska...

Biology is the only science in which multiplication means the same thing as division.

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