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Edge Computing - Underground!

Due to the globally increasing urbanization, and the advent of the Internet of Things, and the general pressure on surface space use, underground data centers (UDC) will gain in importance in the future of our urban environment. One aspect is proximity: they will be built closer to the users than remotely located UDC. As a result, latency can be reduced which is of great importance for instance in the case of fully automated vehicles and generally to avoid a huge traffic increase on the internet as a whole. However, advantages and disadvantages of UDCs to conventional above ground greenfield solutions depend on various parameters, either related to specific location factors or to individual user requirements.

Most of the existing UDCs are placed in former underground structures such as bunkers, mines etc. which were modified to the UDC specific requirements (brownfield solutions). In the end they are the result of a compromise and certainly not of an optimized combination of underground space development and data center requirements.

The process for finding suitable locations for new large greenfield data center takes years, not so much for construction but for land procurement, administrative and legal issues etc. Additionally, the land consumption is disproportionally high in relation to the work places created. Such data centers have an enormous energy demand and produce large quantities of heat as waste product, which traditionally is just dispersed into nature but could potentially be re-used. And finally, large greenfield surface data centers are not close to the users which makes data transmission key for an un-interrupted usage (latency and dependability).

Underground data centers can be an alternative which mitigate a lot of the negative side effects if they are located and designed accordingly. Small to medium-sized underground data centers offer an even higher potential in these regards. Additionally, they can be built up in a modular way which offers additional flexibility in their usage.

SCAUT has initiated a concept study and demo data center together with its industry partners Dätwyler IT Infra, Amberg Engineering, Siemens Switzerland and GEOEG. The project slogan is 'BELOW GROUND MEANS NEW PERSPECTIVES'.

The joint venture is currently operating an underground edge data center in a real underground cavern environment in the Hagerbach Test Gallery in Flums, Switzerland. On the one hand, this serves the further technical development and analysis of various environmental factors, on the other hand, it offers the ideal demo environment to present the concept to interested stakeholders.

More details about the project can be found on the website www.edge-computing-underground.com

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