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Caves, ships and aging gasometers: 3 unlikely homes for data centers

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Add gasometers to the list of strange places for data centers.

A gasometer — a place to store different kinds of gases — in Stockholm has sat unused for decades, and now a Swedish cloud service provider has put forth a couple of proposals for turn the facility into a data center, the Royal Pingdom blog reported Thursday.

The structure was built in 1893 as part of a coal gas plant. Another gasometer was built right next to it 1900. The city of Stockholm is requesting that the public have access to at least part of the data center that’s being proposed for the 1893 gasometer. One proposal would make the data center look a bit like a panopticon, except instead of people the building has floors and rows chock full of server racks. The other proposal puts forward barracks-like structures to store the server racks, alongside lots of open space.

Gasometer data center proposal from industrial design firm Splitvision
Gasometer data center proposal from industrial design firm Splitvision
Gasometer proposal from architect Albert France-Lanord
Gasometer proposal from architect Albert France-Lanord

Aging 19th-century buildings aren’t the only odd places to get a 21st century makeover. Data center providers in Hong Kong are going underground in their hunt for space. Just a couple of weeks ago came news of the Hong Kong government’s apparent interest in building out rock caverns for data centers. Earlier, Wikileaks went underground when it located its servers in an nuclear weapon-proof bunker in Stockholm. Incidentally, the company Wikileaks worked with to get its data center going, Bahnhof, is the same one that’s proposing the gasometer data center.

Then there was Google’s (s goog) plan to build out floating data centers and use waves as an energy source. As far as we know, the concept has not led to an actual floating data center yet.

Other places where site selectors might want to look: abandoned coal mines, mountains, chapels and outer space. And don’t forget about our houses.

While the United States government is consolidating its IT footprint to become more efficient, companies are moving more toward cloud computing. And as that happens, more companies will want to run data centers to host those services. It can be cheaper to set up data centers in existing structures, and that’s why it shouldn’t be surprising to see people dreaming up data centers inside more and more places, all weirdness aside.