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Security Hardware

Nuclear Bunker Houses World's Toughest Server Farm 152

Lanxon writes "Deep inside the Swiss Alps, a former nuclear bunker is now the ultimate hiding place for the world's most sensitive secrets — the Swiss Fort Knox. In a lengthy feature, Wired gains access to the server farm designed to survive a full-scale military attack. From the article: 'As we punch our codes at the checkpoint, the yellow door opens into what looks like a city of server towers, their green LEDs flickering as a technician in a white jumpsuit runs diagnostic checks. [Later], we are in a dimly lit tunnel next to what looks like a metal oven door carved into the side of the rock. "These are expansion rooms in case you have an atomic explosion outside," Christoph Oschwald, a retired Swiss paratrooper turned contractor, says. The thinking behind the rooms, he explains, is that if there were a nuclear explosion, the rush of high-pressure air would fill them through vents in the opposite side. Then, the vents would snap shut, trapping the air before it had a chance of damaging the fortress. "There is a lot of protection you can't see," he says. We stroll past an intricate network of insulated pipelines that carry water up from the underground glacial lake to the cooling system.'"
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Nuclear Bunker Houses World's Toughest Server Farm

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  • by orphiuchus ( 1146483 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @07:14PM (#34118406)
    So is this where they store the schematics for their Swiss Army Knives?
    • Perhaps you've hear of the infamous Swiss bank account?
      • Swiss Miss CoCoa!

        Also watch making secrets, cu-cu clock secrets, chocolate making secrets, and porn.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Or Nazi gold...
        • by Amarantine ( 1100187 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @07:41PM (#34118674)

          Or Nazi gold...

          I always thought Nazi Gold was a right-extremist radio station?

          • by kcitren ( 72383 )
            I always thought he was the child of some self-hating jews.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Penguinshit ( 591885 )
      It's also where they store all the cheese that was in the holes...
      • by shugah ( 881805 )
        Actually, its where they store the holes before they add them to the cheese.
        • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

          by Penguinshit ( 591885 )
          Holy hole hole!
          • by sempir ( 1916194 )

            Visitor......What's in these rooms with the big steel doors?)
            Guide.......trapped high prezzure air.)
            Visitor......riiiiight! What you gonna do with it?)
            Guide.......Ve are lookink for buyers!

    • Wait. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Samantha Wright ( 1324923 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @09:25PM (#34119572) Homepage Journal
      Who would nuke Switzerland?
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You wouldn't steal a car...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Galvatron ( 115029 )

        Well, David Brin's book Earth posited a future where transparency had become such an accepted norm that the developed world went to war with (and nuked) Switzerland for attempting to maintain secrets (secret bank accounts and such). Probably far-fetched, but at any rate, the more relevant question is whether the server farm would stay connected to the Internet if Switzerland were nuked. A server farm doesn't do you much good if the cables leading in are cut, especially given that you'd have to send someon

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Only the greatest space captain to ever walk this planet, Captain Zapp Brannigan. I mean with enemies you know where they stand, but with neutrals who knows. Best nuke them before they turn the world neutral!
    • So is this where they store the schematics for their Swiss Army Knives?

      Yes, but they only have to store the schematic for this one []. It is the Rosetta Stone of Swiss army knives, from which all the others can be made.

  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @07:15PM (#34118412)

    Might survive a nuclear attack, but not some script kiddie and an admin that likes pictures of Pam Anderson.

  • Hmmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @07:17PM (#34118430)
    I guess with all this safety and protection some guy named Homer from Springfield need not apply?

    Is the infrastructure getting data to/from these servers going to withstand a nuclear blast? Do the servers run Linux?? Does anyone know if their "Apocalypse Level" technical support package is for the hosting customer only or will they extend it to site subscribers as well???
    • MR burns will just cut back on that part

    • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @07:54PM (#34118812)
      The "infrastructure" seems to be a secure courier handing over hard drives in a lockbox. This is more like offline backup, not online.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Radtoo ( 1646729 )
      Ask them... probably it would actually outlast a nuke or two. Well, we know the existing nuclear powers are capable of sending many nukes, cutting cables and underwater cables, destroying microwave dishes, some also can shoot down any satellites they don't like. But the fact that they can do ALL of that AND kill most of the world's population due to starting a nuclear war by attacking the center of Europe is what puts more than a few nails into the coffin of specifically nuke-blast protection.
      Somehow I get
  • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @07:25PM (#34118500) Journal


  • by gatzke ( 2977 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @07:26PM (#34118508) Homepage Journal

    Underground glacial lake for cooling?

    I thought it was the CO2 that was melting the glaciers in Europe, not farmville.

    • by dargaud ( 518470 )

      Underground glacial lake for cooling?

      I thought it was the CO2 that was melting the glaciers in Europe, not farmville.

      I don't understand this fascination for bunker server farms, besides the Neil Stephenson geek factor. There's no way you can evacuate the heat from those servers while deep underground. The only option is to run long pipes to suck air in and out, and that takes lots of energy. And if you close the vent because the apocalypse/rapture/singularity has arrived, then your server will overheat in seconds. But maybe here they found the solution thanks to this underground water flow...

      • What do you mean? Whatever the temperature of the surrounding earth, it should be able to sink a nearly unlimited amount of heat. Are you sure you're not confusing "underground" with "outer space?"

        • by dargaud ( 518470 )
          Dirt (or rock) is a very poor conductor of heat. It moves only a few meters per YEAR. So while you can indeed dump unlimited heat into it, it would indeed get really hot near your dump point. And heat exchanger efficiency decreases as the temperature differential increases, so it it would take more and more power to dump less and less heat.
          • Really, it takes years for thermal energy to travel through stone?

            The thermal conductivity of stone is actually greater than that of water, about 1.7 W/(mK). (That's why it feels cold to the touch, unlike, say, wood.) If what you are saying were true, then geothermal heat pumps for building HVAC wouldn't be possible at all. But, they seemingly are.

            • by dargaud ( 518470 )
              And indeed geothermal energy works by pumping water in and out of porous hot zones, not just by putting a heat exchanger underground.
      • by tibman ( 623933 )

        They are using the lake for cooling, as stated in the summary. Heat is probably carried away to the lake via underground pipes.

        • by gatzke ( 2977 )

          And it probably helps melt the glaciers and kill us all.

          Think of the polar bears!

  • by cheros ( 223479 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @07:32PM (#34118558)

    This is deja vu all over again. First off, if it's not a chain of similar setups you have a single site problem - BLAM goes your redundancy. Secondly, define "nuclear attack". If that means "survive the EMP from a nuclear blast" there would be some value in it, but that's going to be a tad hard to prove without seriously upsetting neighboring Gstaad with radiation :-).

    However, most importantly, this stopped being news several years ago - if this is a new setup it's just yet-another-one, if it's not it's not news either. Some of these setups are quite cute, but the idea isn't exactly novel.

    Ah, got it. The hint is in the article: "Rauber and his team, a public-relations representative" - who paid who for what here?


    • The EMP is the easy part.

      But surviving the strike itself? Only if it's a relatively small nuke. Once you get into the tens of MEGAtons that your typical ICBM is going to be carrying, having a mountain on top of you isn't going to matter much. Specially when all the datalines feeding this place are only 6 feet underground. Even if the data inside survived, all the connections would be severed, any tunnel leading in would be filled with molten rock and any workers ins
      • Actually, with a bunker like that, there'd be months worth of food stored. They'd starve to death rather slowly.

        However, if I were designing such a bunker, I'd have a tunnel boring machine on the inside and/or a back exit some hundreds of km away.
      • by Splab ( 574204 )

        Actually a mountain is a pretty damned good way of defending yourself against a nuke.

        Your average nuke will go off mid-air to create most havoc, this will destroy most things above ground, but it sure as hell won't remove a mountain.

    • by bcmm ( 768152 )

      However, most importantly, this stopped being news several years ago - if this is a new setup it's just yet-another-one

      Specifically, this one is much cooler. []

      • by cheros ( 223479 )

        Oh yes. If I ever get rich I'll get that guy to design my own bunker. No idea if I'll use it, but hell, it's even fun to just use for paintball :-)

    • by Wagoo ( 260866 )

      This is deja vu all over again. First off, if it's not a chain of similar setups you have a single site problem - BLAM goes your redundancy.

      Actually, it looks like it is a chain of similar setups. They have a second facility under a different mountain [].

  • It's nice to know that my servers will still be running after a nuclear holocaust.

    • Yeah not much use if all upstream connectivity is toast and the people that maintain the facility are all be dead. Or at least worrying about saving themselves more than replacing fans in your server. :/

  • Ahem... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pedantic bore ( 740196 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @07:33PM (#34118584)

    World's toughest server farm that you know about.

    It's not nearly as secure now that we all know that it exists and where it is...

  • Sure it can survive a nuclear assault... but can it survive a lawsuit?
    • We're talking about Switzerland here... Oh dear $deity, why are americans so friends with the courts?
      • Is the '$deity' thing written to be religiously non-specific ($deity == Jesus OR Allah OR Shiva OR Buddha OR Krishna, etc.) or is the dollar sign an indication of what kind of Almighty we're talking about?

        • While the dollar as deity is interesting I usually use it as a way to insult all deities, even the ones I do not know about. I prefer to be an equal opportunities asshole.
    • by Kvasio ( 127200 )

      Sure it can survive a nuclear assault... but does it run farmville?

  • "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, this is the war room!"

  • Pointless (Score:4, Informative)

    by Leebert ( 1694 ) * on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @07:48PM (#34118748)

    Proper availability is generally achieved through redundancy, not silly stunts like this.

    • Re:Pointless (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:07PM (#34118940) Journal

      Proper availability is generally achieved through redundancy, not silly stunts like this.

      Proper availability is generally achieved by multiply-redundant, geographically distributed, block-replicated silly stunts like this. Who says it's just one bunker?

      • RTFA. It's one bunker inside a mountain.

        If the client choses to have this site as one of their on-/off-line backup areas, then more power to them for realising the importance of redundancy. That's not offered by this company, though.
    • by dintech ( 998802 )

      I think the point is redundancy+secrecy rather than just redundancy.

  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @07:53PM (#34118810)

    If things get so bad that Switzerland is getting nuked, then my data will be one of the least of my worries.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sco08y ( 615665 )

      If things get so bad that Switzerland is getting nuked, then my data will be one of the least of my worries.

      If a nuclear war has you stuck in a bunker for ten years, you're going to want your porn stash.

  • So let me get this straight...
    They hide secrets here.
    It's a server farm in a nuclear bunker.
    With data retention and servers?

    Is it by chance called Crystal Peak?

    Ah no matter Skynet isn't controlled by a central location anyway...

  • I guess the "full scale military attack" doesn't include a couple privates beating the shit out of some nerds until they get the access code?

  • The article states "Wired has been instructed not to disclose its exact whereabouts." However it also gives a fair amount of info about it's location. I'm not familiar with the Swiss Alps, but there's probably at least a couple of people on the Internet who are.

    What we know is:
    It's in or near the "tiny village of Saanen, in the canton of Bern."
    You have to "pass a Tissot boutique abutting a tractor dealership before the road dives into dense forest and follows a stream."
    It "appears to be nothing more than a

    • Well, according to google maps, in the village of Saanen, in Bern, Switzerland, there is a Tissot boutique adjacent to what looks like a rental store with farm machinery in the parking lot. However, that street is "downtown". Following the roads does not lead to a timber operation, but either to nearby towns or villages, with farmhouses along them.
    • Saanen has a population (as of 31 December 2009) of 7,053.
      Saanen is a very small town. I looked at it on the satellite maps. It only has one stream, which runs strait through the town.
      How about someone else find the tractor dealership? I tried Google maps, but couldn't find it.
  • 1. Buy Old Abandoned Nuclear Silo
    2. Put Server Farm in Nuclear Silo
    3. Wait for Free Promotion of Services to Appear on Slashdot, Because They Run a Batcave Article Like This Every Few Months!
    4. Profit!!!
  • This sounds like a brilliant way to ensure that the servers and their caretakers outlive the general population of Switzerland. Let them breed for a few hundred thousand years after the nuclear holocaust and I suspect the place will be just right for a visit by The Doctor.
    • The Doctor is regenerating right now; however, K9 has been tuning the servers for optimum performance and doing touch-and-goes in the Tardis.

      Relation of this to nuclear survivability -- Zero.

  • With all the money spent on this, you'd think they'd be able to hire a decent English translator. I'm assuming this [] is their website.

  • That article about all of this awesome tech in a sweet facility...and the only picture they can muster up is a generic panorama of some foothills? I want to see caves full of servers! I want to see giant ice sheets being melted for the purpose of cpu cooling!

  • Safekeeping data and safekeeping material goods ARE ENTIRELY DIFFERENT THINGS.

    A physical object must be kept in a secure vault with physical access protection, because there is only one of it. Information can be kept orders of magnitude more safely simply by storing redundant copies of it. Even if you are after keeping the information secret rather than protecting its integrity, encryption is more effective than steel doors.

    Or maybe you're after ensuring that the computers remain connected to the internet?

    • Even if you are after keeping the information secret rather than protecting its integrity, encryption is more effective than steel doors.

      Well, at least with steel doors you have a good chance of knowing when your security has been breached. With encryption, you have no such luxury. You're just relying on the fact that no-one has been clever enough yet to break your particular encryption method, and you don't even know if that is a fact still.

  • Maybe the secret documents on how to stitch photos of a swiss valley together are stored there too. []
  • But can it survive an X5, or higher, solar storm? All the wires that must run to the surface would be definite weakness.
  • by eriqk ( 1902450 )
    Charles Forbin beat them to the punch decades ago.
  • I worked in a similar setup outside Toronto in the 1990s. It was a nuke bunker built for NorTel, which supposedly was designed and built in the 1960s to withstand a direct hydrogen bomb hit on Toronto. It housed NorTel and Bell Canada switching equipment and servers, but also rented out cabinets to anyone paying for a contract. Nevermind the ease with which I could have left a big box of explosives wired up to a detonator triggered over its Internet connection. But even though I had to pass through a half d

    • by fotbr ( 855184 )

      Of course, it's not possible that NorTel and Bell Canada could have installed paging equipment in the bunker. It's not like those were two big phone companies that know a thing or two about paging. No, it has to be because the paging signals could penetrate it.

      • No, it's not possible. I was told by operations that pagers wouldn't work. When I asked some executives why my pager worked, they didn't know why, and wished I hadn't asked. There was no paging equipment installed. At least not officially, since part of their official security regime was that the only telecom allowed people inside the bunker was through their managed firewalls, including the NorTel landlines installed for that purpose. And if it was installed unofficially, they have a different kind of secu

  • How much for colo? I could so use a safe space for my porn collection!

  • It's been said before but I'll say it again :)

    Redundancy and distribution are the only viable solutions for long-term persistence of information.

    Bunkers are bunk. Major problem that we all know where this one is now.

  • TFA doesn't seem to have a link: Swiss Fort Knox []

    Don't get the wrong idea - it's as much a marketing gag as anything. During and after WWII, the Swiss determined that their best defense was to be able to retreat to - and then attack from - the mountains. In the last couple of decades, the Swiss military has been reducing the number of bunkers that it uses. This company picked up an army-surplus bunker and decided to market it as the safest place to store your data.

    So, sure, the bunker was originally designed

  • My company has its website hosted from a nuclear bunker. Very secure, reliable, etc etc. Actually getting the guys there to DO anything for us, (like upgrade MySQL), is an exercise in frustration, to the point that it is a real limitation on our ability to develop our product.

    So, when looking for hosting or backup, don't allow 'OMG Mega Nuke-proof Security' to distract you from also evaluating all the other relevant criteria (such as responsiveness and know-how).

  • ... that when the world is nuked, the survivors can retrieve a copy of Phil Collins' and Tina Turner's CDs.
  • I think I found it, and am tempted to brag. But no good would come of it, and only harm.

    So you'll just have to suffer.

    (Oschwald, you owe me. One paratrooper to another. Next time I'm in Switzerland, a bier, hear?)

  • What, no references to gnomes?

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.