The ‘Cloud’ – Harder to keep cool than you might think

Posted 23rd June 2014
Cloud technology

One of the great misconceptions of ‘cloud computing’ is that data is stored in immaterial, non-physical spaces. Timo Arnall, a British photographer, however has gone about proving that myth wrong through the medium of a smartly shot film from behind the scenes of a major data centre in Spain.

Arnall was given unprecedented access to Telefonica’s 65,700 metre squared high security data centre in Alcala in Spain. He shot the images in impressive high definition quality and to portray the atmosphere of the rooms as best as possible, the footage will be shown across three large screens which wrap around viewers at exhibitions in Spain over the coming months.

Arnall explained the idea behind his film, ‘Internet Machine’;

‘In this film I wanted to look beyond the childish myth of ‘the cloud’, to investigate what the infrastructures of the internet actually look like.

‘It felt important to be able to see and hear the energy that goes into powering these machines, and the associated systems for securing, cooling and maintaining them.

‘What we find, after being led through layers of identification and security far higher than any airport, are deafeningly noisy rooms cocooning racks of servers and routers.’

The scale of this data centre is quite remarkable. Mains power supply is backed up by lead batteries, which are then backed up by rows of industrial sized generators so that power can be supplied indefinitely if any problems occur.

The cooling system is what we are most impressed with – the roof of the building has a football pitch sized array of chillers, filtering all the air that goes into the building. And, in terms of fire prevention, giant steel water tanks contain tens of thousands of litres of water, ready to be unleashed if there was an outbreak of fire.

The film really brings to life the hard work that goes into maintaining such incredibly large scale data storage and drives home an important point – sending your files off to the cloud takes an inordinate amount of energy resource and is not just a minor miracle.

Enjoy the trailer below.