The Paranoia Is Real: ServerVault Hosting

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-02-19

For ServerVault, carrier neutrality means not giving preference to a particular carrier, with service rolling blindly over from one backbone link to another in the event of network congestion or failure. Customers are expected to trust that the Dulles, Va., company will always provide the highest-quality bandwidth. But then again, trust is ServerVaults highest virtue.

Before installing any computer equipment, ServerVault poured $11 million into its 10,000-square-foot data center. Located in Northern Virginia, near a rural post office facility and next door to an iron shop, the center is designed to protect its customers data against terrorists, hackers, lunatics, natural disasters and incompetent engineers.

Patrick Sweeney, the companys founder, president and chief executive, found that having a data center that could pass Department of Defense and National Security Agency inspections makes his facility attractive to a certain subset of customers, not all of whom are commercial enterprises, he says without elaborating.

Interactive Week got a glimpse inside the data center while backhoes were trenching outside and German-American construction crews were building walls inside, before customers and employees without appropriate security clearance were locked out and limited to viewing live camera feeds.

What passes these days for a secure data center elsewhere pales in comparison with ServerVaults new facility. Armed guards will patrol the perimeter and concrete-reinforced conduit will protect vital data and electric pipes running into the building. Inside, the expected biometric locks are backed up with an X-ray chamber that screens visitors for weapons or other concealed objects.

But the security piece de resistance is "The Box." Built by German defense contractor Lampertz, The Box looks like a server room lined with grooved metal siding. But The Box is waterproof, fireproof, bombproof and impervious to magnetic pulse, infrared radiation and high-energy radio frequency blasts.

Paranoid? Maybe. But earlier this year, Verios Northern Virginia data center was evacuated because of a bomb threat. And as Sweeney points out, its not that tough to assemble an electronically devastating weapon.

"Last year at one of the trade shows, a graduate student from MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] took one of the stun guns and a little parabolic antenna, cobbled together a high-energy frequency gun, shot at a server and fried it, along with two digital cameras filming the demonstration from 30 feet away," Sweeney says. "Now imagine one of those things 10 feet in diameter hooked up to a dozen car batteries in the back of a minivan."

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