Deep below the streets of Jerusalem, a new project that will ensure Israel is able to continue functioning in the event of a catastrophic event — think all-out war, electromagnetic pulses, major earthquakes, and the like — is slowly but surely being implemented. Down below, servers (and the data they contain) will be well protected from disaster, natural or man-made, allowing the country — once the emergency is over — to quickly restore the many services that depend on data.
When the data center’s first section goes online next year, the new data center in the Har Hotzvim hi-tech area will protect data for the banks, the large corporations, and the government offices that decide to store their servers and cloud systems in the new data center, said Alon Bar-Tsur, CEO of Bynet Data Communications.
Data centers host and manage a company’s servers altogether, store backup data for business, or provide collocation services (where companies rent out space and services on the data center’s own equipment). They are often located underground or in similar secure and out-of-the-way places, with their own electric generators, air-conditioning services, and so on.
Israel has numerous data centers (for security reasons, there are no specific statistics on many of them) spread throughout the country, but many of them are located in the Tel Aviv area. In addition, there are few that offer a full range of services, said Bar-Tsur, with most offering only collocation service. Security is better at some than at others; for example, three data centers run by Bezeq for private enterprise are located underground, while several government data centers are in office buildings.
Bynet is Israel’s largest systems integrator and a major provider of information technology services, and is part of the Rad Bynet Group, which encompasses 24 companies working in a variety of tech areas. Bynet runs several data centers, but the new Jerusalem center will be the company’s — and, in fact, the country’s — largest; it is planned to eventually cover 17,000 square meters.
It will also be the country’s most secure, said Bar-Tsur, 10 stories (35 meters, to be exact) below ground, with up to 100,000 servers, capable of providing all of Israel’s current server, backup, and cloud-service needs. The center will provide a full range of services, and fulfill the most stringent security requirements, such as those of international banks, Bar-Tsur added.
Bynet has been speaking to potential customers already, said Bar-Tsur, and many have expressed interest. At this point, Bynet expects most of its customers to be private organizations — government servers are located in government data centers — but that could change, he said.
One group that will not be using the Jerusalem center is the IDF, which is building its own super-secure computing center in the Negev. Bynet will be handling construction of this center as well; at a recent event, Bynet’s chairman Yehuda Zisapel announced that his company would be working with US company Lockheed Martin on construction of the facility, at an estimated cost of 1 billion shekels.
However, construction work on that facility won’t take place for several years; for now, completing the Jerusalem data center is Bynet’s priority. “The location of this center gives us excellent protection, as it is deeply embedded in Har Hotzvim,” Bar-Tsur said. “Because it is essentially located inside a cave, less energy will be needed to cool it off, as it will be naturally cooler. In addition, the generally cooler and less-humid weather in Jerusalem will also contribute to energy savings.”
Considering that the nation’s business center is in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem seems like an odd choice for a major data center — but it isn’t, said Bar-Tsur. “Our studies show that Har Hotzvim, in northern Jerusalem, is one of the safest places in the country for a facility like this: It’s easy to reach, with a great road system in the area; and it is a very defensible area. I would much rather have a data center in a place like this than, say, 10 stories under Tulkarm.”