I like touring Data Centers. Whether it’s a makeshift space with out-of-control cabling or a state of the art, innovative facility, I’m always curious to see how companies accommodate their computing equipment and tackle the inevitable challenges of space, power and cooling.

Ten years ago I visited a then-new Data Center in the western United States that had several interesting features.  Two elements – and the moments I discovered them – still stick with me.

Look out below. Electrical conduits, data cabling and cooling were all routed beneath the Data Center’s raised floor – very conventional. As I entered one of the room’s cold aisles and glanced at the perforated tile under my feet, though, I was startled to see the basement floor about 15 feet below. The Data Center’s air handlers and power distribution units were down there and with air flowing up through the tiles, designers saw no reason to install a true floor for the ground level. It’s not a design choice I might make – an open floor tile in the data hall poses a potential safety hazard – but it was certainly interesting to see.

Can you hear me now? Perhaps even more surprising was that the data hall was whisper quiet. With the air handlers in the basement and hardware fan noise masked by the room’s hot aisle enclosures, it was easy to have a quiet conversation while strolling among the server rows. Having working in and around Data Centers for a handful of years by that point, I found it almost eerie.  In my experience server rooms were only silent during an outage.

Quiet Data Centers still aren’t the norm these days. Check out the video below – no ear plugs required – for a stroll around the noisier locations in a Data Center, and a discussion of what can be done to lower the volume.