The P50 Underground Bunker

April 20th, 2018

This post has been sitting in my draft folder waiting for the “right time” to post it. Today, one year on, seems like that right time.

April 20th, 2017. What matters at Rockweather: the P50 underground bunker

In the early months of 1999, my company EDIS was given an opportunity for significant growth because of a need our largest client had. They used our software to run an in-house e-commerce network that we had built for them, beginning in 1989. With the millennium Y2K issues causing world-wide concern, they wanted to “outsource” the network to us. Our shared client base was growing fast and we would need a proper datacentre…. so we built one in the basement of my home, out in the suburbs, and named it P50.

At its peak, there were twenty-five telephone lines running down our driveway handling thousands of transactions a week into our computers. P50 is half-underground and was full of servers and communications gear. My six-year old son Ben’s teacher asked her primary school class one day “how many computers do you have in your home?” Most students said one but Ben though it was eighteen. I am not sure she believed him <laugh>.

There are many more stories, achievements and statistics from that time but there is one that means the most to me. We once had a consecutive run of 465 days with zero-downtime. The streak was broken by a brief telecoms outage that was not our fault that really annoyed us…

Today, P50 is empty and freshly repainted. EDIS moved out into much bigger premises years ago and now outsources its own servers in much larger network centers. But, it all started down here…and one division of New Zealand’s largest construction company  trusted us to build an e-commerce network center for them, hidden away in the suburbs where no one would ever find it. That probably would not happen in today’s business environment but who knows? New Zealand is still a very creative place.

This building has now been sold and it is time for us to finally move out so I am spending one last time down here alone. With the door closed, it is still cold and deliciously silent. I remember the day in mid-1999, when the builders had finished and the first coat of paint was dry. I sat here in the same position by myself, absolutely joyful, thankful for our new toy and thinking “I love this stuff…

I really hope the new owners build a massive model railway layout down here <laugh>…

The P50 Network Center


Author: Rockweather

I am a writer, musician, teacher, and researcher at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in Auckland, New Zealand.

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