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Inside Iceland's Newest Data Center

  • Iceland and other far-northern countries are becoming increasingly popular sites to build data centers. These countries offer cool climates, political stability and low energy costs -- all attractive features to data center operators. At same time, increased network connectivity and the rise of cloud computing means that physical proximity is less of an issue for some customers and classes of workload.

    I recently visited Verne Global's newest data center in Iceland. This slideshow explores some of the factors behind the rise of the cold-climate data center and takes a peek inside the new construction.

    Global Reach

    The world is a very big place, especially when it comes to data. Connectivity extends almost everywhere and traffic is on the rise. The image above, provided by VeriSign, shows how complex connectivity has become worldwide. However, increased connectivity also means more location choices. As it stands now, a data center can serve a global business from almost anywhere in the world.

  • Global Reach

    Offshoring of data center operations is quickly becoming a viable option. When I visited Iceland, officials there explained how the nation has invested in fiber connectivity to both Europe and North America, creating high-speed, low-latency links to data centers located on the island. Iceland has an abundance of low-cost electricity, generated by carbon-neutral technologies, including geothermal and hydroelectric power.

  • Rise Of The Green Data Center

    As companies pay more attention to carbon output for both legislative requirements and public perception, data center location is affected by not only the cost of electricity, but how the electricity is generated and the environmental factors that impact heating and cooling of the data center. The above image, provided by Intel, shows how emissions impact operational costs and why the "green data center" movement is gaining steam.

  • Modular Design

    Verne Global's data center is located at a disused NATO command center in Keflavik and draws its electricity from a nearby geothermal power plant. What's more, the data center uses Iceland's cold air to keep temperatures down. Verne Global claims that it is the world's first "zero carbon" data center.

    The data center uses a modular design to simplify reconfiguration, expansion and support. With "modules," data center elements can be quickly replaced or relocated.

  • Hot and Cold Aisles

    Although photography was limited, I snapped a few authorized photos of Verne Global's Icelandic data center, which incorporates hot and cold aisles. The aisles feature individually locked server/infrastructure cabinets. IG55 systems (a mix of nitrogen and argon) protect against fire, while active cooling controls keeps a consistent temperature.

  • BMW's Carbon Emission Reduction Plan

    BMW, a customer of the new data center, has moved some high-performance compute (HPC) resources to the new data center. The company has chosen to use Colt data center modules (pictured above) to speed deployment and simplify installation. BMW hopes to cut annual carbon emissions by 3,570 metrics tons, and reduce the cost of its HPC operations by as much as 82%.

  • Natural Gas Backup

    Although geothermal power proves to be reliable, I did spot some massive backup generators powered by natural gas, which Verne Global said are designed to provide emergency operations power for business continuity.

  • Physical Security

    I found that access security measures made getting into Verne Global's data center a chore. Verne Global has been able to leverage some of the remnants of the base's Cold War-era security techniques to prevent physical intrusions. Physical security should always be a primary consideration for data centers. The above image shows one of the first phases of physical security, a vehicle trap. The idea is that unauthorized vehicles cannot access the site and are blocked by physical barriers.

  • The Man Trap

    Vehicle barriers are only one part of the security equation. Shown above is a security element called a "man trap." Here, individuals must pass through two doors to access the data center hallway. The second door only functions if the first door is locked, and entry to the first door is controlled by key cards, guards and other security technologies. Unauthorized users can be locked in the vestibule until law enforcement or security personnel arrive.