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Photos: Inside Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM's frozen Nordic datacenters

The Nordic countries' low outside temperatures, cheap power, and stable economies are proving hard for tech giants to resist when it comes to siting new datacenters.
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1 of 13 Google

Google in Finland

The Nordic countries, consisting of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, have experienced a datacenter boom over the past decade, with the number of new facilities being built surging in the last two years.

According to a recent study by UK consultancy BroadGroup, the combined investments in the datacenter market in the Nordics and the Baltics have reached around $3bn over the past 12 to 18 months.

This is Google's datacenter in Hamina, Finland.

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2 of 13 Green Mountain Data Center/Knut Bry

Cheap, renewable power

The jump in the region's datacenter developments comes down to several factors.

First, electricity in the Nordics is cheap, and nearly 100 percent hydroelectric, providing green, renewable power for the datacenters.

The BroadGroup report states that the combined available power for third-party facilities and hyperscales is already approaching 800MW for the region. It estimates that a total of more than 5,500MW of renewable electricity is available in the region for further growth.

Here you can see plant at the Green Mountain datacenter in Rjukan, Norway.

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3 of 13 Facebook

Low outside temperatures

A second reason for the growth of datacenter development in the Nordics is the average outside ambient temperature, which is relatively low, making it cheap and easy to cool datacenter equipment.

For instance, in Luleå, the town seen here in northern Sweden where Facebook has built a datacentre, the yearly average temperature is just below 2℃, or 36℉, and from November through to March the average is below zero.

Thirdly, the Nordic countries are very stable, economically, politically, and tectonically, so there will be no surprise earthquakes, neither literally nor metaphorically, through elections, taxation changes, nationalization of industries, or other political upheavals.

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4 of 13 Google

Google, Facebook, and Apple

Sweden, Denmark, and Finland have become hosts to private datacenters belonging to internet giants Google, Facebook, and Apple. For the time being, Norway has no such establishments.

However, IBM is moving into Norway's Lefdal Mine Datacenter facility, but it is not the only customer there. The other Norwegian datacenters in this photo gallery are colocation facilities.

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5 of 13 Google

Major internet companies

Google was the first major internet company to establish itself in the Nordics. In 2009, the company bought a 60-year-old paper mill in Hamina, Finland, seen here, to convert into a datacenter.

After investing an initial €200m ($236m), the first phase of the project was completed in 2011. Since then, the datacenter has been developed further.

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6 of 13 Facebook

Large hydroelectric plants

In 2011, Facebook announced that its first datacenter outside the US would be built in the small town of Luleå in northern Sweden, about 100km (60 miles) south of the arctic circle.

Among the reasons the location was chosen is its proximity to several large hydroelectric plants. The first phase of the project opened for production in 2013, with 28,000 square meters (about 300,000 square feet), and a plan for two more halls of the same size on the facility. In 2016, Facebook completed the second data-hall building.

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7 of 13 Green Mountain Data Center/Knut Bry

Fjord seawater cooling

In 2013, the Norwegian-owned company Green Mountain Data Center also opened a facility just north of Stavanger on the southwestern coastline of Norway. It moved into a former NATO ammunition storage site at Rennesøy that provides very high security and cooling based on cold seawater from the nearby fjord.

Their initial data hub was 13,600 square meters (about 146,000 square feet) of white space, with an infrastructure designed to scale to 26MW of computing power.

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8 of 13 Apple

Offshore wind farms

In 2015, Apple announced plans for a major datacenter in Viborg, Denmark. The facility is planned to grow to 166,000 square meters (about 1.7 million square feet) over 10 years of development.

The main reason Apple chose this location is energy. The facility will use 100 percent renewable power from offshore wind farms, as well as from hydro power imported from Norway, and biomass-based energy production.

The heat surplus from the facility will enter the local district heating system, warming homes in the neighbourhood. The datacenter is expected to go live this year.

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9 of 13 Facebook

Facebook in Denmark

Facebook announced its second Nordic, and its third European, datacenter in October 2016. This time around, a site near Odense in Denmark was chosen as the location.

The facility will contain three large server halls, as well as other technical buildings, totaling 184,000 square meters (nearly two million square feet). The data halls alone will span 92,000 square meters (about 990,000 square feet).

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10 of 13 Lefdal Mine Datacenter

Vast abandoned mine

In May 2017 Lefdal Mine Datacenter celebrated its official opening. This is a white-space colocation facility situated in an abandoned mine by a fjord on the northwest coast of Norway.

The mine is tunneled over six levels, with each level's mountain halls featuring roof heights of up to 16 meters (about 53 feet). The maximum floor space in this facility, when completely built out, will be about 120,000 square meters (about 1.3 million square feet), and more than 200MW of hydro power is easily available. IBM Resiliency Services is among the customers sharing the site as a colocation center.

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11 of 13 Apple

Environmental issues

In July 2017, Apple announced its second large datacenter in Denmark, to be built in Aabenraa, near the German border. Apple decided to build the facility after it ran into environmental problems with a planned datacenter near Galway, Ireland.

There, locals raised concerns about the potential damage to nearby wildlife and habitats. Originally, Apple's plan was to have that Irish datacenter up and running by early 2017. Now, the first phase of the facility in Aabenraa is expected to be completed in 2019.

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12 of 13 Kolos/HDR

North of the Arctic Circle

A recent development is US-Norwegian company Kolos' plan for a colocation datacenter in northern Norway. The location Ballangen is 225km (about 140 miles) north of the Arctic Circle, near the city of Narvik.

There's abundant local hydroelectricity production, and the company aims to have over 1,000MW of computing power. According to Kolos, it could scale beyond 2GW of renewable power on the site, a figure it describes as making it "far bigger than any datacenter in the world".

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13 of 13 Kolos/HDR

New hyperscale datacenter class

The Kolos facility has been designed by the US company HDR to become a new class of hyperscale datacenter. When complete, it will offer a four-story structure with a total of more than 600,000 square meters (about 6.45 million square feet) of white-space facilities.

According to the Worldstopdatacenters.com, this scale would place the Kolos facility as number five in the world today, measured by floor area. By computer power consumption, Kolos would be the world's number one, by a significant margin. China Telecom's facility in Inner Mongolia tops that list today with 150MW.

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