Location, location, location: The changing face of data centres


One of the rare occasions that the subject of data centres has ended up in the mainstream news was fairly recently, when Facebook built a new data centre in Sweden. It was a precious moment when our industry – which despite being responsible for so much cool stuff in the world is not exactly considered to be the most glamorous to the average Joe – was seen on the likes of Gawker and the Mail Online.

Of course, the Facebook factor is a strong reason for this public interest – but there is something inherently… cool… about building a data centre in such a remote location (not to mention the green credentials). But Facebook isn’t doing this for the PR; it sees real potential for savings in this region.

The Node Pole – a brand name given to the Luleå region in Sweden where Facebook built its data centre – had a significant presence at this year’s Data Centre World conference.

They certainly offer an interesting proposition, one that the likes of Facebook and Google have eagerly bought into.

Being touted as the perfect place to house a data centre, Luleå has a number of advantages of which they are rightly proud: bountiful supplies of cheap renewable energy from the numerous hydro-electric power stations in the area, an average temperature of -1.3 °C, and not least, a local University of Technology that can provide skilled workers.

Indeed, Facebook states that most of the 90-odd permanent staff at its Luleå data centre are from the local region.

The enthusiasm in the area is strongly evident. At a presentation by the Node Pole, we were shown a promotional video in which the mayor of Luleå spoke with real passion about how the region and technology – particularly ‘big data’ – are ideally suited.

Facebook seems happy – its first data centre in the region is currently achieving a PUE of 1.08, with the company revealing plans to build another.

Of course there is a reason why the idea of choosing the ideal location for a data centre – rather than settling for the nearest suitable location – is only recently being realised, and that is the proliferation of high speed, low latency internet. As Senator Ted Stevens might have said, big data needs big tubes.

Of course this is all good and well for the Facebooks and Googles of the world, but what about the smaller businesses who aren’t able to invest hundreds of millions into a data centre? Good news. More colocation centres are popping up in the area, now that internet speeds have caught up with the needs of businesses. Hydro66 is one of the latest companies to see an opportunity there and is boasting the “world’s first 100% hydroelectric powered colocation centre”.

London, Paris and Amsterdam have traditionally been the major colocation centres in Europe for large enterprises because of their access to high-speed low-latency network connectivity – but this could be about to change.