|A server farm in the Arctic is born.|
The sub-zero climes of northern Sweden are an unlikely outpost for the world's hippest tech firms. Temperatures have been known to plummet to a bone-chilling minus-40 degrees centigrade in the winter months, while the rural landscape is more commonly associated with the sparkling beauty of the northern lights than the humdrum back office of cloud computing.But it's here, in the tiny sub-Arctic town of Lulea, that Facebook has operated a 30,000 square meter server farm since 2013 -- its first such facility outside the U.S. So content with the operation is the social media giant that it announced the creation a second data center in Lulea earlier this year.
Actually, the top of the world--or more precisely, Scandinavia--also offers fairly high "human capital" to keep these server farms operational, so that's another plus for investing there:
According to Malin Frenning regional head of telecoms firm TeliaSonera the region has plenty to offer big international companies despite its distant location. "There is a lot of (engineering) competence ... and good cooperation with the technical universities," Frenning said. On top of that, good transport links ensure its easily accessible by road and by air while solid infrastructure ensures business stability.TeliaSonera is currently laying down Skanova Backbone North, a 1,250-kilometer (776-mile) fiber cable that will serve mobile and communications networks as well as provide the digital infrastructure that data centers in northern Sweden require. "As far as we understand it this is one of the best places to establish data centers," Frenning added.
It promises to be a win-win situation for companies and Mother Earth: firms save on cooling in cold climates so less electricity is used for this purpose. Moreover, these places in several instances already generate much renewable electricity:
The attraction of the extreme north for many tech companies is both practical and environmental. Cold temperatures mean the high costs associated with air conditioning units used to keep servers cool can be drastically reduced. An abundance of renewable energy sources, meanwhile, ensures the large amounts of electricity required to power data centers is clean and environmentally friendly. Iceland, for example, currently meets 100% of its energy needs through geothermal and hydro-electric sources, according to independent energy sector analysts Askja Energy.Northern Sweden is also blessed with a plethora of natural resources: Lulea has produced large amounts of hydro-electricity for well over a century. "The environmental impact (of data centers in the north of Sweden) is pretty much zero," said Anne Graf of the Node Pole, a regional trade body designed to attract investment into Lulea, Boden and nearby town Pitea.
With no real location penalty nowadays with fiber-optic networks spanning the globe, why not establish servers in the Arctic? The proportion of Internet-related energy consumption is set to rise, and this is one solution to the technical challenges that phenomenon poses.