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Iceland Woos Data Centers As Power Costs Soar 142

Posted by kdawson
from the where-cool-meets-hot dept.
call-me-kenneth writes "Business Week covers the soaring demand for power and cooling capacity in data centers. Electricity consumption for US data centers more than doubled between 2000 and 2006. Among the other stats: for every dollar spent on computing equipment in data centers, an additional half dollar is spent each year to power and cool them; and half the electricity used goes for cooling. Iceland, with its cool climate and abundant cheap power, is courting big users like Google and Microsoft as a future data center location. (Can't help thinking they're gonna need a bigger cable first, though.)"
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Iceland Woos Data Centers As Power Costs Soar

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  • Re:Bigger cable map? (Score:3, Informative)

    by TFer_Atvar (857303) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @12:21AM (#22909446) Homepage
    It's intentionally small. They're selling a paper version for over $100, and probably don't want to give folks a reason not to buy.
  • Re:Bigger cable map? (Score:5, Informative)

    by TFer_Atvar (857303) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @12:24AM (#22909454) Homepage
    Though there is a slightly bigger version here [telegeography.com], ostensibly for desktop background usage.
  • Re:Bigger cable map? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Naughty Bob (1004174) * on Sunday March 30, 2008 @12:32AM (#22909476)
    What you really need is a map showing bandwidth. There was one in a recent (paper) edition of The Guardian. The online version [guardian.co.uk] (it's in the bottom right) is a bit too small to be very useful, but it's big enough to see that yes, Iceland needs a better connection is it is to become the world's data centre.
  • Re:Won't work (Score:3, Informative)

    by BlueParrot (965239) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @12:33AM (#22909480)
    Big deal, they have plenty of water to cool it with being an Island and everything. Point about putting a data center there is cheap electricity due to abundant renewable energy, such as geysers and hydroelectrics.
  • Re:Bigger cable map? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chris Pimlott (16212) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @12:39AM (#22909506)
    There's a more useful map in the article itself [invest.is], and the text gives the capacities of the lines:

    Farice is running at 20 Gb/sec capacity with an ultimate transmission capacity of 720 Gigabit/second and CANTAT 3, which has 5 Gb/sec capacity both ways with an extra 2.5 Gb/sec to spare.
  • by postbigbang (761081) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @12:41AM (#22909516)
    Five good reasons:

    1) cheap geothermal power
    2) cheap geothermal cooling
    3) easy freight
    4) educated and even DNA-tracked populace
    5) computing is an indoor sport

    Five considerations:

    1) they like to go whaling; not necessarily a friendly thing in by some opinions
    2) latency; not as a bad as a sat, but not as good as Chicago for US; geo centric for North America and EU
    3) earthquakes and unsettled geography
    4) too many thermal pools to screw off in
    5) don't want my server called 'homerdottir'
  • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @12:56AM (#22909568)
    On the other hand, it's very close to the largest IXP in the world- Amsterdam. Chicago is only good for America.
  • by IvyKing (732111) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @01:40AM (#22909734)

    5) don't want my server called 'homerdottir'


    If that's Homer as in Homer Simpson, the server name would be margedottir. In Iceland, the daughters are named after their mothers.


    Iceland is probably cool enough that a well designed data center could forgo air-conditioning, unlike the eastern Oregon or eastern Washington sites popular for data centers.

  • by TFer_Atvar (857303) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @01:47AM (#22909752) Homepage
    Unfortunately, here in Alaska, we're undergoing an energy crisis. Here in Fairbanks, where I live, most electricity is supplied by coal and fuel oil. Due to the massive spike in oil prices, energy costs have risen greatly. In southern Alaska, most electricity is being supplied by natural gas, but even that's getting more expensive as the southcentral gas fields begin to run low. Though the short term is somewhat difficult, there is hope from a projected series of natural gas pipelines from the North Slope and the potential for dozens of hydroelectric and/or nuclear plants. Until then, however, electricity prices put the kibosh on most big server farms up here. The bandwidth capacity isn't bad -- we've actually got better connectivity than Iceland, based on the information I have, and a new undersea cable is scheduled to begin being laid between southern Alaska and Washington state next month. As an aside, there's a nice piece on the effects of the 700Mhz auction in Alaska scheduled to be released on Monday in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. I should know; I wrote it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 30, 2008 @01:49AM (#22909764)

    On the other hand, it's very close to the largest IXP in the world- Amsterdam. Chicago is only good for America.
    I don't think those words mean what you think they mean. Iceland is about 2000 km away from Amsterdam.
  • by Burdell (228580) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @01:51AM (#22909770)
    Air heat transfer is not that good, and you can't just pipe in outside air to cool the data center (due to dust and humidity control), so it doesn't generally work out that a cool outside climate lowers cooling costs significantly. If you compared it to some place with high (35C) normal temperatures, it might make enough of a difference (because standard air conditioning efficiency does drop off in that range IIRC), but that is not most of the US. Also, 50% of power going to cooling is not representative; it should be down closer to 35% from what I remember of our numbers (and we're in a location with relatively hot summers). Our electric rates are also already pretty cheap; commercial rates can go as low as 4.721 cents per kilowatt hour (plus a demand charge).
  • by Comatose51 (687974) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @03:12AM (#22909982) Homepage
    Sure, they say it's for the cheap power and cooling but we all know the IT administrators are relocating the datacenter to Iceland for two reasons:

    1. Part of the year in nearly total darkness. Nerds and the daystar don't mix well.

    2. Real reason anyone goes to Iceland: Icelandic girls [youtube.com] (fast forward to the third minute)

  • by nicklott (533496) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @05:42AM (#22910364)
    Go check a map. Iceland is close to Amsterdam in the same way Anchorage is close to New York.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 30, 2008 @06:08AM (#22910466)

    If that's Homer as in Homer Simpson, the server name would be margedottir. In Iceland, the daughters are named after their mothers.

    No, they aren't, at least not as a general rule. The general rule is that all children are "named" after their father (and I'm putting that in quotes since it's not really a name as much as a *description* of who you are); it's possible to use the mother's name instead of the father's, too, but it's neither restricted to nor standard for either sex.

    (Also, to pick some nits, you've misspelt "dóttir" (and don't tell me about English dropping accents - it's a different letter, not an accent), and the father's/mother's name is put into the genitive case. For example, the son/daughter of Anna could be Önnudóttir, not Annadóttir or Annadottir - that is, assuming their patronymic name wouldn't be, well, patronymic (deriving from their father's name), of course.)

    Hope that clears it up! :)

  • by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @08:10AM (#22910944)
    While I am no HVAC engineer, I pretend to be one on odd-numbered days.

    Cold climates have several real challenges for data centers. From an HVAC standpoint, there are two general ways to cool a data center in a cold climate-- outside air only and air/water cooling. Air/water systems have drycoolers with glycol kept around 30-40F, and circulate the cold water throughout the building to fan coil units. Minimal outside air is brought in for "fresh air," and must be humidified which generally requires a lot of energy.

    The air-only systems bring in 100% outside air, but must first temper (heat-- to avoid condensation) it and increase the humidity to control static inside the space. Very little pump energy, but the humidification and pre-heat are expensive.

    While it seems trivial to filter out dust, the better air filtration systems increase the pressure drop of the air handling unit, and force you to use a bigger fan. Heat wheels and enthalpy wheels are also an option, but have similar challenges in most real-world situations.

    The biggest challenge with cold climates is making sure the diesel generators start when needed. This alone makes most data center managers skeptical at the prospects of cold-climate data centers.

    For a truly efficient solution, the best approach is likely to be heat removal at the chip level and recovery for other purposes. 100F air isn't very useful, but if you can get 150F water off the chip then that heat can often be reclaimed for some other purpose more effectively. If all else fails, 150F water is pretty easy to cool off in a closed circuit dry cooler no matter what the outside temperature.

    There is also a lot of work going into direct-evaporative cooling solutions (swamp coolers) for data centers, as well as some other non-compressor based cooling systems. Unfortunately, most of these can work very efficiently for 9-10 months a year, and need a separate system to cool for the remainder of the year. Having two systems makes the payback equation often favor the less efficient solution...
  • by bumburumbi (1047864) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @08:27AM (#22911010)
    That is incorrect. Males and females in Iceland are usually called afther their father. Icelanders of both genders can call themselves after their mother, but that is rather rare. About 10 percent of the population has surnames instead of patrionymics. Homer Abrahamsson and Marge Clancydóttir have three kids, Bart Hómersson, Lisa Hómersdóttir and Maggie Hómersdóttir.
  • Forget the ice (Score:2, Informative)

    by Mawbid (3993) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @08:44AM (#22911074)
    Many of the comments are focusing on the outside temperature in Iceland and linking that to decreased cost of cooling. That may be relevant, but it's not the point. The point is that power is cheap and plentiful here (mostly hydro, some geothermal).

    Iceland doesn't have much in the way of natural resources but it has all that power. The way to export that power so far has been to import alumina and export aluminum. The conversion takes a lot of energy. Server farms are another way of exporting power.

    The problem is that no-one in their right mind would house their servers here. We have no real redundancy in connectivity. One cable breaks and we suffer increased latency and reduced throughput. This happens more often than most data center clients could tolerate. The good news is that this problem can be solved with more cables. They're not cheap, but neither is building aluminum smelters. Once there are at least two cables going west and two going east, each with sufficient capacity to carry the whole load, then Iceland will be a very nice place for servers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 30, 2008 @09:02AM (#22911144)
    Like the same type of greed they have in China? Where factory owners dump tons of pollutants into local rivers and streams? Where the rivers literally are not clear, and the only time they run clear is when the factory owner is tipped off that a government inspector is coming to check on them? Sounds like progress to me!

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