Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Iceland’s Cool Data Center Plan

According to a recent BBC story, Iceland is about halfway through building a large new data center that, based on its description, looks to be the most energy-efficient in the world.

The energy efficiency is largely the result of Iceland’s climate. Iceland’s subpolar island climate is consistently cool, so a data center won’t need artificial climate control. In a warmer climate, half of the energy cost of operating a data center can go to cooling the rooms that contain the electronic equipment. That expense is not needed in Iceland, where the outside air can usually provide all the cooling you would want.

Megawatts of electricity are still needed to run large data centers, and Iceland has an advantage here also. It potentially has enough geothermal power to run all of the world’s data centers — or as many as the world might want to place there.

But it is Iceland’s unique geographical location that provides its most compelling advantage. It is close to Europe — 17 milliseconds from London, according to the BBC — but at the same time, almost as close to North America. With so much data already going back and forth between Europe and North America, Iceland may become known as the low-cost stopover point for data along the way.