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New Centre Bids To Establish Iceland As Data Hub

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

As Verne Global’s Icelandic data centre goes live, Colt upgrades its partnership to include a Point of Presence

Verne Global’s data centre in Keflavik, Iceland, has opened with a handful of initial customers and an upgraded level of network support from partner Colt.

The Keflavik centre, announced in September, has dual sources of renewable energy, and its first customers include cloud provider GreenQloud and CCP Gaming, the Iceland-based maker of the popular EVE Online game. Telecoms firm Colt, which built the data centre, has increased its commitment to Iceland, by installing a point of presence (PoP) in the site and announcing plans for a redundant ring between Iceland, Amsterdam and London.

Consumerisation of the data centre?

The site has 500 square metres of data centre space (pictured), built inside a warehouse owned by Verne on a former NATO airbase, using the modular design Colt launched in 2010.

Verne owns some 36,000 square metres of warehouses at Keflavik, and opted to use Colt for the first space fitted out inside them.

Despite being “modular” and shipping within four months,  Colt’s system looks exactly like a conventional data centre on the inside, and is a long way from the shipping containers used by some sites, allowing hot-and-cold aisle containment and conventional racks, and having an expected PUE (power usage effectiveness) of less than 1.2.

“It’s the consumerisation of the data centre,” said Bernard Geogheghan, Colt’s vice president for data centre spaces, at the launch event in Iceland.  “We have a defined build, at a defined price. We tell you exactly what it will do. PUE has always been aget a ‘design PUE’ – we bring you a defined PUE”.

A boost for Iceland

“This is a new chapter in the industrial history of Iceland,” said  Ossur Skarphéðinsson, Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Iceland has a surplus of electricity, generated by two renewable sources – geothermal and hydroelectric energy. The government wants to encourage data centres to locate in the country, and Skarphéðinsson said it has provided the most favourable tax regime it can within the rules of the European Union, which Iceland hopes to join in due course.

“We as a government are committed to providing a favourable tax and legal environment to ensure that Iceland is as competitive as any country in the EU,” he said. Due to their base-load renewable supply, Iceland’s energy companies can offer a low energy price of $43 (£27)per MWh, and guarantee that for twelve years. In addition, as Sweden’s cold climate proves,  less electricity is needed since none is required for chiller units to keep the equipment cool.

A game bigger than Iceland

At this stage, the customers are all service provider partners except for one company which is based in Iceland. CCP Games makes EVE Online, a game whose virtual population of 450,000 worldwide exceeds Iceland’s 320,000 real inhabitants, and hopes to score a bigger hit with Dust 514, a game now in private beta.

“It is really good to have access to high class facilities here i our home country,” said Hilmar Veigar Pétursson CCP’s chief executive. CCP is running its back office functions from the Verne site, and will carry on hosting the games in Telehouse in London, with various “battle servers” distributed through the world.

“Connectivity  from Iceland is adequate for some parts of the world. We will watch what future development will be,” said Petursson. “It is about latency and the number of hops . There is a lot of management to reduce the number of hops.”

Iceland is increasing its bandwidth to both the USA and Europe, with two new fibre cables planned for the near future.

GreenQloud, a low-carbon infrastructure as a service (IaaS) player, which launched as a beta in 2010, is planning to run its commercial service on Verne’s data centre. The firm will keep some of its activity in the other new Icelandic data centre, Thor, but will make Verne its main centre, said Eirikiur Hrafnsson, CEO of GreenQloud.

“GreenQloud has a rather unique product,” said Verne CEO Jeff Munroe. “They have the  ability to take Amazon AWS customers and seamlessly transfer them to a green cloud.” This is done through a clone of the Amazon interface.

One other partner was present at the launch in Iceland. Opin Kerfi (“Open Systems”) is a reseller and integrator which will offer a cloud service from the centre, while handling equipment upgrades and repairs for other Verne customers.