Container-Based Data Centre Launches In Iceland

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Containers got the Thor data centre in Iceland off the ground without hitting the efficiency

A green data centre has been launched in Iceland using all-renewable power, with servers in modules, and using a new modular free-air cooling system from AST Modular.

The Thor data centre, which already houses servers for the Opera browser, is based in a 28,000 square foot shed in Hafnarfjordur close Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, which so far contains servers in one shipping cotainer and one “POD”, or prefabricated server room.

The world’s greenest data centre?

Thor is intended as “the world’s greenest data centre”, using only renewable electricity generated from Iceland’s geothermal energy, said Jon Viggo Gunnarsson, managing director of Thor, at a London briefing.

It is being built a piece at a time, using containers from AST Modular for both IT equipment and cooling, a method which has allowed Thor to get up and running with a small number of customers, the most significant of which is the Opera browser.

In general, Thor provides space for customers to install their own servers, and can provide a measure of the Power Usage Efficiency (PUE) for each rack, if users need to know.

The shed can hold six containers and four 50-rack PODs, said Gunnarsson, and Thor plans to add other sheds as necessary.

Communications are the key

Iceland’s cheap geothermal energy is an important factor in Thor’s economics, as it costs some 30 percent less than electricity in the UK. The centre will also use substantially less power, cutting costs further, because of the climate.

Thor uses the outside air temperature to cool the servers all year round, said Gunnarsson, so chillers are not necessary. Although the AST Modular systems can use water for evaporative cooling, this is never needed in Iceland, said Gunnarsson.

While energy efficiency is important, the deciding factor in going ahead with a data centre in Iceland was the availability of communications, said Gunnarsson: “Last year a cable was laid between Iceland and the US, as well as one between Iceland and Denmark. Before that there was only one cable.”

Thor is not the only big data centre in Iceland. Greenqloud uses a data centre there and claims to be carbon neutral, while Verne Global is building a more traditional facility, and is understood to be preparing an announcement shortly.

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