Iceland’s bid to be a cloud super-power is based on two data centres. We took a trip round the first one – Thor
This month saw the launch of Iceland’s bid to become an international data hub. The new Verne Global data centre was the main feature of the event, but there is already a shared data centre in Iceland – Thor.
Launched in 2010, Thor originally used standard shipping containers, from AST Modular, but has moved towards a “modular” approach, which based on a shell that can contain a space that mimics the look and feel of a conventional data centre.
Thor is on the road from Reykjavik to the airport, and TechWeekEurope knows its people well, so we paid a visit there on our way home from the trip organised by Verne.
Although technically rivals, the two data centres are not at daggers drawn. The two actually share some customers (GreenQloud is in both) and definitely share a mission. They think organisations in Europe and America should ship their data to Iceland for storage and processing – and want to overcome any objection foreign firms might have todoing this.
In a nutshell, Verne is larger, and is at the start of its mission, aiming to woo big clients into its 500 square metres of space. Thor is smaller (150 square metres), and has already got a substantial number of smaller customers up and running – including some international organisations.
“We welcome the addition of Verne,” Benedikt Gröndal, chief operating officer of Thor told us. “Verne is going after a different client base. We are starting small and have a growing number of solid corporate customers.”
Thor has been rebranded since it was bought by service provicer Skyrr at the end of 2011. earlier this year. Skyrr itself has pulled off about eight mergers, including service providers in Norway, Sweden and Latvia (only 40 percent of its turnover is in Iceland), and the whole group has now emerged under the brand Advania.
The whole company has about 500 IT operations specialists, and 600 software experts. It claims to have 10,000 corporate customers, a turnover of 150 million euros, and experience working with most of the major IT players, including Microsoft, Oracle, Dell, HP, Verisign and Cisco. Skyrr itself dates back more than 50 years to the first government data centre in Iceland.
Advania already runs much of the Icelandic government’s IT, and operates several data centres in Reykjavík, Hafnarfjörður and Akureyri, in Iceland. It has been shifting some of Icelandic government work into Thor, along with GreenQloud, and the Nordic supercomputer service it runs for Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
Both have modules within a warehouse space, but inside those modules, and both rely on the cold Icelandic air for cooling, with a very low PUE (power usage effectiveness). After a year’s operation, Thor claims a PUE of 1.16; Verne has only predictions to go on, and expects to beat 1.20.
The big difference is size. Verne has a lot of capacity in a large space, while Thor has been filling smaller chunks. The first 150 square metre module is already virtually full, said Gröndal, and a new module is being ordered.