Server centers are growing larger and larger as the number of smart devices grows and so-called “cloud-based” services proliferates. A sign of the times is Google’s new server complex, located in an area that has both access to plentiful electricity but, more crucially, an infrastructure that allows it to cool the enormous number of servers using more energy-efficient methods.
Google built a €200 million ($273 million) server hall in Hamina, Finland. In the past two years, it has converted an old paper mill into a massive data center. Enso Oyj closed production at the mill in 2008, and Google saw the opportunity to fill the structure with the technology that contributed to the demise of papermaking in Hamina.
“When building a data center, there are a whole bunch of cost items involved. But what has been the main focal point in recent years is the cost of cooling servers,” a spokesman at Google Benelux. Amazing, last year Google used 2.26 terrawatt-hours of electricity last year; equivalent to the consumption of 200,000 average American homes each year. Globally, data centers used 1.5% of all electricity to operate and cool the servers. With an expected 400% increase in servers in the next 5 years alone, clearly the cooling of servers is going to become a big operational, financial and environmental issue.
Google’s new center in Hamina will be one of the company’s most power-efficient. It will take advantage of both the low ambient air temperatures and the chilly waters of the Gulf of Finland. The company has rebuilt a seawater cooling system, originally constructed to cool Stora Enso’s paper-mill equipment, to suit the data center’s needs.
“Some would say our climate is nothing short of depressing, but if you are running a data center, it’s ideal,” says Matz Engman, a local entrepreneur who heads the Aurorum Science Park in Lulea.
An undisclosed major U.S. Internet company, widely believed to be Facebook, is planning to build a giant data center outside the town center, in an investment estimated at between three billion and five billion Swedish kronor ($459 million to $764 million). Face book has declined to comment on the matter.
Here a video of the complex: