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Iceland Woos Data Centers As Power Costs Soar

kdawson posted about 6 years ago | from the where-cool-meets-hot dept.

Power 142

call-me-kenneth writes "Business Week covers the soaring demand for power and cooling capacity in data centers. Electricity consumption for US data centers more than doubled between 2000 and 2006. Among the other stats: for every dollar spent on computing equipment in data centers, an additional half dollar is spent each year to power and cool them; and half the electricity used goes for cooling. Iceland, with its cool climate and abundant cheap power, is courting big users like Google and Microsoft as a future data center location. (Can't help thinking they're gonna need a bigger cable first, though.)"

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142 comments

Bigger cable map? (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 6 years ago | (#22909438)

Is there a bigger version of that map around? I can't read a thing on it.

Re:Bigger cable map? (2, Informative)

TFer_Atvar (857303) | about 6 years ago | (#22909446)

It's intentionally small. They're selling a paper version for over $100, and probably don't want to give folks a reason not to buy.

Re:Bigger cable map? (4, Informative)

TFer_Atvar (857303) | about 6 years ago | (#22909454)

Though there is a slightly bigger version here [telegeography.com] , ostensibly for desktop background usage.

Re:Bigger cable map? (4, Informative)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | about 6 years ago | (#22909476)

What you really need is a map showing bandwidth. There was one in a recent (paper) edition of The Guardian. The online version [guardian.co.uk] (it's in the bottom right) is a bit too small to be very useful, but it's big enough to see that yes, Iceland needs a better connection is it is to become the world's data centre.

Re:Bigger cable map? (1)

Brickwall (985910) | about 6 years ago | (#22910406)

Man, I had no idea there were that many cables. Neal Stephenson wrote a great article in Wired a few years back describing the problems laying cable underseas. It's pretty daunting. But I guess this is why we can call the Philippines from Toronto for four cents a minute.

Re:Bigger cable map? (4, Informative)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | about 6 years ago | (#22909506)

There's a more useful map in the article itself [invest.is] , and the text gives the capacities of the lines:

Farice is running at 20 Gb/sec capacity with an ultimate transmission capacity of 720 Gigabit/second and CANTAT 3, which has 5 Gb/sec capacity both ways with an extra 2.5 Gb/sec to spare.

Won't work (1)

VampireByte (447578) | about 6 years ago | (#22909462)

The ice will just melt.

Re:Won't work (2, Informative)

BlueParrot (965239) | about 6 years ago | (#22909480)

Big deal, they have plenty of water to cool it with being an Island and everything. Point about putting a data center there is cheap electricity due to abundant renewable energy, such as geysers and hydroelectrics.

Re:Won't work (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22909562)

Please keep in mind there is such a thing as heat pollution. Warming the water 10 degrees can radically affect the nearby ecosystem.

I'm not saying your typical data center is going to put out the same heat as a nuclear reactor. They actually take steps to cool the water, but it's still warmer than it went in.

Re:Won't work (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22909716)

Please keep in mind there is such a thing as heat pollution. Warming the water 10 degrees can radically affect the nearby ecosystem.

I'm not saying your typical data center is going to put out the same heat as a nuclear reactor. They actually take steps to cool the water, but it's still warmer than it went in.
I certainly don't think heat pollution will be a concern. Gigawatt size coal plants and nuclear reactors have to worry about heating nearby rivers, but in this case we are talking about the additional load to run datacenters heating the Atlantic Ocean. A 1 GW electric power plant will typically reject 2 GW thermally (which is a lot of local heat). But 3 GW is a lot of power to be generated in one spot. The renewable energy sources of Iceland certainly don't generate anywhere near that much power per unit area. And the heat rejected from datacenters will be trivial and widely distributed.

I think two things will stop these datacenters from going to Iceland: restrictive immigration laws and submarine data cable capacity. Iceland has a total population of about 300,000. They simply can't have a diverse enough IT industry to support setting up these data centers without expats. And without the bandwidth, there simply isn't a point.

Re:Won't work (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | about 6 years ago | (#22910240)

I think you might be surprised by the pull Google would have. A data-center of google magnitude means a lot of revenue + IT benefits + any immigrants will be well educated. The bandwidth however is a problem, I think they should put it in Scandinavia personally. Though I don't know how much more expensive electricity could be there. Atleast they have a land connection, plenty of icy water and easy to deal with governments.

Re:Won't work (1)

Dr. Cody (554864) | about 6 years ago | (#22911464)

The renewable energy sources of Iceland certainly don't generate anywhere near that much power per unit area. And the heat rejected from datacenters will be trivial and widely distributed.
However, the primary electrical capacity is based on hydropower, which is rapidly being marketed to heavy industry (Alcoa's aluminium smelters, for instance), so the current power prices won't last forever.

I think two things will stop these datacenters from going to Iceland: restrictive immigration laws and submarine data cable capacity. Iceland has a total population of about 300,000. They simply can't have a diverse enough IT industry to support setting up these data centers without expats. And without the bandwidth, there simply isn't a point.
1. Iceland's immigration will let in, at least in my experience, just about anybody. (including myself twice, even though I could barely read the language when I arrived) It's not too common to have to speak English at the cashier.
2. Iceland has borne so many computer nerds that you'd think it was originally founded by disenfranchised refugees from some Norwegian LARPer club. If Iceland becomes the next big thing in co-location, this might be just the thing to get them to come home from Britain, North America and Scandinavia.

Re:Won't work (1)

BotnetZombie (1174935) | about 6 years ago | (#22911510)

I think two things will stop these datacenters from going to Iceland: restrictive immigration laws and submarine data cable capacity.

I think you're wrong on both accounts. Iceland is a part of the EU common workforce/finance market - and has similar immigration laws as the rest of Europe. It also hasn't been any problem in the companies I've worked for here to get people from e.g. USA and India to come and work/live for longer or shorter periods. The data cable capacity thing is a real issue right now, but it is being worked on and we will have more bandwidth relatively soon. If you're planning something big that should stand for a long time, by the time you've made the necessary deals and plans, this problem will be already solved.

Re:Won't work (0)

QuickSilver_999 (166186) | about 6 years ago | (#22909750)

But... But... But... The GLOWBULL WORMENING! We can't have all that heat producing equipment near the arctic! THINK OF THE POLAR BEARS! We MUST STOP this TRAGIC interference with the Arctic ice sheet! IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!!!!!!

Scary part is some asshat will probably actually think that's a legitimate argument.

Re:Won't work (1)

dwater (72834) | about 6 years ago | (#22910330)

ok, so let me put on my 'ass hat' for a moment and ask why that isn't a legitimate argument...

Re:Won't work (1)

Gorshkov (932507) | about 6 years ago | (#22911270)

ok, so let me put on my 'ass hat' for a moment and ask why that isn't a legitimate argument...
There's no polar bears in Iceland.

What of Greenland? (1)

kiehlster (844523) | about 6 years ago | (#22909488)

Are people forgetting their geography? Iceland is green and Greenland is ice. Shouldn't we consider them as a data center wooing country?

Re:What of Greenland? (1)

JimboFBX (1097277) | about 6 years ago | (#22909542)

I heard that vikings intentionally swapped the two names so that people would go to the wrong island. Is that true?

Re:What of Greenland? (3, Funny)

kiehlster (844523) | about 6 years ago | (#22909588)

I haven't heard that before, but it would make some sense. The big issue I see is that Iceland really isn't icy. It even has active volcanoes and geothermal hotspots. Not really what you think of when you put in a data center. If the Vikings really did change the name, then they'll have succeeded in fooling corporations generations later by it. Cue Vikings laughing at Google as its data centers melt under hot lava.

Re:What of Greenland? (1)

God_Retired (44721) | about 6 years ago | (#22909674)

I heard that the climate changed between then and now. That is part of the reason the early viking settlements on Greenland ended up going kaplooie after a short hundred, or couple hundred years.

Why don't I look it up, you may ask. Well, I'm drunk and lazy.

More importantly (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 years ago | (#22910236)

They have nothing BUT geo-thermal power. It will not rise in price (well much). It is what even the US should be pursuing since it is a baseload type power (can be called when needed), whereas solar and wind are being pushed and they are when the time is right.

Re:What of Greenland? (1)

dwater (72834) | about 6 years ago | (#22910342)

Iceland is green
Really? I admit it's greener than I had thought, but it looks [google.com] more brown, even orange, than green.

Actually, I would have guessed it would be more black than anything...

Islands in the Net; shades of Gibson (4, Informative)

postbigbang (761081) | about 6 years ago | (#22909516)

Five good reasons:

1) cheap geothermal power
2) cheap geothermal cooling
3) easy freight
4) educated and even DNA-tracked populace
5) computing is an indoor sport

Five considerations:

1) they like to go whaling; not necessarily a friendly thing in by some opinions
2) latency; not as a bad as a sat, but not as good as Chicago for US; geo centric for North America and EU
3) earthquakes and unsettled geography
4) too many thermal pools to screw off in
5) don't want my server called 'homerdottir'

Re:Islands in the Net; shades of Gibson (4, Informative)

Brian Gordon (987471) | about 6 years ago | (#22909568)

On the other hand, it's very close to the largest IXP in the world- Amsterdam. Chicago is only good for America.

Re:Islands in the Net; shades of Gibson (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22909764)

On the other hand, it's very close to the largest IXP in the world- Amsterdam. Chicago is only good for America.
I don't think those words mean what you think they mean. Iceland is about 2000 km away from Amsterdam.

Re:Islands in the Net; shades of Gibson (2, Informative)

nicklott (533496) | about 6 years ago | (#22910364)

Go check a map. Iceland is close to Amsterdam in the same way Anchorage is close to New York.

Re:Islands in the Net; shades of Gibson (2, Informative)

IvyKing (732111) | about 6 years ago | (#22909734)

5) don't want my server called 'homerdottir'


If that's Homer as in Homer Simpson, the server name would be margedottir. In Iceland, the daughters are named after their mothers.


Iceland is probably cool enough that a well designed data center could forgo air-conditioning, unlike the eastern Oregon or eastern Washington sites popular for data centers.

Re:Islands in the Net; shades of Gibson (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22910466)

If that's Homer as in Homer Simpson, the server name would be margedottir. In Iceland, the daughters are named after their mothers.

No, they aren't, at least not as a general rule. The general rule is that all children are "named" after their father (and I'm putting that in quotes since it's not really a name as much as a *description* of who you are); it's possible to use the mother's name instead of the father's, too, but it's neither restricted to nor standard for either sex.

(Also, to pick some nits, you've misspelt "dóttir" (and don't tell me about English dropping accents - it's a different letter, not an accent), and the father's/mother's name is put into the genitive case. For example, the son/daughter of Anna could be Önnudóttir, not Annadóttir or Annadottir - that is, assuming their patronymic name wouldn't be, well, patronymic (deriving from their father's name), of course.)

Hope that clears it up! :)

Re:Islands in the Net; shades of Gibson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22910734)

If that's Homer as in Homer Simpson, the server name would be margedottir. In Iceland, the daughters are named after their mothers.
I'm Icelandic and you are wrong. The rule is patronymic names regardless of the sex of the child.

Re:Islands in the Net; shades of Gibson (2, Informative)

bumburumbi (1047864) | about 6 years ago | (#22911010)

That is incorrect. Males and females in Iceland are usually called afther their father. Icelanders of both genders can call themselves after their mother, but that is rather rare. About 10 percent of the population has surnames instead of patrionymics. Homer Abrahamsson and Marge Clancydóttir have three kids, Bart Hómersson, Lisa Hómersdóttir and Maggie Hómersdóttir.

Re:Islands in the Net; shades of Gibson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22911056)

If that's Homer as in Homer Simpson, the server name would be margedottir. In Iceland, the daughters are named after their mothers.

Because, as it is well known, pop singer Björk Guðmundsdóttirs mother is called Guðmundur.

Re:Islands in the Net; shades of Gibson (1)

infonography (566403) | about 6 years ago | (#22909796)

You say "4) too many thermal pools to screw off in" like it's a bad thing.

Besides, Microsoft doesn't need to go looking for cold weather, they're from Seattle. (like Me)

Re:Islands in the Net; shades of Gibson (1)

EdIII (1114411) | about 6 years ago | (#22910276)

I wholeheartedly fucking concur my friend.

Have any of you SEEN these thermal pools? I guarantee you there won't be a single stressed out IT Geek on that whole island. In fact, a whole island dedicated to huge datacenters and these "Thermal Pools" would be IT Heaven.

If you still don't understand imagine a bunch of gorgeous naked blond women playing around in a bunch of steamy hot water....

Re:Islands in the Net; shades of Gibson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22910592)

message.replace("gorgeous naked blond women", "fat geeky men");

Fixed.

solution to small map? (1)

publicopinion5 (1262126) | about 6 years ago | (#22909536)

put them in canada, don't need a map for that one.

Re:solution to small map? (1)

Brickwall (985910) | about 6 years ago | (#22910480)

Er, where exactly? Even in Edmonton, which is the northern most major city, temps still get up in the 90's in the summer. And Albertans are worried about water supplies - the oil sands and farming suck up a lot of it.

You could suggest Yellowknife or some other spot in the Northwest Territories, but I don't think you're going to get a lot of geeks moving to a spot where it's practically dark for 3 months at a stretch, staples like milk and sugar are almost twice as expensive as elsewhere, and the cultural facilities consist of five bars, a theatre, and watching drunken aboriginals fight on Saturday night.

Make use of the waste heat (4, Insightful)

willy_me (212994) | about 6 years ago | (#22909576)

I would suggest locating data centers in a cool climate where farming is popular. Pump the waste heat from the data centers into greenhouses that can surround the data center. Now that waste is helping to grow food.

Alaska is actually a good place to implement such a solution. There is a huge amount of sunlight in the summer which, assuming you can avoid frosts, can grow amazing produce. All you need are greenhouses and a heat source. In the winter, when sunlight is no longer plentiful and farming shuts down, the heat can be pumped into local housing. Such a solution would also provide local produce in Alaska - produce that is fresh and doesn't require expensive shipping. One last point about Alaska, it's very central. It might not appear to be when looking at a map, but if you look at a globe you will see that it sits nicely between Asia and North America. I don't know where the current internet pipes are located but if they pass close to Alaska then this idea would be worth some consideration.

William

Re:Make use of the waste heat (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 6 years ago | (#22909614)

Interesting idea about Alaska, there.

It'd be almost trivial, relatively speaking, running an oceanic cable from Asia (Russia) to Alaska, following the Aleutians chain. I'm not sure how deep the water gets there, but I'm fairly sure it's shallower on the average than further south in the Pacific. Good, quick, cheap way to wire the globe, I'm thinking...

Re:Make use of the waste heat (1)

Xzzy (111297) | about 6 years ago | (#22909908)

The Aleutians are not the best route. Russia and Alaska are much closer together at the Bering Strait.. as little as 1.5 miles if you count two islands out there that are owned by the two countries. The mainlands are about 40 miles apart, a trivial distance for undersea cabling. The Aleutian chain is a bit over 1000 miles long.

Incidentally this is the same gap that Ted Stevens' been pushing to have a bridge built over for much of his career.

Re:Make use of the waste heat (1)

junner518 (1235322) | about 6 years ago | (#22909698)

Who knew the wasteful consumption of resources by new technology could actually help the surrounding environment without too much implementation. WOW!!!

Re:Make use of the waste heat (1)

willy_me (212994) | about 6 years ago | (#22909968)

Wish I could say that this is all my idea. But in reality, they have been doing this for some time with power generation in Europe. North America is just behind the times. It's easier to vent the heat into the atmosphere then to design systems to utilize the heat around the power plant (and fyi, ~60%->heat and 40%->electricity). This won't change until the cost of power increases. British Columbia recently introduced a carbon tax - the first step in making this happen. But for any real changes to occur, everyone in North America has to get on board. Adverse effect to domestic industry can be countered by applying import tariffs based on the estimated carbon required to produce those products. This gives an advantage to countries that invest in low carbon power, and incentive to change for those that do not.

Problem with that (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 years ago | (#22910298)

Looking it over, it is a carbon tax on JUST themselves i.e. their consumption of local product. What is needed is a carbon tax on local products AND what is imported into their area. If they do that, than other areas, including countries will pick it up. In fact, if counties like Iceland, and France will go ahead and do just that, it will have a massive impact on the world.

Even now, California's CARB just backed off on requiring car makers to have sold a couple of percent of Zero Emission Vehicles. They had it set up where the car makers where going to be required to sell just a lousy 2% of their cars as ZEVs and have backed off on that. What a mistake. It would have changed America. No doubt other states would have joined them.

Re:Problem with that (1)

willy_me (212994) | about 6 years ago | (#22910876)

I agree - hence my "everyone must be on board" comment. Problem with putting a tax on imported goods is that it is not trivial - too difficult for a province / state. If everyone in North America was working together it would be quite reasonable. Domestic products could be ignored because the carbon tax was paid when manufacturing the goods. Imported products need only be assessed once for any part of North America.

A substantial carbon tax would actually be acceptable if other taxes were reduced. Goods with no environmental impact should have no (or at least minimal) taxes. Destructive goods should be taxed heavily. Overall, it should average out to be the same amount of tax as today. Peoples' habits would change overnight.

Such a solution will only happen when people force their governments to make it happen. This requires awareness of the issues and possible solutions. This is why I'm writing this message even though I've been taken horribly off topic. But your comment was absolutely correct - hopefully some of those European countries can jump-start the whole process.

(posted without karma bonus because it is off topic)

Re:Make use of the waste heat (4, Informative)

TFer_Atvar (857303) | about 6 years ago | (#22909752)

Unfortunately, here in Alaska, we're undergoing an energy crisis. Here in Fairbanks, where I live, most electricity is supplied by coal and fuel oil. Due to the massive spike in oil prices, energy costs have risen greatly. In southern Alaska, most electricity is being supplied by natural gas, but even that's getting more expensive as the southcentral gas fields begin to run low. Though the short term is somewhat difficult, there is hope from a projected series of natural gas pipelines from the North Slope and the potential for dozens of hydroelectric and/or nuclear plants. Until then, however, electricity prices put the kibosh on most big server farms up here. The bandwidth capacity isn't bad -- we've actually got better connectivity than Iceland, based on the information I have, and a new undersea cable is scheduled to begin being laid between southern Alaska and Washington state next month. As an aside, there's a nice piece on the effects of the 700Mhz auction in Alaska scheduled to be released on Monday in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. I should know; I wrote it.

Re:Make use of the waste heat (1)

willy_me (212994) | about 6 years ago | (#22910964)

Unfortunately, here in Alaska, we're undergoing an energy crisis.

This could be perceived as being a good thing. You see, if Alaska has to invest in new power sources, the costs of building additional generating capacity is actually minor. One just has to build a slightly larger power plant. All the other costs such as securing a fuel source, allocating land, building infrastructure, etc. remain almost constant.

The state would simply require a long term plan. Get work started right away on new generating facilities. If they are not ready in time simply sell power at reduced rates until the new generating facilities are brought online. If the state lacks power, buy if from British Columbia or the Yukon. The benefits of bringing in a new industry are huge - the state can afford the temporary hit to their budget.

Re:Make use of the waste heat (1)

3p1ph4ny (835701) | about 6 years ago | (#22909776)

Data centers in cold locations seems like a good idea in principle, except it's really not workable in practice for one reason only: it's too damn cold in the winter.

I go to school in the Midwest, and on the coldest day of the year (-20 F or so) it's one of the warmest days in the high performance computing lab. We get our cool water from across campus (less than half a mile), and on those cold days they keep the water in the pipes warmer than they would in the summer, to prevent them from freezing.

In fact, our coolest days are in the summer, when it's 90+ F outside.

Re:Make use of the waste heat (2, Interesting)

willy_me (212994) | about 6 years ago | (#22909916)

While I believe your campus is as you described, I do not believe your conclusion is valid. It appears to be a case where the campus was not initially designed to support a high performance computing lab. It is quite typical for these things to be added on after the fact. Even if the building is new, the heating, cooling, water, electrical will likely come from a central source that was designed without thought of the lab. And even if the lab was planned, adding other buildings can still cause the system to adversely effect the lab.

So you point is good. Such a solution would have to be designed appropriately. But a poorly designed campus in the Midwest does not mean that the idea will not work in practice. I have seen many buildings that suffer from the symptoms you described (it reaches -50C here). All is good until it gets real cold then some rooms are freezing while others are like saunas. It all comes down to design - something the described buildings lacked (wrt heating).

Re:Make use of the waste heat (2, Interesting)

call-me-kenneth (1249496) | about 6 years ago | (#22909812)

I don't know where the current internet pipes are located but if they pass close to Alaska then this idea would be worth some consideration.
Can you guess the fatal flaw in your scheme? Hint, how big a pipe do you need to serve the population of Alaska?

Re:Make use of the waste heat (2, Interesting)

ricree (969643) | about 6 years ago | (#22909944)

You run the same problem anywhere that is cold and remote, which is what is being discussed right now. Besides, if the other advantages are great enough in a location and there is enough capacity to satisfy at least one or two big companies, the rest of the capacity will follow.

As for Alaska, it has some advantages, but if the energy problem is as bad as TFer_Atvar says, that would be hugely prohibitive. Iceland not only has a cold climate, but has abundant geothermal energy. Unfortunately, it seems a little light in terms of the internet connections to the outside world, and only a single direct connection to North America. Compared with something like the US, this might make companies somewhat reluctant to place too much of their data there.

Canada might be another interesting choice. It has all the climate benefits of Iceland, but lacks some of the disadvantages. Datacenters could be easily connected over ground to the US, from which there are ample connections to the rest of the world. As Canada's tar sands are increasingly utilized, the energy costs for the area will likely be at least comparable to most other areas in the world. In fact, as cheaper oil sources are exhausted, the energy costs near the tar sands will likely become relatively cheap. It certainly isn't the most environmentally friendly option, but it will likely be an attractive one for businesses looking to cut costs.

Re:Make use of the waste heat (1)

TFer_Atvar (857303) | about 6 years ago | (#22909976)

Unfortunately, tar sands require refining first. Thus you run into the same problem that we have here in Alaska: The points at which the fuel is extracted aren't the first points at which they can be used. They must be refined first, and the refineries are sometimes a long distance away. I'm not familiar with the refining of tar sands, but it's possible that they'll be far away from the extraction site. Hydroelectric plants (a very few coal-fired plants, and Iceland's geothermal plants) are just about the only places where the "fuel" is "mined" on-site, which is why they can generate electricity cheaper than anything else out there. Google, Microsoft, and dozens of other companies have seen that, as did the aluminum manufacturers before them, which is why you can usually find both near big sources of hydro power, like the Columbia River.

Re:Make use of the waste heat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22910024)

"Canada might be another interesting choice. It has all the climate benefits of Iceland, but lacks some of the disadvantages. Datacenters could be easily connected over ground to the US, from which there are ample connections to the rest of the world. As Canada's tar sands are increasingly utilized, the energy costs for the area will likely be at least comparable to most other areas in the world. In fact, as cheaper oil sources are exhausted, the energy costs near the tar sands will likely become relatively cheap. It certainly isn't the most environmentally friendly option, but it will likely be an attractive one for businesses looking to cut costs."

Why would you bother with anywhere near the oil sands when northern Quebec would be the ideal choice with cheap plentiful hydro-electric power, cool climate and built in transport lines down along the hydro power corridors that already exist down into the North-Eastern US, so it seems like a no-brainer to me strike a deal with Hydro Quebec for a nice package deal on the electricity and transportation rights then your good to go...

Re:Make use of the waste heat (1)

deragon (112986) | about 6 years ago | (#22910392)

Québec has among the cheapest electricity in the world and could remain competitive for the long term because its power is almost exclusively generated from hydro. Check the chart for relative prices:

http://www.hydroquebec.info/grandesentreprises/tarifs_avantageux.html [hydroquebec.info]

Here is sample calculation for a contract with more than 12 consumption periods with no running-in:

http://www.hydroquebec.com/business/moyen/tarifs_rod.html [hydroquebec.com]

Re:Make use of the waste heat (1)

Brickwall (985910) | about 6 years ago | (#22910534)

Except the Quebecois are among the most culturally insular people in North America. Where are the geeks going to live? In a company dorm, shunned by most of the people in a small town? Where they would have a hard time ordering dinner in a restaurant, or buying a pair of shoes? Again, I don't think the average geek wants to live in a town of 2,000 where he can't speak the language, feels ostracized, and couldn't pick up a girl to save his life. Oh wait, I guess that last one applies pretty much anywhere.

Re:Make use of the waste heat (1)

Bertie (87778) | about 6 years ago | (#22910982)

You could always, y'know, learn French. And generally get involved. You never know, you might even enjoy it.

It's spectacularly ignorant to expect the local culture to adapt to you. Embrace the opportunity to try something new.

CCP (3, Interesting)

tolomea (1026104) | about 6 years ago | (#22909602)

CCP makers of EVE online are pretty much Icelands biggest tech business and their servers are in London.

Re:CCP (1)

youroldbuddy (539169) | about 6 years ago | (#22910158)

CCP's business is extremely vulerable to latency. Iceland doesnt offer good latency. It offers cheap and environmentally sound electricity.

Re:CCP (2, Insightful)

rsmith-mac (639075) | about 6 years ago | (#22910630)

No, it's really not. There's nothing really "twichy" about the game that requires particularly low latency. Heck, they only keep their servers in one place and players as far away as Australia regularly play the game just fine, I don't think anyone is going to notice an additional 50ms. A bigger problem is the fact that the country is only connected by a couple of cables; a couple of weeks ago the biggest cable was cut which caused a bandwidth shortage and made internet performance tank country-wide. Such little redundancy would be a far bigger problem.

Re:CCP (2, Interesting)

youroldbuddy (539169) | about 6 years ago | (#22910958)

A 50ms latency (although its closer to 30ms) makes all the difference in the world. At least that is what the CCP developers told me when I asked. I lived with one (Platonic) for months spent days on end with them. CCP is also far from being the only high tech company in Iceland. The parent should be modded down because its misleading where it isnt wrong.

Enjoy it while it lasts! (0)

edwardpickman (965122) | about 6 years ago | (#22909606)

In another three or four billion years when the Earth's core cools they'll be screwed just like the rest of us.

Greenland (still) lacks decent internet connection (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22909608)

Greenland relies on a satellite for internet connection, but a submarine cable is to be deployed this summer by Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks [reuters.com] connecting to Milton, New Foundland. According to this source [industcards.com] Iceland has several large hydropower plants, where as Greenland only has one small one. Summer temperatures in Greenland peaks at 10-15 degrees celsius and easily goes down to minus 20-30 degrees celsius. The low temperatures in Greenland could provide cooling, and why not use the heat that is produced to warm up houses (wait a minut: don't melt those igloos away!).

Outside temperature (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22909610)

I'm not sure the outside temperature at a data center matters much. You have to control both temperature and humidity, so just pumping in outside air isn't an option for cooling. And I'm not sure Iceland has more capacity for power than the US.

Besides, if climate were the issue, Canada and Alaska are the obvious choices since they aren't surrounded by oceans.

This story seems to make little sense.

Re:Outside temperature (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 years ago | (#22910334)

Amazing what a simple heat pump, or just duct work can do for you. A good duct work will allow the outside air to run in the top of the room, and pick up the heat. That is pumped into another room. Iceland is a great choice. But so are PARTS of Canada. Alaska is not because they get the bulk of their energy from natural gas and oil. That will continue to rise in price. Sadly, Alaska is LOADED with volcanoes (nearly all located in the south, where the bulk of the ppl are) and loads of hot spots (through out the state). They are ideal for geo-thermal. But, that once cheap oil, combined with their increasing state payout has locked them into not looking into the future.

Bullshit (4, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | about 6 years ago | (#22909640)

You'd have to have a very cheap and very power inefficient server to come even remotely close to their claims of half of the cost of the server on power. An elbaso HP Dl360G5 costs $1600. It will use about 300W at typical load, but lets call it 250W to make the numbers easier. Double this for inefficient cooling and power conversion in the UPS (this is overly costly but makes up for underestimating power usage) so 500W. There are 8,760 hours in a year so 4,380 KwH, you'd have to pay $.20 per KwH to reach their figure, this is over twice the US national average. Prices where you'd want to put a datacenter are closer to $.06-$.08 per KwH. My average server cost closer to $7,000 with battery backed RAID card, dual fast drives, dual CPU's, 4GB memory, 3 year 6 hour repair contract, etc. Even powering that kind of servers off diesel generators fulltime it would have to draw ridiculous amounts of power to cost half it's purchase price in electricity every year.

Re:Bullshit (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22909736)

You left out the cost of cooling the room/building, which they claim is half the electricity cost, which brings your estimate closer to the price of power we pay.

Re:Bullshit (1)

afidel (530433) | about 6 years ago | (#22909938)

No, I included cooling. Even in the crappiest run of datacenters I can't imagine half of the electric load coming from UPS's and AC, but I included that in my calculations just to show how off theirs were.

Re:Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22909954)

if you had RTFA, you'd see that it's half as much *as* used on the computer, not half of the *usage*. Retards, all of you. the 35% figure parent posted is accurate; 355% is roughly half of 65%.

Re:Bullshit (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 6 years ago | (#22910032)

Now you are forgetting a few things.
  • The server is to be written off in three years, so that makes your $1600 server cost $480 per year.
  • Your sever will use about 500W, including losses in the UPS. That sounds high. But this 500W ends up almost completely as heat in the surrounding area: this has to be cooled. Assuming active airco systems (in contrast to just pumping in cool air from outside of the building) this easily costs another 250W on airco losses. So your 300W computer actually uses 750W!
So then we are at 750W x 8,760hrs/yr = 6,570 kWh, at a price of $0.06 that is $394.20 per year. Pretty close to the cost of your computer! And even more than what the article suggests.
Your computer costs about $2300 per year, and will draw easily double the power. So then you're at just over $0.31 electricity per $1 worth of server hardware. Now do the calculations at $0.10 per kwh and you're at $0.5 electricity per $1 server.

Re:Bullshit (1)

fat_mike (71855) | about 6 years ago | (#22910088)

I'm confused...did you spend $7000 total with the data center or did you get royally ripped off. $7000 grand for a standard raid card "yeah, they all pretty much come with batteries"..ignoring your other crap until...six hour response time!

Are you fucking kidding me? Six hours, do you live in Alaska? Do you have any idea what you are doing?

Re:Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22910436)

Assuming you run a center with inexpensive blades and amortize the cost over 3 years, like any sane business can, you get different results:

250W per server sounds good, but cooling can easily cost more than that, so let's say 750W in total. Then we have 6750KWh at $.08 = $525 per year. Investment cost per HP blade (excluding financing): $533 per year.

However, all of this may not matter, since such a blade can serve network traffic worth ten times more than the energy bill (based on a real-world example in Europe where engergy prices are much higher than $.08). Iceland needs fat pipes to be competitive with California...

Greed, simple as that. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22909650)

The power for cooling is not a "problem" per se. It's just that greedy companies and shareholders want to squeeze out every possible penny. There's a difference between "power is too expensive" and "power could be cheaper".

Re:Greed, simple as that. (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 6 years ago | (#22909856)

If the companies sited their data centers in big cities and used old, inefficient equipment, you'd be griping about pollution and global warming.

Saving money means making the best use of manpower. It means not wasting. It means freeing resources to put to other, better uses. Don't sneer at greed, it promotes progress.

Re:Greed, simple as that. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22911144)

Like the same type of greed they have in China? Where factory owners dump tons of pollutants into local rivers and streams? Where the rivers literally are not clear, and the only time they run clear is when the factory owner is tipped off that a government inspector is coming to check on them? Sounds like progress to me!

Re:Greed, simple as that. (1)

justinlee37 (993373) | about 6 years ago | (#22911168)

Don't think for a minute that any of mankind's greatest inventions were created for any reasons other than greed.

Cool air outside doesn't help that much (3, Informative)

Burdell (228580) | about 6 years ago | (#22909770)

Air heat transfer is not that good, and you can't just pipe in outside air to cool the data center (due to dust and humidity control), so it doesn't generally work out that a cool outside climate lowers cooling costs significantly. If you compared it to some place with high (35C) normal temperatures, it might make enough of a difference (because standard air conditioning efficiency does drop off in that range IIRC), but that is not most of the US. Also, 50% of power going to cooling is not representative; it should be down closer to 35% from what I remember of our numbers (and we're in a location with relatively hot summers). Our electric rates are also already pretty cheap; commercial rates can go as low as 4.721 cents per kilowatt hour (plus a demand charge).

Re:Cool air outside doesn't help that much (1)

deragon (112986) | about 6 years ago | (#22910438)

I would think that filtering cool/cold air and processing it for removing the humidity would still cost much less than actually colling to lower temperature hot air. If the air is too cold like Canadian winters, you will actually recycle the air within the data center and just heat up a bit the small incoming air from the outside to get ride of the humidity.

But I am not an expert in the field. Numbers would need to be crunched to see how effective that is.

Re:Cool air outside doesn't help that much (1)

jabuzz (182671) | about 6 years ago | (#22910824)

All air conditioning has filters to remove the crap in it. However if you look at the max air inlet temperatures quoted by manufactures there are plenty of places in the UK that could provide it from outside air 365 days a year, as the maximum recorded historical temperature (over a couple hundred years) is below that of the max air inlet temperature.

A quick search shows that the maximum recorded air temperature in Reykjavik is just under 25 Celsius, so no air conditioning need even on the hottest of days. Given that the main power source in Iceland is hydroelectric and geothermal both of which have zero carbon foot print and the price of which does not depend on any external sources. With an estimated capacity of 50TW/h per year of hydro and geothermal yet undeveloped, looks like a good place to locate a datacentre to me.

Re:Cool air outside doesn't help that much (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about 6 years ago | (#22910508)

If the air is cold enough, then there won't be any humidity, and dust is relatively easy to filter out.
The colder air outside will render the external condenser of the aircon system more efficient, remember all aircon does is move the heat around. And you could use some level of heat exchange too, pump the warm air through a series of heatsink-clad pipes located outside and it will cool down fairly quickly.

Re:Cool air outside doesn't help that much (4, Informative)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about 6 years ago | (#22910944)

While I am no HVAC engineer, I pretend to be one on odd-numbered days.

Cold climates have several real challenges for data centers. From an HVAC standpoint, there are two general ways to cool a data center in a cold climate-- outside air only and air/water cooling. Air/water systems have drycoolers with glycol kept around 30-40F, and circulate the cold water throughout the building to fan coil units. Minimal outside air is brought in for "fresh air," and must be humidified which generally requires a lot of energy.

The air-only systems bring in 100% outside air, but must first temper (heat-- to avoid condensation) it and increase the humidity to control static inside the space. Very little pump energy, but the humidification and pre-heat are expensive.

While it seems trivial to filter out dust, the better air filtration systems increase the pressure drop of the air handling unit, and force you to use a bigger fan. Heat wheels and enthalpy wheels are also an option, but have similar challenges in most real-world situations.

The biggest challenge with cold climates is making sure the diesel generators start when needed. This alone makes most data center managers skeptical at the prospects of cold-climate data centers.

For a truly efficient solution, the best approach is likely to be heat removal at the chip level and recovery for other purposes. 100F air isn't very useful, but if you can get 150F water off the chip then that heat can often be reclaimed for some other purpose more effectively. If all else fails, 150F water is pretty easy to cool off in a closed circuit dry cooler no matter what the outside temperature.

There is also a lot of work going into direct-evaporative cooling solutions (swamp coolers) for data centers, as well as some other non-compressor based cooling systems. Unfortunately, most of these can work very efficiently for 9-10 months a year, and need a separate system to cool for the remainder of the year. Having two systems makes the payback equation often favor the less efficient solution...

Re:Cool air outside doesn't help that much (1)

gilbert64 (977114) | about 6 years ago | (#22911480)

water heat transfer is good enough though. And Iceland has an abundance of cold water too.

OT somewhat- A beautiful country (0, Offtopic)

LM741N (258038) | about 6 years ago | (#22909790)

I have seen some Youtube videos of people on Iceland trips and it looks like a beautiful country. They can send me there any time as an electrical engineer or software architect. What language do they speak? Isn't Iceland Danish territory?

Re:OT somewhat- A beautiful country (1)

audunr (906697) | about 6 years ago | (#22910688)

It has been independent from Denmark since 1944. People from Iceland are known for speaking English very well.

Coincidence (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22909824)

they're gonna need a bigger cable

Strange coincidence: I actually got some emails about just this subject.

fiber cut..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22909844)

speaking of cables...whatever happened to the 5 fiber cuts in the middle east.
There was never a follow-up story on that. wtf is up with that?

STOP! Why make plans for ten years from now. (1)

gsgriffin (1195771) | about 6 years ago | (#22909900)

Why is this whole discussion about where everyone should run off to. Rather than spending billions on relocations and construction and cabling, wouldn't that money be better spent of working toward cooler chips (I'm talking operating temp, of course) and more efficient chips? Please someone help redirect the course of this discussion by giving out some real genius on how the current computers could run on less power and produce less heat. What technology have you heard? Where should we be putting our support to help struggling technologies get out there. Everyone is worried about cars and trucks and ozone. This is a great "green" project too!

Re:STOP! Why make plans for ten years from now. (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 years ago | (#22910050)

The keywords you're looking for are Dunnington and Nehalem [hothardware.com]

For the really good stuff you'll have to wait for the next process shrink ~3 years (more if competition lets up).

An open question is if more energy efficient processors just mean greater density in the datacenter. Apparently demand for performance shows no sign of letting up any time soon.

Re:STOP! Why make plans for ten years from now. (1)

gsgriffin (1195771) | about 6 years ago | (#22910440)

Finally, something intelligent! I thought I remember hearing (but haven't been tracking) the talk about making transistors with something other than ceramic. The metallic based transistor should have MUCH less energy loss through heat. Perhaps there is research that someone else has heard of (usually in the universities) that is talking about really high efficiency and minimal heat loss (the two kinda go together). If we continue to make the chips more efficient (perhaps radically!), we may not be as crazy about moving everything to other countries. The idea of moving to cooler climates is the low-tech solution to the problem.

Power and Cooling Aren't the Real Reasons (3, Informative)

Comatose51 (687974) | about 6 years ago | (#22909982)

Sure, they say it's for the cheap power and cooling but we all know the IT administrators are relocating the datacenter to Iceland for two reasons:

1. Part of the year in nearly total darkness. Nerds and the daystar don't mix well.

2. Real reason anyone goes to Iceland: Icelandic girls [youtube.com] (fast forward to the third minute)

unlikely - the country's in a bad economic state (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 6 years ago | (#22910822)

The Icelandic govt. has just increased their bank rate to 15% and the country is not doing too well. Nor is it's currency. That's not the kind of situation that attracts new investment and this promotion (if that's what it is) doesn't look very promising.

Forget the ice (2, Informative)

Mawbid (3993) | about 6 years ago | (#22911074)

Many of the comments are focusing on the outside temperature in Iceland and linking that to decreased cost of cooling. That may be relevant, but it's not the point. The point is that power is cheap and plentiful here (mostly hydro, some geothermal).

Iceland doesn't have much in the way of natural resources but it has all that power. The way to export that power so far has been to import alumina and export aluminum. The conversion takes a lot of energy. Server farms are another way of exporting power.

The problem is that no-one in their right mind would house their servers here. We have no real redundancy in connectivity. One cable breaks and we suffer increased latency and reduced throughput. This happens more often than most data center clients could tolerate. The good news is that this problem can be solved with more cables. They're not cheap, but neither is building aluminum smelters. Once there are at least two cables going west and two going east, each with sufficient capacity to carry the whole load, then Iceland will be a very nice place for servers.

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