Read Simon Hancock’s 2009 article ‘Iceland looks to serve the world’ (http://news.bbc.co.uk/ 1/ hi/ programmes/ click_online/ 8297237.stm) and then answer the following questions.
- What natural resources does Iceland have that would make it suitable for hosting data centres?
- How has Iceland been preparing for the data centres?
- What is the capacity of the fibre-optic cables being laid?
- How long will it take data to travel from London to Iceland?
- What would put organisations off going to Iceland?
- Abundant cheap geothermal energy, and a cool climate.
- Iceland has invested in two new under-sea data cables connecting it to North America and Europe.
- The cables are quoted to have a data rate of 5 Tbps.
- The transmission time between London and Iceland is said to be 17 ms.
- The time delay to communicate with the Iceland servers is restrictive / prohibitive for some applications. Some companies prefer to rely on their own “in house” facilities, as well as the security questions raised with remote hosting.
Watch Video 3 and make your own notes on the energy aspects of the report. Use those notes to describe the things you found surprising or unusual as well as the things you expected to find in the video. You should try to do this in no more than 150 words.
(at this time I cannot find an alternate version of video 3 to add).
Presenter (voiceover)Since the financial crisis from high-octane bubble living, Icelanders have been forced to retreat back to nature. Fortunately in Iceland there’s a lot of nature to retreat back to. It’s a breathtaking world of volcanoes, endless prairies and ethereal winter landscapes. Not, in other words, the most obvious place to stick millions of the world’s computer servers, which are for all their uses rather less attractive. But Iceland now wants exactly that – to become home to the world’s computing power.
[Music]Behind all the internet companies we’ve come to know and love lurk massive and ever-growing data centres, chock full of servers all churning away to make our lives that little bit better. Google, for instance, is thought to have around a million of the things, but even less obviously computer-intensive operations like BACS need hundreds of thousands to store all their data. The problem is that while these computers look innocuous they use a lot of energy. There is, of course, the power you need for the servers themselves, but almost as significant is the energy you need to use to keep them cool.Brad KarpFor every watt that you spend running servers, we would typically find that the best enterprises who are being most careful about minimising the energy consumption and cooling and maximising the efficiency of cooling, typically find that they spend forty to sixty per cent more energy beyond what they spend on the servers on cooling the servers.Presenter (voiceover)In Iceland, with its year-round cool climate and chilly fresh water, just a fraction of this energy for cooling is needed. It means big savings. An hour outside Reykjavik work is well advanced on the first site, which its owners hope will spark a server cold rush. In around a year, if all goes according to plan, the first companies will start leasing space in this data centre and if it proves successful more sites are planned. The company expects demand to be huge, because as the number of servers around the world grows, a big environmental cloud is looming. All that energy use means CO2.Jeff MonroeThe data centre industry right now is about on par with the airline industry as far as its carbon footprint. But if you think about the growth of those two industries, the growth of the data centre industry is exponentially greater than the airline industry. So those two are going to cross, and we think that just like the legislation that was passed in the UK concerning carbon footprint and power utilisation, we think that that’s going to be a growing concern across the industry.PresenterSo at the moment data centres are already producing as much carbon dioxide as airlines?JeffIt’s amazing but it is true.Presenter (voiceover)While it’s been largely below the radar up ’til now, Verne Global thinks that with cloud computing on the rise the carbon footprint of the digital world will soon become unacceptably high. And this is where Iceland’s natural resources could really come into their own, because the volcanic forces which shaped the landscape here have also gifted the country masses of geothermal power. A hundred per cent of Iceland’s electricity is renewable and basically carbon free, much generated from water heated far below the ground.This alone is a ten-megawatt vent. The country has far more power than it can domestically use, so if a company moved its data centre here to make use of it …Jeff MonroeThe carbon savings would be enormous. For example, a large internet media company that operates several hundred thousand servers – if those servers were operating in London and were relocated to Iceland, that company would save in the order of magnitude greater than a half a million metric tonnes of carbon annually.PresenterSo the sales pitch goes you’ve got Iceland’s cooler climate, its abundant green electricity on tap. But would you really want to relocate your precious data centre in what is effectively the middle of nowhere unless it had some very good connections?Presenter (voiceover)And so Iceland has been busying itself laying fibre-optic cables to connect the country with North America and Europe. This is its latest landing station where undersea internet cables first arrive on land. The cable coming in here provides a capacity of more than five terabits a second, all with server farms in mind. Travelling down this pipe, data sited in Iceland is just seventeen milliseconds from London. Sitting at home on YouTube, you’d never know – but even that’s too slow for some.Gudmundur GunnarssonYou have very sensitive financial service systems that cannot even go outside of the M25 in London. So everything has to be within that circle. But for approximately seventy per cent of other traffic this delay is more than OK.Presenter (voiceover)And even where speed is not an issue the allure of Iceland is not for everyone. Companies will have to overcome their natural server-hugging tendencies and some may harbour security fears of storing their data remotely. But having been through the financial mill, Iceland hopes and believes that in five to ten years this will become one of its biggest industries. And in an irony not lost on a country brought to its knees by finance, one early customer rumoured to have signed a deal to move hundreds of thousands of servers here is – well – who else? One of America’s biggest investment banks.
The combination of cheap and renewable energy, along with the reduction in energy needs for the data centres seems like a win-win situation. The speed for the connection to London was fascinating, along with the fact that there are some services in London that require such a quick interlink that they cannot work outside of the M5 motorway. The video doesn’t say if it is a company, or the Icelandic government that has had the cables laid.