A British company has commissioned Colt, the telecoms and IT group, to build the world’s first zero-carbon data centre, which will be exported to Iceland as a pre-fabricated kit.
In a new twist for the booming data warehousing industry, which provides storage for corporate computer servers, the 500sq m facility will be shipped in 37 components to a former Nato base in Keflavik next month, where the glass and steel, climate-controlled boxes will be assembled inside a shell building.
The facility will run on geothermal and hydroelectric power – in Iceland, all electricity is from renewable energy sources. The project was commissioned by the UK start-up Verne Global, itself a data hosting company, which plans to use Iceland’s cheap power to undercut rival European offerings.
While data centres usually take up to two years to design and build, Colt’s boxes take four months from commissioning to on-site completion. The components will be sourced from around the UK and assembled at a factory in Tyne and Wear, where they will be tested before being loaded on to ships for transportation.
Colt is not supplying the computer servers or the fibre-optic cables, but the boxes it builds contain power points and cables, heating and ventilation, security systems, monitoring systems, lighting and flooring.
Data centres are power hungry in two ways – the servers themselves consume large amounts of electricity, and they need constant cooling to prevent overheating. Verne will offer customers free cooling by using the cold Icelandic air to regulate temperatures.
The site is connected to the US and Europe by multiple high-speed cables. Verne plans to expand the site’s capacity as demand grows, and says it has laid the infrastructure to supply 100 megawatts of computer load at any one time. By comparison, the trading floor of an investment bank needs a continuous supply of 3 megawatts.
Jeff Monroe, Verne chief executive, said: “This approach provides us with the opportunity to quickly scale capacity to address customer demand in a rapid timeframe.”
Microsoft predicts the data centre construction market will grow from $50bn (£32bn) to $78bn globally by 2020. With revenues from voice calls declining, Colt is pinning its hopes for growth on IT networks. The company began offering to build modular data centres last year, and has about 10 clients who have commissioned facilities co-located with its own centres. Iceland will be the first assembled off-site.
Colt has 300 data centres in Europe, of which 19 have server space available for hire. Two of them, in the UK and France, can currently host modular data centres built for clients, who then typically manage and maintain the facilities themselves.
“The original design of this data centre was for Colt’s own use, but our clients saw the potential and we were asked to put it into the market,” said Bernard Geoghegan, head of Colt’s data centres division.
Colt generated €133m (£115m) of its total €1.58bn revenue from data centres last year.
Version française à traduire