There are two places where you will find just about every major tech company like Facebook, Microsoft and Google are building data centers. In the US they are being built close to major hydro-electric dams as this gives them a cheap source of electricity, as well as the land prices being cheaper.
The other place that is starting to attracting attention are the more northern countries like Finland where last year Google bought up an old paper mill and is now in the process of converting it into a huge data center. In addition to the cooler temperature Google will also be utilizing sea water as part of the cooling process.
From Royal Pingdom we also get a few more interesting details about the project.
- Will be a €200-million data center. Google bought the paper mill in Q1 2009 for €40 million (just under $52 million). Once the rebuild is complete, Google will have spent €200 million ($260 million), and that amount doesn’t include the thousands of servers the place will house.
- Legacy of more than half a century. The old paper mill had been operational for 53 years when it was closed in January 2008.
- Two server halls are planned. The first one will be 8,000 square meters (86,110 square foot).
- Construction crew of up to 300 people. Currently, 180 people are working on the rebuild, but that will increase to 300 as the build enters its most intense phase in a couple of months.
- Cooled entirely by sea water. The data center will be cooled using water from the Baltic Sea. It’s pulled in from the ocean floor, where temperature is more even, using pipes that are up to two meters in diameter. Twenty-year-old, renovated pumps from the old paper mill are used to circulate the water. This will be Google’s first data center to be chilled entirely using sea water, and to their knowledge, it’s also the first ever data center to do so.
- A water silo in case of fires. One of the old silos of the paper mill will be used to house water, not for cooling purposes, but in case Google needs to fight a fire. (We’re assuming this is not intended for fires inside the actual server halls.)
- It will use wind power. At least some of the power will come from a newly constructed 12 MW wind park nearby. Some of the land for the wind park was donated by Google. The wind park (owned by the local power company and constructed by WinWinD) currently has four 3 MW wind turbines with rotors 100 meters (328 foot) in diameter.
- Will go live in spring 2011. It is, however, expected to be operational for testing this winter.
- Staff. Google plans to employ 50-60 people to run the data center. So far they have found four, so they have some head hunting to do.
- Googlers will be Googlers. Once Google has hired the entire staff, they will be given free hands to decorate the interior of the place to their liking and making it look like a proper Google site. But seen from the outside, it will remain a paper mill.
- Security will be tight. Access from land or sea will be monitored by cameras and motion sensors, and the server halls will only be accessible after passing biometric authentication using iris recognition scanners.
This is an interesting alternative to the building of brand new buildings and one that makes a lot of sense so hopefully we’ll see other companies following Google’s lead.