I just listened to the leadership panel at Datacloud Nordic where Xuan Jin from Alibaba Cloud and representatives of the Nordic Data Center industry were to discuss data center trends and cloud opportunities in the Nordics. It soon became evident that the discussion would rather be about the specific benefits of Norway as the leading hub for development in the Nordics. Let me summarize the discussion for you..
As you all know hyperscalers have up to this date, typically looked to Sweden, Finland, and Denmark for their hyperscale builds. However, the tendency now is that smaller builds of 5-20 MW goes to Norway – last seen by the Microsoft Azure Cloud development in two locations in Norway.
Hydropower – the batteries of Europe.
One of the reasons for this was maybe revealed in the keynote prior to the panel at Data Cloud Nordic where Giordano Albertazzi from Vertiv shared the findings from their latest survey of 2000 respondents in Europe. The survey identified hydropower to become the largest energy source for data centers in 2025 (see picture). Not solar, not wind – but hydropower! As Petter Tømmerås commented in the panel; “Hydro you can actually use as a battery for energy storage”, a clear benefit compared to other renewable energy sources.
Sustainability as a driver
But back to the panel – our Green Mountain CEO, Tor Kristian Gyland, kicked off by announcing the major client driver for the Nordics; Sustainability. He used the Volkswagen Group’s HPC establishment at Rjukan as an example of clients choosing the only Nordic country using 100% renevables in operating data centers. Gisle Eckhoff from Digiplex chimed in that in their CEO survey, the sustainability-criteria had climbed from 29th to 3rd place of importance from 2017 to 2018. Gisle and Petter also mentioned the ease of doing business in the Nordics and that Nordics are leading the way in regards to maturity of digitization.
Cost of ownership
Peder Nærbø from Bulk Infrastructure brought the topic of cost of ownership to the table. Norway can offer abundant availability of hydropower at Europes lowest cost. Nærbo also emphasized their role in building a connectivity hub in the Nordics close to where the power is generated (also congratulations to Bulk for their announcement of opening their first colo in Denmark today). “It is time that the European Enterprise clients follow on the tail of the hyperscalers and look to Nordics/Norway. They must wake up now if they would like to achieve close to the same efficiency gains as the hyperscalers.” Nærbo stated.
Closer than you think
Gyland also pointed out how the Norwegian Data Center strategy has enabled the development of many new subsea initiatives to Norway (9 in total established or coming by 2019 and 2020). The most recent one being the NO-UK.com cable landing at Green Mountain in Stavanger. “This is definitively changing the market dynamics, and bringing Norway #closerthanyouthink to the European hubs and mass markets. Norway is now only 12-13 ms RTT from Frankfurt, 10 ms from London, etc.” Gyland said.
So what does Alibaba Cloud do, you must wonder? Xuan Jin from Alibaba Cloud shared their perspectives on how China is opening up, and that they are definitively looking for partners to continue to grow their business in Europe. There is also a growing interest for Chinese tech know-how from Europe. Through their dual middle-end solution blocks they enable clients to cut time to market and also having a flexible infrastructure
No PUE above 1.3
Tor Kristian mentioned that he was hoping for Europe to walk the same path as in China, where the Chinese authorities now have put in place thresholds for new data centers; no new data centers can be built with PUE over 1.3. If we did the same in Europe, the majority of new data centers would be built in Norway/Nordics where the temperature enables efficient use of outside air and water.
All in all, the discussion ended up being more about the benefits of Norway, and why clients should look to Norway vs the rest of the Nordics. The truth is that growth is going to happen all across the Nordics, although the panelists agreed that the majority of that growth is going to end up in areas where there are sustainable low-cost options providing high energy efficiency and scale. Only time will reveal which country wins the race..