Icelandic data centers: boom, boom, out goes the light?

“Iceland says its cool climate and abundant supply of geothermal and hydroelectric energy makes it a prime spot for IT data centers. But in the wake of a major volcanic eruption earlier this week, companies may be thinking twice about hosting core IT assets in a place where Mother Nature is known for being a bit unstable.” according to ChannelWeb. They sure have a point that although the Icelandic climate and energy supply is very tempting there is also Mother Nature that should be taken in to account when placing a data center.

Maybe this event is also a wake up call. The trend of cloud computing with the development and usage of mega data centers makes us also vulnerable. The economic value that data centers are representing is huge. So how are data center sites selected?

There are some nice white papers on the topic of Data Center Site Selection. For example the paper of John Rate of Rate Consulting or
Geographic Factors for Data Center Site Selection” of Fortrust. A pity they only focussing on the USA. Similar studies for other parts of the world could be interesting also.

So whats new? You could say everything is already thought-out. But do we really have the insight about the risks of current and future data center locations? How are this decisions being made? For instance who came up with the idea of data centers in Iceland? Was it just cherry picking (“green is nice”) or was it an thoughtful proposition? Read the blog the Data Center Knowledge blog entry Iceland gets major data center project.

Iceland Data Center Location

Iceland Data Center Location ((c) Data Center Knowledge blog)

A lot of stuff you can find about data center site selection is about ‘creating a long list of criteria, create weightings, multiple the numbers, add the scores, then select the highest score as criteria site selection’. A flawed concept as stated in Green (low carbon) Data Center Blog. You also can question how these selections are being made with all this different kinds of geographical data.

This made me thinking about an GIS (geographical information system) app for data center locations. An GIS app where you use several map layers to filter out the bad and ugly areas to find the good areas for placing data centers.

The bad areas:
Areas where Mother natures has here surprises, volcanoes, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, floods etc.

The ugly areas:
Areas where we created are own risks: Proximity to hazardous materials manufacturing and storage, airports, Critical Areas for Transmission Congestion, black & brownout areas, social deprived areas, etc.

The good areas:
Areas with cool climate and abundant supply of geothermal and hydroelectric energy and abundant network capacity and human resources.

A first search for Data Center Site Selection and GIS didn’t give a positive result …
Is this really true? How are this complex selections else being made? Are Geographical Information Systems not used in site selection of a multi million business of data center building? Is it just old-fashioned handwork?

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