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Google increases presence and investments in Finland

New next-generation datacentre at Hamina and technology training hub in Helsinki illustrate Google’s growing interest in Finland

Google is deepening its commitment to Finland through a strategy that is being supported by national and local state industrial development agencies.

Firstly, the web giant is investing €600m to build a next-generation datacentre at Hamina, a coastal town 145km (90 miles) east of Finnish capital Helsinki and close to the border with Russia.

In a second major capital commitment, Google has partnered with the City of Helsinki to establish a technology training hub that will deliver entry-level and advanced digital skills courses to job seekers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

In fact, Google is no stranger to Finland or Hamina, having opened a datacentre in the Finnish port town in 2011. Hamina has since become one of Google’s most advanced and cost-efficient datacentres – its cooling system uses seawater from the Gulf of Finland to reduce energy consumption.

The new datacentre at Hamina is being built on the site of a disused paper factory, and will increase Google’s total capital investment in Finland since 2011 to €1.4bn.  

“It is government policy to bring more international technology companies and investment to Finland,” said Jari Gustafsson, permanent secretary at Finland’s ministry of economic affairs and employment. “Google’s new datacentre in Hamina will help to strengthen Finland’s digital infrastructure. This type of project and investment fits with the image Finland wants to communicate to the world.”

Finland’s attractiveness for datacentre operators is enhanced by its low energy cost base and cool climate.

Apart from Google, Silent Partner Group (SPG) and Equinix are also progressing with datacentre investment projects in Finland. SPG plans to build up to four hyper-scale datacentres in Hamina, Sotkamo and Tornio, while Equinix is building an International Business Exchange (IBX) datacentre in Helsinki powered by renewable energy.

Local conditions, including improved access to competitively priced renewable power, skills and a strong digital environment, continue to make Finland an attractive hub for datacentre operations, said Antti Järvinen, Google’s country manager in Finland. 

“The investments we are making are both essential for us,” said Järvinen. “The demand for Google’s services is growing exponentially. We are building our datacentre infrastructure to meet this need. Our investments are also having a positive impact on the Finnish economy, including through the creation of jobs.”

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Google’s existing datacentre operation in Hamina has undergone a series of capacity enlargements since 2011. The company added a second server hall in 2012, and a surge in demand for online video and new cloud computing services resulted in a further capacity expansion in 2013.

Seeking a long-term sustainable solution to power its Hamina datacentre hub, Google signed electricity purchase agreements with renewable energy developers CPC, Neoen and WPD in September 2018. Under the deals, the energy groups will build three wind parks, producing a combined output of 190MW.

The seawater-cooled Hamina datacentre was the 16th of Google’s ever-increasing Cloud Platform regions, which now number 20.

“Hamina’s designation as a Cloud Region further bolsters Finland’s digital and cloud ecosystem,” said Alpo Akujärvi, head of industry and datacentres at state-industrial development agency Invest in Finland. “It also significantly improves the quality and efficiency of the cloud services offered by Finnish and Nordic businesses.”

The deepening of Google’s relationship with Finland is also underscored by its Tech Training Hub (TTH) partnership with the City of Helsinki. The TTH will function as a technology education centre for the greater Helsinki region and will link TTH graduates with job opportunities at Google and other digital-driven firms in Helsinki, said Jan Vapaavuori, mayor of Helsinki

“Our initial target is to train over 10,000 job seekers in different skills study programmes,” said Vapaavuori. “We also want to engage with small and medium-sized firms, especially the owners of these enterprises. In partnership with Google, we will use the Tech Training Hub to help job seekers and entrepreneurs progress their careers by improving their digital skills and employability in the labour market.”

The City of Helsinki and Google are currently looking for possible sites in Helsinki for a home for the TTH. In the collaboration, Google will finance all education-related activities in the TTH, while the City will take charge of marketing courses, staff recruitment and organising student intake and the course selection process.    

Google’s presence in Finland is also generating a rise in business deals and interactions with the country’s indigenous tech sector. For example, HMD Global, which produces Nokia-branded phones and tablets under licence from Microsoft, has moved its Nokia user data to Google’s Hamina-based servers.

The agreement, signed in June, resulted in HMD Global migrating its Nokia handset data from HMD servers managed by Amazon Web Services in Singapore to Google in Hamina.

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