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Modern telecoms has opened up Sweden’s far north

Modern telecom infrastructures mean datacentres can be further away from users, and environmental and cost advantages are to be had in locations such as Sweden’s far north

The needs of today’s telecoms infrastructures are opening up isolated areas of the world to the prospect of becoming datacentre hubs.

One such place is Sweden’s far north. Cold and isolated, it might not seem like the ideal place to locate a business operation – unless your business is datacentres.

The likes of Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Amazon are building datacentres in the region. Facebook has invested in Luleå, Amazon in Stockholm and Microsoft in Gävle and Sandviken.

But it is not just the IT giants that are making the move north. Cloud storage company Hydro66 is a small company that has built a datacentre in northern Sweden, which it claims is one of Europe’s most energy-efficient.

It is already possible to talk about a Nordic super cloud – including the big multinationals’ datacentres combined with smaller players such as Hydro66.

All Hydro66’s storage capacity sits in a building in Boden, northern Sweden. This location was chosen because it is a good place for green and efficient cloud storage.

Hydro66’s founder and CEO, British national David Rowe, told Computer Weekly: “We chose Sweden because there is so little space to use for more cloud storage datacentres in cities such as London, Amsterdam and Stuttgart. In the Nordics, there is lots of space. In addition, there is power available and at reasonable prices. Cooling is easy to arrange, the electricity grid is stable and the connectivity is good.”

Hydro66 aims to sell cloud storage greener and better than others at its Boden datacentre, and intends to serve the market in Sweden and throughout the rest of Europe. It already has a few Swedish customers.

“Traditionally, such infrastructure is located in big cities,” said Rowe. “We are living in an era when the need for compute power is rising at a tremendous rate. This need is only getting bigger and at a faster pace.

“Our clients are searching for environmental solutions and Sweden has more renewable energy than the rest of Europe.”

Hydro66 was founded in 2015 and its board of directors comprises people with traditional IT backgrounds. “We looked for the big IT trends in the coming 20 years,” said Rowe, who previously built up a telecom company in the UK. “This search has lead us to north Sweden.”

The company offers traditional co-location services and will launch a cloud offering next year. “We are more effective and green than is possible in central Europe,” said Rowe. “Our carbon footprint is low. It is easy to use pre-cooled air and north Sweden has a lot of renewable power. I think this is going to be a big thing.”

He said little latency is added by using a datacentre in the far north rather than next door to businesses in major European cities. “There is not much of a delay – a tenth of the blink of an eye, perhaps,” he said. “The ping time between Frankfurt and Luleå is under 20 milliseconds. And, compared to storing in Frankfurt, it can be 10 times cheaper.”

Read more about IT services in the Nordic countries

  • Norway’s biggest bank has outsourced IT operations to Indian service provider HCL in a seven-year deal worth $400m.
  • Wipro, one of India’s big four IT services providers, is to expand its workforce in Scandinavia and has appointed a local executive to lead its operations in the region.
  • HCL has established a team in the Nordic region, one to cover Germany, Austria and Germany, another for France, a team to look after Benelux, and an Italian outfit.

Hydro66 is already talking to some of Europe’s biggest car manufacturers, for instance. Electric vehicles create huge amounts of data that needs to be stored somewhere, and immediately. The companies need edge storage close to the cars, but also datacentre cloud storage when there is no immediacy.

“We have some Swedish customers, a German client, and we are also now talking to companies in China,” said Rowe.

Rowe was previously founder and CEO of Easynet Group, which developed into a global business for cloud services. He sold Easynet to BSkyB in 2005, then led a buyout of the company’s enterprise division in 2010 and exited again in 2013, before founding Hydro66.

Hydro66 Holdings is located in Vancouver, Canada, where it is traded on the stock exchange. The organisation has regional companies in Sweden and the UK, the Swedish one being called Hydro66 Svenska.

One of the company’s first clients was telecoms service provider Compodium, whose CEO, Bengt Grahn, said a major advantage of using Hydro66 is its “proximity to an abundance of clean hydroelectric power, which means that the possibility of an interruption to supply is basically non-existent”.

Grahn added: “The choice of cool-climate northern Sweden also means that very little electricity is required for rack-cooling, further reducing the environmental footprint.”

Compodium is buying colocation for its self-owned infrastructure at Hydro66, using it for its secure and reliable videoconference service.

But it is not only Sweden’s northern region that is attracting datacentre investment. Towards the end of 2019, it was announced that three companies – Advania Data Centers, Interxion and IP-Only – were planning to build new datacentres in the capital, Stockholm.

That is also a development with an environmentally friendly impact. Once those datacentres are fully operational, the heat recovered from them could heat up to 35,000 nearby residential apartments.

Stockholm will pay the datacentre owners for this heat energy, which would otherwise be wasted, providing a financial incentive for firms to locate datacentres in the city.

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