atNorth Opens World’s First HPC Data Center with Primary Cooling for Heat Recovery
Data Centre Sustainability Project Of The Year
atNorth is disrupting the traditional approach to data center hosting and High Performance Computing (HPC) with its innovative data center design focused on power efficiency, renewable capabilities, and intelligent cluster operations.
With its mission to be the leading pan-Nordic data center provider, the company has recently launched its new, carbon neutral energy powered data center in Stockholm, Sweden. This new data park is the world’s first +10mW data center with a primary cooling system designed for heat recovery. The site is in addition to atNorth’s two existing data centers in Iceland, with construction on a third site planned for mid-year.
The driving force behind the SWE01: Sif DC data center project was two-fold:
1. To provide European customers with a scalable next-generation data center specifically designed to accommodate high infrastructure density for computationally heavy applications such as simulations, risk calculations, and artificial intelligence.
2. To lead the way in sustainability for data center IT through innovative site design that puts sustainability at its core by efficiently reusing and recycling energy outputs into local communities.
As one of the largest data center installations in Stockholm, and the largest data center projects worldwide in heat recovery, the SWE01 center was built to offer the ability to achieve higher infrastructure density for customers that require computationally heavy applications.
Seeing an increased demand for next generation data centers that are designed specifically with this type of HPC in mind, SWE01 is the first data center in Europe to be designed specifically for heavy HPC workloads. The Stockholm location positions atNorth even closer to its customers, enabling the company to help deliver more compute power and services at speed and scale for its customers.
In addition, it has been built from the ground up to be scalable and flexible in order to cater to evolving market changes and customer needs. With sustainability at the heart of atNorth’s operations, the SWE01 center has also been designed to operate with the lowest carbon footprint possible. The Nordics are an ideal location for data center builds due to its mild climate and abundance of renewable energy. Sweden is well poised to provide the right infrastructure and government commitment to help atNorth continue its commitment to sustainability and contribution to circular economy principles in the data center industry.
Addressing business and technology challenges:
How did the solution address the challenges and were there any particularly innovative aspects that made it stand out?
To address the changing needs of today’s modern business, atNorth chose to design and build this new data center to ensure shorter lead times for customer facilities that serve their needs well and helps then accelerate their time to market.
atNorth’s Stockholm data center is a modular build, with three building phases for the build to ensure it could meet the capacity demanded by the market and provide customers with the option to scale and expand over time:
1. The first phase, a single data hall, was built along with the security and service building.
2. The second phase will house three data halls, which are already under construction.
3. The third and final phase will add three additional data halls, which are planned but not yet started.
The heat recovery design also raised additional challenges with the exact location of the site, considering the proximity of the central heating station to allow for heat to be transported from the center to the recovery station in the most optimal way. By locating the site next to the heat recovery station, atNorth could ensure the distance for heat transfer was optimal.
The construction of the build, using local experts in partnership with atNorth’s design and project management team, allowed for rapid buildout time as well as the ability to accommodate for atNorth’s modular approach and phased build plan. This enables additional phases to be built and added onto the existing infrastructure without disturbing operation within existing data halls and areas of the building.
Major challenges faced during the project:
In addition to the technical challenges, one of the biggest obstacles to overcome with this site build was due to the implications of the global pandemic. With the project kicking off just prior to the first lockdown in March of 2019, due to travel restrictions, the majority of the build out was conducted and managed remotely such as on Microsoft Teams and Zoom. During the two-year period, the design team held just one physical meeting.
This ability to shift from in-person to virtual meetings was a testament to the atNorth team and its contractors. All of those involved in this project were forced to manage everyday challenges, questions, and concerns with limited interactions and continuous email threads to overcome even the simplest of matters that are traditionally more easily and quickly solved face-to-face. Yet, despite what could have been project-altering difficulties, the atNorth team made sure that the goals and objectives for the ambitious design and build of the site were met on time and on budget.
The SWE01 site is designed from the ground up as a heat recovery data center, which in and of itself creates new hurdles, but when coupled with the complicated remote nature of the design build brought additional challenges. The build design required a new approach to be adopted in order to facilitate the transportation and supply the heat from the data halls towards the heat recovery modules. Part of the necessary requirements were also to have individual hubs broken down to phased deployment, which was met with medium sized heat recovery modules.
The conclusion was to have the data hall on the second floor and the cooling plant plus the power distribution on the ground floor. This allows for the most efficient layout and a clean approach to the data hall itself. Furthermore, all security aspects needed to meet stringent Swedish SK3 security standards. SWE01 is one of the largest data center installations in Stockholm and is in fact the largest heat recovery site in the world that uses a data center as the source of heat.
Tangible benefits of the project implementation:
The SWE01 data center is the first center in Sweden to be specifically designed for high performance computing and high density workloads. It is scalable, flexible, efficient with quick time to market and one of the lowest carbon footprints today. The site directly benefits from the location, which has been strategically and purposefully chosen for its proximity to the solid renewable infrastructure within Sweden. In addition, this location also enables organizations within Europe to capitalize on more computing power and services at speed and scale.
“For a country like Sweden and a city like Stockholm, which is at the forefront of digitalisation, data centers are an important part of the business ecosystem. Data centers are necessary whenever we use digital services, mobile apps or conduct digital meetings. We are pleased with atNorth’s choice to establish itself in Stockholm, as we actively work to show hospitality to innovative companies that create value for the region,” explained the Mayor of Stockholm, Anna König Jerlmyr.
Service offerings will be tailored to include the most cost-effective solution based on volume and computing power needs of individual customers. atNorth‘s modular approach together with its hybrid data halls allows the site to cater to evolving market changes and customer needs whether that be for high, low density, colocation services or to fit specific cooling requirements. The first data hall is complete with a capacity of 1.5mW and up to 40 kw per rack capacity for air-cooled IT equipment, combining high performance with cost efficiency. In addition, the entire campus meets all current security and energy efficiency requirements and more.
However, perhaps the most important benefit arising from the new data center is its innovative use of efficient heat recovery for both air cooled and liquid cooled IT infrastructures. All the residual heat from the data center is recycled in collaboration with Stockholm Exergi, whose district heating plant is in proximity, where the excess heat generated from the new data center could heat up to 20,000 apartments. The new site operates on 100% renewable energy making it extremely energy efficient.
While not tangible yet, atNorth‘s new data center will span a total of 6,400sqm with the IT capacity of more than 11mW upon completion. Due to high demand, the next phase of the buildout will add approximately 4,8mW of IT capacity, which will bring the overall capacity to over 6mW (expected deployment in the autumn of 2022).