6 Oct 2017 Frankfurt - On the ISC'17 Exhibition Floor on June 21, 2017Primeur Magazinehad the opportunity to talk with Spencer Lamb from Verne Global, a data centre provider in Iceland. The company has been in operation for the last five years and delivers co-location solutions to its customers. The reason for choosing to outsource a data centre location is to take advantage of the significantly reduced power costs and also the benefits that the power is generated from geothermal and hydro-electricity plants, so it is renewable. Verne Global is therefore providing its customers with a very renewable solution and the electricity costs themselves are significantly lower than in most of the European countries that Verne Global is competing against.
In Germany, for example, a kilowatt per hour price is around 18 eurocent. The equivalent price in Iceland is 4 eurocent. When you look at the high-performance computing power consumption, the organisations that deploy this sort of technology benefit hugely from the powerful savings that they make by deploying their high-performance computing equipment in Iceland. Over the last five years that Verne Global has been operational, it has seen a number of high-performance computing users take advantage of these cost savings and migrate their high-performance computing platforms from Europe and deploy it in Iceland.
Verne Global has experience with organisations like BMW/Volkswagen and in the United Kingdom an organisation called the Earlham Institute. The research efforts that they deploy on these platforms are migrated to Iceland for high-performance computing and therefore they are able to use the savings that they make on the electricity costs available for additional compute or by employing more researchers or preserving more laboratory time. It significantly benefits them and their organisation depending on whatever research application they are doing, whether it be an enterprise, whether it be in the public sector as a research community where they are publicly funded. When those public funds are allocated to them, the data centre portion of it is hugely reduced from what they would experience in their country of origin, whether it be Germany, France, the UK, Italy or Spain.
The data centre itself has evolved over the last five years. At ISC17, Verne Global launched its powerDirect+ data centre configuration. This takes the elements of the company's data centre infrastructure, takes other generators and provides a more comprehensive cooling solution by utilizing the benefits of the Icelandic climate. The temperature in Iceland never gets higher than 16 or 17 degrees Centigrade. In effect, Verne Global draws in the cold air from the outside and circulates it around the high-performance computing cluster and expels that hot air. The company is using very little technology. It does not have to generate cold air which, again, reduces the power cost but also reduces the data centre infrastructure cost by about a half. When you combine the cost savings on the data centre infrastructure with these significantly reduced power costs, you get a much more cost-effective data centre. That allows those organisations to do a lot more computing and a lot more research.
How the date gets into the Verne Global data centre depends on where the organisation comes from. If they are an enterprise company, Verne Global has some significant capacity on subsea cables that come through from mainland Europe and through the UK as well, providing diversity into Iceland. They can acquire multiple 10-gigabit wavelengths through that capability. Concerning the more research, publicly-funded projects, they can utilize what is called the National Research Education Network (NREN) within their country which is connected to GEANT, the European backbone capability. A good example of this is what Verne Global has achieved with the Earlham Institute. They connected through their NREN, which is called Janet, from their research institution which is in a place called Norwich. This is 75 kilometers northeast of London. They have a connection from Janet to a carrier exchange in London which connects into GEANT's network. GEANT takes that connection to an organisation, called NORDUnet. This is the Nordic NREN. This connection directly terminates in the Verne Global data centre. These are very high capacity low-used networks, so there is more than enough capability and bandwidth to cope with high-performance computing demands.
The customers deploy their own high-performance computing hardware. Their storage sits alongside that. Verne Global can configure the data centre infrastructure for storage on a more resilient basis, so that it can be accessed 24/7 and 365. The computer will sit in a low resilience environment to reduce their cost. When you look at an HPC platform, storage capacity or power capacity is about a third compared to the two thirds of computing capacity, so it allows the organisation to balance these out and allows researchers to access the storage 24/7 and 365.
The Verne Global data centre will be even more efficient and cost-effective and suitable for the research community, who deploy their data centre infrastructure in that manner in their own real-estate portfolio within their own property. Traditionally, when they have gone through the co-location markets and look for an outsource data centre, they are having to buy highly resilient solutions because that is all that is deployed. This is somewhat off-putting for them because they are having to spend a lot of money on something they don't really need. Verne Global's solution answers that by providing them with a suitable resilience level at a suitable cost. Verne Global is a co-location provider so the company doesn't run any of the hardware. The customers employ their own hardware in Verne Global's facility.
The research projects come out for organisations to bid for. A big piece of the bid response requires that they provide an understanding of how efficient, renewable and green their solution is. To date, the high-performance computing world has been focused on making the hardware more efficient and ensuring that the application is designed in the right way and the workflow is correctly managed. This is very productive but ultimately, they are still relying upon electricity to power the HPC from fossil fuel power stations. The Verne Global solution very easily overcomes that and allows them to in effect provide a more competitive, renewable bid for that piece of research funding.