Sunday 24 November 2019

Boden - The Arctic Circle

Last Jan/Feb I spent some time in Boden, Lulea, Sweden to visit the Boden One Data Centre, this is an EU funded project and you can find out all about the project here, as well as the RI:SE data centre laboratories, you can find out about them here.

I'm giving a presentation at Data Center Forum in Stockholm later this week, more info here , so thought it was time I got around to posting this article which has been 10 months in preparation!

This next section was written upon my return from the coldest place I'd even been to, it was minus 37, yes you read that correctly -37, which is to be expected when you're about 100yds inside the Arctic Circle!

Boden One DC

Before I write about my impressions of the Boden One DC I have to present some background, essentially, "The ultimate goal for the project Boden Type DC One is to build the prototype of the most energy and cost efficient data centre in the world in Boden, Sweden."

The project seeks to be "Resource efficient throughout its lifecycle" and goes on to state that
"Data centres consist of two distinct elements; IT-equipment and the surrounding service envelope. The innovation of Boden Type DC One is a new, holistic design approach for the latter. The goal is to bring a novel combination of existing techniques and locations to the market. This combination does not exist and has never been tested.

The unique solution offers a sustainable datacentre building which is energy and resource efficient throughout its lifecycle, cheaper to build and operate and brings jobs and knowledge to remote places in large parts of Europe. The cornerstones of the concept Boden Type DC One are:
  • Efficient fresh air cooling.
  • Modular building design.
  • Renewable energy.
  • Favourable location.
The 600kW prototype facility will be a living lab and demonstration site, as it will be tested by providers and end-users in a real operation environment with all aspects of its operations measured. With the prototype, the project stakeholders will be able to:
  • Validate that the datacenter concept meets the energy efficiency, financial reliability, and other targets in real operational environments.
  • Validate and improve the design software tools for modeling and simulating the operation of the facility and cooling equipment.
  • Demonstrate through accurate simulation that the prototype can be replicated in other European sites with less favourable conditions.
The name Boden Type Data Centre One is naturally created for the first Type DC in the location of Boden, in the north of Sweden. Close to the clean and high quality electricity supply by renewable energy source, ideal climate and service infrastructure."

These are laudable aspirations and goals and well in keeping with Carbon3IT's own view on data centres for the future.

However, and this is not a criticsm, more of an observation, there is no reference to existing data centre design and build standards, nor has any classification in terms of an Uptime Institute Tier or EN50600 Class been applied to the site. In my opinion, and contrary views are welcome, at best this site and current infrastructure would be classed as a Tier 1/Class 1 facility, but it is none the poorer for being classed as such, it is after all a research project.

 So, when I visited, this EU funded project was still a work in progress, the building is 98% complete, and was undergoing some final AC commissioning during my visit, and only 1 of the 3 pods has any active IT equipment installed. The configuration is 3 pods which will be fitted with an OCP stack (this is the active pod), a HPC cluster and finally a blockchain (cryptocurrency) mining operation.

It does not have a UPS nor a generator, but there is space for a UPS within the power room and the use of a generator is a moot point when you have a hydropower station and biogas plant literally meters away, the connection to the biogas plant is still under discussion, and information on the hydro power station can be found here.
It should also be noted that the site is also literally meters away from

The DC used 100% free cooling, there is a cold air corridor which feeds ambient air into the eco-cooling equipmnent which is then (depending on season) tempered with hot return air in winter to provide a range of inlet temperatures for the IT equipment or in summer passed straight through to the IT equipment with the hot air being vented out to a vaulted roof and then outside.

This next section was written today (24/11/2019) and the site is now fully operational and generating some "sweet" data which you can view here, the current PUE is here on the top left of the page (the reason why I posted the link is because this is live real time data and I didn't want to "date" this post.

This is very impressive, however it has be tempered with the fact that this is an unmanned test facility with some of the latest equipment that has been heavily optimised by the research team and as stated earlier would be classed under both the UTI Tier Topology and EN50600 Classification as a Tier/Class 1 site.

Yes, it is clearly a VERY energy efficient site, in terms of the ratio of total energy consumption against IT energy consumption being around the low 1.007 PUE mark.

So, some observations, the cold aisle temperatures in Pod 1 & 3 appear to be below ASHRAE reccommended at around 13.2 degrees in Pod 1, the OCP pod and 13.6 in Pod 3, the ASICs Pod, I'll make a mental note to ask the RI:SE team in Stockholm late this week to find out why this is the case, but it raises an interesting question about supply temperatures.

It is interesting that there is no UPS or Generator, could, or would a commercial DC operator consider this? I doubt it, although the prudent application of the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres (Energy Efficiency) best practices applied to an organisation in relation to the "actual" mission critical IT functions via BP 4.3.x may yield an interesting view?

At best, the Boden One is a "hyper-edge" facility and could be deployed to link "edge" sites in a hub/spoke configuration.

My conclusion is that research has to be done, and the mission parameters are laudable:

Efficient fresh air cooling. Modular building design. Renewable energy.Favourable location.

However, DCs cannot always take advantage of fresh air cooling, on-site or local renewable energy or favourable locations and I'm sure that many in the community will be dismissive of the project and its results stating that its not real world, that is missing the point.

If we strip out some of the historical retoric out of DC design and educate users, we could build DCs using this research and build them cheaply, using less energy and save time deploying compute to remote locations, if we have to give up some uptime and resilience, is this necessarily a bad thing?

I'll be available at the Data Center Forum on the 28th November in Stockholm to defend my corner, I'll look forward to some robust discussions.

7th December 2019 - Update
FANTASTIC News from the recent DCD Global Awards held in London on the 5th December, Boden won an award the... 

Well Done!


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