Finland is the safest place for data – in every sense

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Finland is the safest place for data – in every sense

After a stable and willing socio-economic and socio-political environment, high on the agenda for any business, image1considering alternative locations for data centre investment, would be a wide range of incentives and proactive services that are capable of underpinning their proposals. Given these prerequisites, any company contemplating such a move would do well to look beyond the spectacle of Finland’s glistening lakes and hectares of serene woodland and fells and evaluate everything that this country has to offer, for Finland is one of only a few countries who can truly say that they fully embrace and nurture today’s evolving technology and has already prepared itself for an influx of future investors.

Finland enjoys one of the best digital infrastructures in the world; a fact which is highlighted by its second place ranking in the world economy forum’s Network Readiness Index.image2 Finpro’s Invest in Finland unit, a public organization that actively encourages and promotes direct foreign investment in Finland, has identified 50 green-field and brown-field sites as being suitable for data centre location. These sites, which augment the 2,800 locations currently being used by existing Tier 3 and domestic data centre operators, cover more than 14 million square meters, have more than 6.7 million square meters of building rights and a total power capacity that exceeds 3,500 megawatts.

Two aspects of business life that the Finns are rightly proud of are their energy transmission infrastructure’s 99.9998% reliability rating and energy prices which are amongst the lowest in Europe; a factor which attracted Hetzner Online GmbH, a German based provider of data centre services, to their new 150,000 square meter data centre park in Tuusula. Year upon year investment in the infrastructure is elevating wind and solar based renewables into the position of being major players in the energy market. In some instances, such as at Ficolo Oy’s Ulvila colocation data centre, the entire operation is run from renewable sources and, because of this, they can rightfully boast that their facility benefits from zero CO2 emissions.

When it comes to taxation, thanks to the government’s foresight, businesses are charged one of the lowest levels of corporate tax in the Nordics (a level which is significantly below the EU average) and in April 2014, the energy tax rates being levied, particularly for all large-scale data centres whose capacity exceeded 5 megawatts, were reduced. Detailed energy savings calculations, which were issued by Finpro and referenced in a Gartner report in 2014, show that,when compared to an equivalent investment elsewhere in Europe, any business locating their data centre facilities in the Nordic Region, could reduce their energy expenditure by approximately 50%. For example: a 1 megawatt, 1.3 PUE data centre could experience savings of EUR 2.3 million over a 3-year period, 3.8 million over a 5-year period and 7.7 million over a 10-year period. However, savings for 5 megawatt and 10 megawatt data centres would be significantly higher due to the alleviation of energy tax at this level.

Additional investment in digital technology, which is spotlighted by the Finnish government’s ambitious EU Digital Single Market strategy target to have 100Mbps fibre or cable connectivity available to 99% of all permanent residences and offices, has resulted in the country having a state-of-the-art, world-class and comprehensive data network which extends far beyond its borders and which also brings the rest of Europe closer to the Nordic region.

In May this year, Cinia Group, the Finland based intelligent connectivity and transmission services provider, announce the opening and commercial availability of their Cinia C-Lion 1 submarine data cable which now lies between Finland and Germany. This ultra-fast, 1,172 kilometer long cable enables the world’s fastest connectivity to global data networks and financial markets. Consisting of eight fibre-optic pairs, each capable of transmitting data at up to 18 terabits per second (Tbps), it has a total capacity of 144 Tbps; a record breaking speed which effectively makes Frankfurt a suburb of Helsinki. Furthermore, existing inter-connections between Finland and Russia facilitate direct access to Asia via the, so called, Northern Silk Road route. In addition, an Arctic Connect sea cable, which is being proposed for the Northeast Passage, will position Finland as the primary, strategic data gateway between the West and the East.

The highly publicised partnership between Mäntsälä Sahkö, Mäntsälä, Finland’s power and district heating company, and Russian internet search and data centre provider, Yandex Oy, proves that diligent data centre location and design can not only reduce providers’ energy overheads but it can also gain them revenue from recovered waste heat. Contrary to common belief, Finland’s cooler, temperate climate won’t necessarily provide free cooling but it almost certainly will help with the process. image3Yandex’s air cooled facility has proven to be highly efficient in the summer months but slightly less so in the winter. The main reasons behind this disparity being the need to avoid the build-up of condensation within the data centre and the requirement to match the temperature of the incoming air with the data centre’s equipment specifications. However, after a short initial phase, recovered waste heat could be recycled to facilitate this process.

Many of the identified data centre locations are close enough to an adequate water source that it becomes viable to use this option for equipment cooling. However, irrespective of the cooling method use, there is enormous potential in Finland to direct waste heat into district heating systems; a process which produces significant benefits to the data centre operator, the local populace and the environment. In Yandex’s case, heat recovered from their first phase, 10 megawatt data centre has allowed Mäntsälä Sahkö to reduce their gas consumption by half and their greenhouse gas emissions by 40%. Effectively, this collaboration, which covers the space heating and hot water requirements for approximately 5,000 properties, has resulted in an energy utilisation reduction which exceeds the EU’s 2030 emission targets. But the success does not stop there. Yandex are currently building the second phase of their project and, once completed, the recovered heat from their entire data centre complex will alleviate the need for Mäntsälä Sahkö to use fossil fuels within the town’s district heating system in entirety.

For obvious reasons, security, both physic and cyber based, is at the top of any data centre providers priorities, and, once again, Finland has all the answers. Thanks to Finland’s granite bedrock, and the fact that there have been no major natural hazards, the Data Center Risk Index rates Finland as the safest data center location from natural disasters. The inherently stability of Finland’s geological features is instrumental in allowing the construction of subterranean installations. Such installations produce two advantages. Firstly, physical data centre security is increased and, secondly, the bedrock’s low ambient temperature can help to reduced cooling related energy utilisation even further.

image4When it comes to cyber security, Finland’s successes in this area are often overlooked. It is a little known fact that some of the world’s best cyber security solutions have been invented in Finland. For example, Secure Shell (SSH) was invented in 1995 by Finn, Tatu Ylönen (the founder of the Finnish company SSH Communications Security), and it has since become one of the world’s most highly regarded and widely used cryptographic security protocols. Approximately half of all of the world’s websites use a version of this protocol so making it a ubiquitous tool in the data centre security world.

And finally, if this article hasn’t identified sufficient advantages already, in addition to its political, economic and seismological stability, by having legislation which forms a secure basis for investments through its transparency, Finland enjoys a regulatory environment that respects online privacy. In addition, it has a highly educated and motivated Information Technology workforce who would welcome and relish new data centre employment opportunities.

image5Invest in Finland will be exhibiting at the Nordic Digital Business Summit, which takes place at the Kaapelitehdas in Helsinki on September 22nd 2016, and representatives will be on hand to discuss your requirements.

Richard CarterAuthor: Richard Carter,
writing for NDBS