Typical of automakers, BMW requires a bevy of high performance computing (HPC) applications to support its computer-aided design, crash simulation and aerodynamic calculation needs. Such programs, while critical for any automobile manufacturers’ long term innovation and success, require huge amounts of energy at the data centers in which they are housed. To reduce the cost of powering those applications, BMW will relocate some of those applications to a 45-acre data center complex in southwestern Iceland.
BMW’s announcement is a shot in the arm for Iceland, which just a few years ago boasted a high flying economy that crashed hard when its banking sector crashed during the global financial crisis. Housed in a former NATO air base in the town of Keflavík, a $700 million data center runs 100 percent on clean energy its owners hope will lure more high profile customers now that it has BMW under contract. With more companies reliant on warehousing massive amounts of data that, in turn, have a massive carbon footprint, and will only increase in cost as global energy prices increase, Iceland’s long term recovery in part, will lie in green data centers.
The owner of this sprawling complex is Verne Global, a United Kingdom-based developer of green data centers. Plunked on bedrock that is unaffected by Iceland’s notorious seismic and volcanic activity, the carbon-neutral data center also benefits from natural cooling instead of pricey air conditioning. Hydroelectric and geothermal power plants fuel Verne’s Keflavík facility, and in the end, BMW benefits from reducing the cost of those relocated HPC applications by 82 percent. Currently the 10 clusters that run those programs require 6.31 gigawatt hours of electricity a year; after the move to Iceland, BMW expects to reduce its carbon emissions by 3,570 metric tons--the equivalent of over 385,000 gallons of gasoline.
The past year has been a challenging one for Verne, which in 2011, almost lured IBM to Keflavík only to have the IT services giant pull out at the last minute because of what it claimed was unfavorable tax treatment in Ireland. Smaller companies, however, have moved in or are planning to shift their information technology operations to Keflavík as it sits strategically between North America and the rest of Europe. Now that BMW is on its way to Iceland, expect Verne to land more high-profile clients soon. Look for the rest of Scandinavia, a region well known for its design, cars and technology–and long winters–to score more green data centers similar to Google’s investment in Finland.
Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter.
Image courtesy Wikipedia.