Iceland: Where Mixed Modular Design Meets Free Cooling


The Avania Thor data center in Iceland features the use of both container-style data center modules (at the left, in the rear) and “modular rooms” assembled from pre-built components. Both products are supplied by AST Modular.

The diversity of modular data center design can be seen in a single large room in Reykjavik, Iceland. That’s where the Advania Thor Datacenter has added new capacity using a “modular room” assembled from pre-built components, which sits alongside a pair of stacked container-style modules.

Both phases of the design were created by AST Modular, and use the Barcelona company’s “natural free cooling” (NFC) technology, which harnesses Icelandic fresh air to cool servers for customers like Opera Software, the mobile browser pioneer.

The first phase of the project was completed in 2009 as proof of concept,and comprised of one 40-foot containerized data center with 17 racks at a power density of 14 kilowatts per rack, plus a modular room with 50 racks at 7 kilowatts.  The second phase, which is currently being finalized, features one 105 square meter modular room plus a separate cooling room hosting 8 of AST’s cooling modules providing indirect free cooling.

Air-to-Air Heat Exchanger

This approach use an air-to-air heat exchanger that takes advantage of the cool climate without introducing outside air into the servers – an important consideration in a land where volcanic ash is a concern. By avoiding the need for chillers or refrigeration, Advania is able to achieve a Power Usage Efficiency (PUE) of 1.16, according to AST.

“The latest expansion clearly shows that our prefabricated data center options – either containerized or modular – help customers achieve a Capex differed growth and generate savings,” said Davide Ortisi, Marketing Director at AST Modular. “On the other hand our Indirect Free Cooling NFC will minimize Advania’s Opex and guarantee security since Iceland can be an environment with high concentration of volcanic ashes and external contaminants.”

The approach taken by Advania reflects one of the benefits that’s been advanced for modular designs -the ability to expand incrementally. AST says the additional data center space has been built with “minimal” electrical and mechanical upgrades and finalized in less than 2 months upon shipment of components from Barcelona to Iceland.

“We have seen a tremendous increase in datacenter space demand in the last 12 months” said Ægir Rafn Magnússon, Sales Director at Advania Data Centres. “Iceland is a very competitive country for data centers. The huge availability of green and affordable geothermal power combined with low outdoor temperatures and highly skilled IT professionals allow us to go to market with a first in class service at a very low price.”

Here’s a look at a time-lapse video showing the construction of an AST modular room at the Advania facility.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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