Text Joscha Duhme ––– Photography
Sense the atmosphere of the past, present and hopefully fantastic future of this unique site,” said Dr Karl-Ulrich Köhler, CEO of Rittal, as he offered the visitors who had travelled from all over Europe a chance to get a feel for the special environment – at the opening of the Lefdal Mine Datacenter (LMD). The caverns carved deep into the rock in this former olivine mine offer a potential 120,000 square metres of net whitespace and over 200 megawatts of IT capacity with immediate effect.
Köhler’s enthusiasm for the potential that has been created close to the Norwegian town of Måløy is shared by Laurence Guihard-July, General Manager at IBM Resiliency Services. “The opening of the Lefdal Mine Datacenter is an important milestone in technological progress. As we head into the future, Lefdal will help us to provide our customers with the capacities they require and shape data center design for a long time to come.” IBM is the technical partner of Lefdal and Rittal in the Norwegian data mine.
In the weeks leading up to the opening, countless engineers worked around the clock to prepare the mine for its new use. They tarmacked roads, secured the shaft covers and installed lighting systems. The result is an underground data center. The 16-metre high tunnels, where valuable olivine minerals were once extracted, are now home to vast shelves that accommodate three industrial containers one above the other. These contain high-performance server technology, storage media and climate control units. Hundreds of these data center containers will be stacked together here in the future. The enormous capacity of the halls in the side of the mountain and the associated logistics enable various cost-efficient scalable solutions.
Green, reliable and efficient
The Lefdal Mine Datacenter (LMD), located in a former mine, sets new standards in cost efficiency and sustainability. It is powered almost exclusively by renewable energy. The LMD scores a power usage effectiveness rating of less than 1.15 and can potentially supply more than 200 megawatts of IT capacity.
“LMD is unique in terms of scalability, security and cost efficiency,” explains Jørn Skaane, CEO of the IT company. Combined with the eco-friendly use of renewable energy for supplying power and cooling water, Lefdal offers outstanding conditions for secure, eco-friendly and efficient operation of data centers. Skaane is convinced that LMD will be a success and highlights three key factors to explain why: “We have a great many experienced people in the region. The market is growing rapidly day by day. And our product is impossible to copy.”
Industrialisation of IT
Rittal is also firmly committed to the project and has got on board as a strategic technology and implementation partner. “The ongoing digital transformation will undoubtedly lead to greater demand for data center capacity and thus to highly efficient industrialisation of data center infrastructure and services – in other words, intelligent standardisation,” says Köhler. “We are experts in highly efficient industrialisation and firm believers in it. It’s been part of our DNA since the company was founded in 1961.”
The container solutions used in the Lefdal Mine follow the trend towards industrialisation. “This makes it possible to create larger, flexible and scalable data centers using modules,” says Andreas Keiger, Executive Vice President for Sales Europe at Rittal. “Thanks to our standardised RiMatrix S data center modules, which are supplied in containers, customers can start operating at LMD within four to six weeks of ordering.” Time is a critical factor particularly for cloud and colocation providers. The preconfigured containers generally comprise ten or twelve server racks, which are ready for immediate use, including power distribution, climate control and software for monitoring and IT infrastructure management. This enables flexible use of IT systems with various models such as colocation, private cloud via IT as a Service and Data Center as a Service (see page 30).
“The Lefdal Mine Datacenter puts everything else in the shade. It’s never been as easy to create an efficient and highly secure IT infrastructure for companies of all sizes,” Keiger confirms. This exceptional project is probably the leading example in the comprehensive portfolio of solutions that Rittal offers for IT scenarios involving a wide range of requirements.
“LMD isn’t just big, secure and well connected – it’s also green,” says Keiger. “The servers are cooled using the water from the surrounding fjord and thus have impeccable environmental credentials.” To this end, the operators laid water pipes with a diameter of around one metre at a depth of approximately 80 metres that lead to the water/water heat exchangers installed in the mine. From there, the water is fed through supply pipes to the container modules, where the Rittal LCP (Liquid Cooling Packages) solutions are deployed.
This efficient cooling solution is one of the reasons why LMD is up to 40 per cent cheaper than all other data centers in Europe. “This is made possible in part because the mine already exists as a ‘building’, the operating costs with a power usage effectiveness of 1.08 are extremely low, and the energy costs compare very favourably at a European level,” adds Keiger.
Despite the vast dimensions of the mine and the enormous potential applications of the modular data centers, the tunnel system under the fjord is quiet and tidy. Aside from the hustle and bustle of the opening ceremony, peace and quiet reigns in what was once a working mine. As all the IT components are located in security rooms or containers, they benefit from the best possible physical protection. The LMD also serves as a “lights-out facility”. System administrators can use remote access facilities to monitor and manage the servers. It is only under exceptional circumstances that authorised individuals will enter the containers and rooms where the digital raw materials from all over the world are processed. They are equipped with helmet cameras and external links that give customers from around the world direct insight and even enable them to issue instructions.