Not a week goes by without a new huge data center build being announced somewhere in the world, often with power consumption cited in the tens of MWs and technical areas the size of many premier league football grounds.

Increasingly, the developments are found in the Nordics - but what are the roadblocks to building at scale in the region?

Joining us on the panel is Petter M. Tømmeraas, SVP Data Center Services at Basefarm, Jan Lövgren, Senior Project Director at COWI and Dheeraj Lachman Sales Manager: Northern Europe at Starline.

This expert panel brings together the data center operator, the general contractor, the design engineer, and the technology vendor to share their insights on the latest construction techniques, the supply chain challenges, framework agreements and alliances that are being forged to build at scale across the Nordics.

What makes the Nordics so interesting?

Tømmeraas highlights the abundance of power in Norway, with many sites readily available for new data center construction in vital areas. Despite this, Norway has typically been a predominantly local market, with a few international clients throughout the country. The abundance of power means prices for energy supply are driven down.

Interestingly there is a mix of local, urban data centers and remote data centers located throughout Norway. The viability of many sites across Norway makes it a relatively easy country to construct data centers. Additionally, new cables from Asia are making Norway (and the Nordics more broadly) a more suitable location as a gateway for the rest of Europe. In fact, the panel discusses the increasing interest in Nordic regions over the past few years.

What type of data centers are being built?

A significant number of new data centers being built will be supporting high-performance computing like AI, big data solutions, and IoT. These types of data demands are exploding not only in the Nordics, but across the globe. These sites need a lot of power and are typically very dense. Constructing these sites is typically easier in the Nordics due to advantages around power availability and the climate.

Hyperscale providers are also building a number of sites that are designed for research purposes. There has also been a significant increase in moves to colocation sites from traditional enterprise data centers. Covid-19 has also influenced this move, as some clients are having trouble operating their own sites due to lack of staff.

Newly established data centers may have a focus on cooling in order to maximize returns for clients. The location also needs to be properly utilized in order for costs to be minimized. Finally, clients expect a quick time to market, with fast planning, building, and capacity to begin construction projects faster.

Operating in the Nordics

Our panel weighed in on the ‘Nordic way’ of doing things - processes and licensing requirements that differ from the rest of the world. Within the region, clients will often experience longer lead times because the processes for applications to construct data centers typically take longer.

These delays can be avoided or planned for if the client understands how the Nordic region operates, in particular how the individual countries operate too. Understanding the intricacies of processes and processes becomes vital in successful projects in the region.

Skills and suppliers in the region

It is quite common for skilled workers to be found across the entirety of Europe, and this extends to suppliers too. Hyperscale projects require established workers and resources who can integrate processes, products, and infrastructure seamlessly.

In the past, certain countries within the region have been better at marketing and selling their services to clients. However, in recent years this playing field has leveled out due to a number of changes in training and supply-demand. Universities, data center operators, and other training institutions have come together to introduce more young people to the industry. This also marked a transition from industrial services to the data center industry.

What will the market look like over the next few years?

So what changes can we expect in the market over the next few years? Tømmeraas thinks that the big players and hyperscale clients will look for broader competence across the industry. Expectancies around packaged services will become more commonplace, meaning that a short time to market and keeping costs down will become even more vital.

Lövgren and Lachman had a similar outlook: the market will boom for several years once the effects of Covid-19 start to die down. Lots of upcoming projects, not just for hyperscale clients are on the horizon. As new infrastructure in the US and APAC regions establish cabling and other connectivity to the Nordics, hyperscales, and colocation will become more commonplace.