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Facebook’s New Data Center in the ‘Node Pole’

By Barbro Plogander
Epoch Times Staff
Created: January 23, 2013 Last Updated: January 29, 2013
Related articles: World » Europe
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One of three server halls at the Facebook data center in Lulea, Sweden, on Oct. 25, 2012. Facebook chose to put its first data center outside of the United States in this arctic environment, which provides attractive qualities for data center operations. (Gunnar Svedenback/The Node Pole)

One of three server halls at the Facebook data center in Lulea, Sweden, on Oct. 25, 2012. Facebook chose to put its first data center outside of the United States in this arctic environment, which provides attractive qualities for data center operations. (Gunnar Svedenback/The Node Pole)

GOTHENBURG, Sweden—Few would have guessed that Internet giant Facebook would place its European data center in a small Swedish city only 60 miles from the Arctic Circle.

But, the city of Lulea and its surrounding area is now becoming “The Node Pole”—a veritable hotbed for data centers and high-tech industry.

In October 2011, Facebook announced that it would build its third data center—the first outside the United States—in the northernmost reaches of Sweden, in the university city of Lulea with a population of about 74,000.

The first building now stands completed and is currently being filled with everything needed to start up this spring. The building—designed by Facebook inside and out—is 1,000 feet long, 300 feet wide, and 45 feet tall, with two more buildings of the same size to come.

The journey began in 2008 when local development company Lulea Naringsliv was looking for investments in the region, and came up with the idea of introducing Internet companies to the special qualities of the area.

Natural Features Power High-Tech Enterprise

Fredrik Kallioniemi, managing director at Aurorum Science Park told The Epoch Times how representatives for the various regional “qualities,” such as the land, the digital infrastructure, the electric grid, and the knowledge base at the university and science park, all sold Facebook on their city.

“Together, we wrapped it all up into a golden package,” he said.

Some of the attraction in these local qualities is related to the fact that Facebook, and the growing data center business in general, is increasingly focusing on the environment and energy efficiency.

A data center of the size required by Facebook generates a lot of heat, and needs to be cooled off. In Lulea, where the average annual temperature is 1.3 degrees Celsius (34.3 degrees Fahrenheit), this is no problem. Thus, the servers are cooled with outside air instead of electricity.

The air in the server hall also needs a certain humidity to avoid static electricity. Water is also found in abundance nearby, in the Lule River. The river also provides so much electricity that the local grid has a constant surplus of green, cheap, and stable energy, which suits the power hungry data center well.

According to Fredrik Kallioniemi, the energy surplus from the river is about 50 percent, which means that the area can easily support more data centers, which he also hopes to attract. The IT development, in combination with the Arctic location, has earned the region the moniker of “The Node Pole.”

Kajsa De Bourg, 22, moved to Lulea from southern Sweden to study and ski. She thinks the attention the city is getting is a positive thing, but has less nice things to say about the actual Facebook building.

“It’s a really boring building, just a big box, and it’s right next to residential areas,” she said.

But then again, everything in Lulea seems to be right next to everything else; Fredrik Kallioniemi is less than half a mile from both the Aurorum Science Park, The Facebook data center and the university, where professor Birgitta Bergvall-Kareborn is acting as the university’s liaison with Facebook.

The knowledge base and the pool of potential future employees are, of course, also part of the region’s special qualities. The establishment of Facebook may well have played a part in the 30 percent increase in applicants to the IT programs at the university.

“It’s simply a remarkable increase,” Kareborn said.

Kallioniemi said that chances are very good for new large investments in the area, since the infrastructure and the whole ecosystem for supporting data centers are already in place.

“Also, the people around here are pretty calm and quiet. There’s not a lot of unrest going on here,” he added with a laugh.

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