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'Data mining' takes on new meaning in Norway

07 February 2016

Deep within a mountain, powered by hydroelectric resources and cooled by the cold waters of a fjord, the largest, most secure data centre in Europe - the Lefdal Mine Data Centre (LMD) - is approaching completion.

Schematic showing the structure of the Lefdal Mine Data Centre with the Statue of Liberty and various forms of transport shown alongside for scale

The Lefdal Mine is located in Norway’s Sogn og Fjordane region between Måløy and Nordfjordeid. It is located close to a deep, cold fjord with a stable and ample supply of low-cost, CO2-neutral hydroelectric power, good links to the local road network, a shipping port, communication and fibre networks, two local airports and a helipad on site.

Soon to host the largest data centre in Europe, the mine today consists of six storeys, divided into 75 chambers with a potential floor space of 120,000m2. It is a Tier III facility offering the highest level of security both physical and environmental; it even offers natural Electromagnetic Pulse Protection due to the natural rock formation.

The entry point leads to a spiral access road measuring 14m wide by 8.5m high, large enough to accommodate articulated vehicles moving in both directions. Each floor level within the mine is accessed from a spiral tunnel some 1,300m long.

With a vast useable floor space, the most important factors have been the modular and scalability approach to the design of the facility, in order to meet the different infrastructure and power needs of tenants, be it container based rack systems or traditional data halls.
The structure of the mine is such that the spiral road provides direct access to every floor level, each consisting of a central access road, dubbed ‘The Avenue’. The Avenue provides direct access to vacant chambers on each floor level; these chambers - or ‘Streets’ - vary in terms of depth, the average being 100m.

The LMD places Norway on the map as an international data centre location, in partnership with two of the world’s leading IT and IT infrastructure companies – IBM and Rittal. Rittal, in particular, has had a major role in the development and design of the standard modules at the LMD. A standard module consists of server racks, raised floor, Liquid Cooling Package (LCP) rack coolers, power distribution racks (PDRs) and network racks, and fits either into IT containers, dedicated data halls or within security rooms.

Rittal's RiMatrix system is deployed in different sizes (up to 12 server racks) and different technical specifications are available to cater for customers' specific needs. The LCPs are placed between the data racks and will remove hot air from the separated zone behind the data racks and deliver cold air in front of the racks. The cooling system in the containers can handle 60-200kW, with N2 to N+1 redundancy.

In terms of power supply, the standard modules comprise two PDR racks and two PDU Basic racks in a redundant configuration, with separate power supply via two distribution racks, one at each end of the rack row. From the distribution racks there will be A + B power to each data rack.

From the network rack in the middle of the rack row there are pre-terminated fibre and copper cables to each data rack. The system comprises 12 pairs of fibre and 24 Cat 6 cables to each data rack. The standard module is also equipped with early fire detection systems, smoke sensors and fire extinguishing systems. Even with all this in place, there is still 13U of space available for additional ancillary equipment. Rittal's RiZone Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) platform is also available to clients as an option.

The width of the 'streets' allows placement of containers on both sides with a transportation route between them. Street heights of 18m allow stacking of up to three 40ft containers with up to 12 racks. The container-based solution enables offsite rack configuration and quick installation in the LMD, with equipment being easily replaced or moved, thanks to the street width and height.

For customers preferring a traditional data hall within the LMD, there are several options in terms of design. The LMD and IBM have developed a design based on three storey concrete buildings with a roof reserved for infrastructure. These low-cost building are constructed inside the mine and each will have around 2,500m2 of net floor space. LMD tenants will be able to lease from one base unit (dubbed 'Cage') to an entire building.

The LMD is expected to be operational in the summer of 2016, by which time the infrastructure will cater for a base load of 30MW, with capacity being extended thereafter in sections of 7.5MW. The first phase of this ambitious project has cost 250 million Norwegian Krone.

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