The only other data center in the world with similar capacity will be the Amazon Web Services data center, which is being built in a campus in Ashburn, Va. near Dulles International Airport outside of Washington DC.
Data centers are frequently measured by their power availability because that’s the normal limit to how much computing power can be in any one data center. Lillebo said that other data centers in Europe are limited by the availability of power to about 150 megawatts.
Robinson said that he expects the Ballangen data center to be occupied by cloud providers and by a crypto-currency provider. He said that the amount of computing power needed for crypto-currency providers such as Bitcoin is significant.
The Kolos data center will be the world’s largest, but only for a while. Switch, which owns the SuperNAP data centers in Las Vegas and in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is planning a new data center near Reno, Nevada that will be slightly larger than the Kolos facility in terms of size, but the current power capacity will be 150 megawatts.
Both the Kolos and the Switch data centers are at the leading edge of a trend towards mega-scale data centers. Larger facilities are more efficient than smaller ones because they can take advantage of the efficiencies of scale in areas such as staffing. This means that making a data center twice as large doesn’t require twice as much staff.
Kolos emphasizes the physical security of its site, versus other sites in areas that have less natural protection. Ballangen was formerly a center for iron ore mining, and while the mining activities are history, they’ve left a physical legacy. That legacy includes a moat that surrounds the property, which when coupled with the rugged mountains, makes approaching the facility difficult.
While the Kolos data center is a leading example of using natural characteristics to make data centers more efficient, it’s not the only one. IBM is operating a data center elsewhere in Norway, although not on the same scale. Likewise, a number of data centers in the Pacific Northwest are located near hydroelectric dams where they can use cheaper power and water for cooling.
If the Kolos site turns out to be a success, it should be no surprise to see more data centers in areas with similar characteristics, such as Alaska and Maine in the U.S., and in northern Canada. Canada already has abundant hydroelectric power as does Alaska in some areas. Perhaps the next data center trend will be to head north.