CAPRE’s Northern California Data Center & Cloud Infrastructure Summit Preview: Q&A with Svein Hagaseth, Green Mountain Data Center
by Josh Anderson
SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Svein Atle Hagaseth is the Senior Vice President for North America at Green Mountain Data Center, Ltd. With two data centers in Norway and plans to develop in other regions, Green Mountain Data Centers design, build, and operate high-security, robust wholesale colocation data centers that operate on 100% low-cost, renewable power and use free cooling, creating unique power efficiency. Both of Green Mountain’s data centers, DC1-Stavanger and DC2-Telemark, have achieved Uptime Institute Tier III certification as the only Nordic colocation provider. Green Mountain Data Centers is one of the largest operators in the sector in Norway with clients in Finance, IT, Government, Health, O&G and others. In anticipation of CAPRE’s Northern California Data Center & Cloud Infrastructure Summit, where he will be a featured speaker, we caught up with Svein to learn more about the latest at Green Mountain.
CAPRE: How was 2018 for Green Mountain?
Hagaseth: Green Mountain had an amazing year in 2018. It seems like the world is getting their eyes opened for what is going on in the Nordics. Last fall the Nordic Ministers of Trade announced a new report of the Nordics as a data center location, and based on this report it is predicted that the region will see annual growth from today’s 100 MW annually to 500 MW annually by 2025. That shift is mainly driven by the cold and wet climate, as well as the abundance of available green energy in the Nordics. We also have a very stable political climate, and lots of available land mass even in central areas. In Norway where Green Mountain is located the average population per square kilometer is 12, giving us massive options for growth.
We in Green Mountain, of course, hope that we will continue take our fair share of that, and as mentioned we saw 2018 as a good start reaching approximately 200 % the achievement on a very expansive budget. We signed about 20 new clients, whereof about 80 % of these were international clients from the US and Continental Europe. We are currently expanding at both our locations in Norway and is looking at several new locations to grow both with our existing clients and with new clients looking to the Nordics.
CAPRE: How will Green Mountain make the most of 2019?
Hagaseth: For us, I think it is about making sure that we continue to speak about the competitive advantages of Norway and the Nordics and to make sure we create awareness maybe especially for the Americans that there are other alternatives than the FLAP-D countries if you have European users or needs. Europe is a small continent. We reach London with a latency of approximately 6ms, or Amsterdam and Frankfurt in less than 8ms. That is the same as if you are a San Franciso Bay client, and accept to have your data center in Portland, Oregon or Phoenix, TX you are looking at the same distance.
The difference maybe might be that the fiber connections in the North Sea due to the heavy investments to automate offshore Oil & Gas industry might be more direct and faster than parts of Mainland USA. So hopefully we can continue to raise eyebrows about why we believe that Norway is a godsend as a country for data center development. Nature makes Norway uniquely positioned with cold and wet climate year round, and luckily someone was smart enough 100 + years ago to invest in hydroelectric power in Norway making power in Norway 100 % sustainable and at a world-leading cost around 4 us cents per kilowatts.
CAPRE: What opportunities are you most excited about?
Hagaseth: There are so much to be excited about, but the shift that we have seen maybe especially over the last couple of years in regards to changing client requirements where time-to-market, flexibility, higher density racks, and sustainable solutions are ranked higher and higher. It used to be all about cost and power availability, now those are the fundamentals to get evaluated – and other things seem to become even more important. Ability to scale and grow fast seems to be the requirement most clients are asking for as size requirements seem to be bigger and bigger. The ability to support higher density racks, and I believe the investments we have done in using the fjord outside our data center as our cooling source have enabled us to support any density required. One of our competitors (Digiplex) did a survey last fall where they had 300-400 CxOs answer, and sustainability had moved from priority 28 in 2017 to priority 4 in 2018.
So now it’s not about sustainability as a choice anymore, it is becoming one of the main drivers of choice for our clients – and where Norway with is 99% renewable power is a really exciting opportunity to continue and position. When I say 99%, we are actually on close to 110-115 % renewables in Norway as Norway export excess power to Sweden, Denmark, Germany and enable them to reach some of their renewable goals.
CAPRE: What is the biggest challenge for Green Mountain on the horizon?
Hagaseth: The biggest challenge for us is to continue to grow with quality, and we have very high attention to that. We are not bigger than being on the level where every hire we do is crucial to our business. We have been lucky to have been recognized for innovation and always being able to push the needle to continue to stay competitive, and we work hard to make sure we continue to do so even with more clients coming in. Green Mountain has at its core that innovation is important. I don’t know if that is our biggest challenge, but a challenge it is.
I have also mentioned earlier that creating awareness is a big challenge for the Nordics in general, maybe we need to get back to our Viking nature and be the conquerors we used to be back 1000 years ago. Not the pillaging and war thing, but the ability to make everyone aware that we are good. There we have a lot to learn from the Americans – we are maybe a bit too modest, and I try to learn and say to the organization that we should be proud of now delivered 100 % uptime for 6 years and a client satisfaction score of 5.8 out of 6. That is world class, and we shouldn’t be afraid to say so.
CAPRE: How would you characterize the NorCal data center industry right now? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
Hagaseth: That is an interesting question, we maybe look at the market with one eye as we don’t address this market directly – but indirectly being in Europe. But I think we see some of the same challenges as many other established markets. There is a tendency to think the same way as your neighbor and it is always easier to make the same choice as you did yesterday even when there are better and more cost-effective options on the table. I find a bit strange that Silicon Valley that thrives of thinking new and challenge established truths, don’t necessarily do the same when they talk about the choice of data center locations.
I am probably going to be challenged by saying that and the larger cloud players have definitively challenged and improved efficiency and cost structures in the industry, but many other choose as they did yesterday and must be in, for instance, London for their European needs. So what I ask is maybe ask why, why, why, why and why do you have to be there and see if there could be other choices that actually fit your business better.
CAPRE: What is Green Mountain looking forward to about CapRE’s upcoming NorCal data center summit?
Hagaseth: I believe these conferences is a good arena to meet both people in the industry and end clients, and learn from what others are doing. We need to continue to stay ahead, and there is a big world out there. We need to learn continuously and continue to challenge our established truths to continue to stay competitive. If we don’t, in a fast-moving industry we will be yesterday’s news very quickly. I enjoy coming to these conferences for just that reason, and has been in the data center industry just for the last 3 years I every day understand that I have a lot to learn. A lot to learn. But that is also what makes it so fun.
CAPRE: Got it. Thanks so much Svein. We’ll see you in San Francisco.