Finnish Data Center Forum’s interview on 1st Nov 2018 on Silent Partner Group’s data center projects taking place in Finland and Norway. FDCF’s aim with this article is to interview an interesting project in the data center cluster in Finland and to openly distribute information about new innovations.
Interviewees: Silent Partner Group CEO Dale Hobbie and Chief Technical Officer Nick Glinkowski.
Interview and questions by Pekka Järveläinen, chairman, FDCF – Finnish Data Center Forum association. Interview has been done in video conference between Finland and USA.
There has been a lot of questions regarding this mysterious and large project and to get more information, FDCF wanted to interview SPG.
SPG is targeting to neutralize the carbon emissions of data centers and their associated power sources by offering solutions to build energy grid independent data centers in Finland. This is an answer to the challenge of both the growing IT sector energy needs and tackling energy production challenges in western countries. In addition, they will also directly address the requirement for the highest levels of security for the energy sources associated with their data centers, something most grid systems have been unable to do.
Four 250MW powered data centers will be built in Finland: one in Hamina and two in Sotkamo – and now also one in Tornio areas. SPG’s target is to build an ecosystem to utilize all the waste heat generated by data centers – and even go energy positive.
Question: CEO Dale Hobbie, You recently made a press release to Data Center Dynamics about your mega scale data center project taking place in Finland and Norway. The article mentioned that the planned capacity is 6 data centers – 3 in Norway and 3 in Finland – 250MW each. Now you have added one more to Finland to Tornio area. This capacity is extensive and equals one nuclear power plant reactor in each country. What is the drive behind the numbers: artificial intelligence, blockchain business or other?
“First, I would like to give you a technical response: Actually, the initial “minimum baseload capacity” of each of our facilities is 250MW, this is not the maximum capacity. Our proprietary engineering and design allow for expansion of capacity in increments above 250MW as well, wherein we create what we refer to as our “HE-OTG Power Hub™”. This state-of-the-art system presents us the opportunity to readily meet the demand for energy and capacity increases under a standardized delivery platform, thus reducing our design, engineering and construction schedules to meet our client’s requirements, while maintaining our prime directive of delivering the highest levels of energy efficiency and environmental design within our HE-OTG™ programs. AI and Blockchain providers/clients are not within our current customer base.
“Electricity grids have limitation in capacity and availability – e.g. if there is no water, or the sun is not shining onto solar panel systems, or there is not enough battery storage to balance the shortage – there is no constant power flow. We bring our solution to the table to control that power delivery, so that with our energy production platform we are able to produce the 250MW of power and deliver that power 24/7/365.
We have a highly-tested hybrid energy production solution that utilizes renewables within the solution as well – it is a combination. In the USA a typical solution for us is natural gas fired added with renewals like wind and solar and a state-of-art battery storage solution for both energy production and constant capacity. We bring client the power they need. The actual components of our solution are still a secret and remain proprietary to our systems. When necessary, we can offer 3rd level redundancy solution supported by grid, but it uses the grid less than 2% of time – meaning not much – so we can quite easily call it “off-grid”, says Dale Hobbie, CEO Silent partner group
Were you aware of the high availability records of electricity grid in Finland? Finland has the most stable grid in the world.
“Key question is that how secure is the grid from cyber security point of view. In March 2015 the US Government announced that USA grid was first time attacked and hacked by Russian hacking campaign, not the fibre and communication networks and now there is similar ongoing issue in the Middle-East. This puts new pressure on finding cyber secure solutions to grid. Our energy source is totally on-site so there is no risk with energy security – or energy grid switches being hacked – our systems are well prepared for penetration attempts. We utilize the highest levels available today for information security as our base model and it is as secure as it gets – These are highly sophisticated systems developed with intelligence specialists. We have eliminated that risk – You cannot get into our systems physically or remotely when everything is self-contained on-site.”, says Dale Hobbie, CEO Silent partner group
“We handle facility security also on the physical layer. We build to above Tier4 design and engineering and secure that with Level 5 physical security and information technology solutions.”, says Chief Technical Officer Nick Glinkowski.
If we look back in time to paper mill industry in Finland in the 1950’s. Then paper industries needed to co-operate and build their own energy plants to cope with the challenge of energy and grid availability. It seems that the IT sector is now facing the same challenges. How do you see this?
That is why Finland has been selected as location and is interesting for us. When we saw that Google and other big ones are there we thought that there must be something there and partly solved already.
But we did not stop in just solving energy availability, we can also capture and deliver the waste heat to the community and neighborhood and enhance our energy production by utilizing the waste thermal energy. We look to how we can help neighbors in reducing CO2 generation, through capture and reuse. Finland is then the perfect location because, as a country, they are very driven to help address this global issue.
There are very few data centers now that have re-usage of energy and especially in such a big scale. Why are they not using the waste heat? We do not know that answer, but we can definitely say that mankind can not waste anymore and just feel like they are not responsible for how that affects our populations and our planet as a whole. We wanted to go further from basic level, says Dale Hobbie.
We are a symbiotic part of the environment with our data center focused ecosystem and community, adds Nick Glinkowski.
Finnish Data Center Forum was the editor in preparing the global heat re-usage standard within ISO 30.134 series for Energy re-usage factor standardization. This is now the globally approved metrics for data center energy efficiency, energy re-usage and renewable energy factor. How do you see these new standards that provide measurement for efficiency.
This is fantastic! Standardization must be adopted globally and support the mission we have.
Our choices for location have been done on purpose. E.g. Fredrikstad in Norway, which is growing and is leading in areas that we know about but not all of the public yet know every detail of this fact. We are enhancing their path to carbon neutrality and becoming symbiotic part of their community as well, at multiple levels.
E.g. Tornio has all in the area: not only natural resources, but also corporate resources, it has high developed industrial area that makes an ideal ecosystem. We want to push carbon neutrality and take next step for carbon negativity, adds Hobbie.
We are not coming to take power from grid from existing industry and compete in energy business, we will be resource to local community, adds Glinkowski.
Many major players coming to new areas normally cannot get the energy they seek and then they go somewhere else, without looking for the solution. We are turning that mentality upside-down. E.g. in Ireland DC was going to clear cut more and more trees to make space for new DC but it was stopped by government to save forests. E.g. in Helsinki, industry cannot keep biting from existing energy resources like companies have tried doing, without replacing them and use them much more wisely, we need to create our own and ensure that we are responsible in that plan, adds Hobbie.
You mentioned that you have selected Tornio as the 4th data center and the 3rd location for data centers in Finland. Tornio has a large LNG terminal in harbor. A typical American data center company would use diesel and gas. What is your energy mix and do you utilize LNG?
First, diesel is not an option for us. Clean burning natural gas is an option. New technologies in clean burning NG put us even closer to a newly developing carbon neutral position. We would like to see coal industry take greater responsibility on what is happening for environment. E.g. Germany is on limits in power, so it makes sense to look for independent power producers to help them meet that need as they “smartly” begin closing their coal-fired power plants. We stand ready to help them meet that need, on two fronts, highly secured energy production and the global need for even more highly secured data storage.
And regarding the costs or investments, “I do not think there is price that can be put on saving the Globe, is there?”, adds Hobbie.
Have you already planned re-usage for data center heat – like Yandex announced to reuse heat to grow tomatoes in nearby greenhouses?
Dale Hobbie: We know there is already several places for re-using heat like businesses, greenhouses, sports venues, etc. Our overall solution is still being held as a corporate secret, but in the end, everyone will know the opportunity and how are we going to do it. These solutions are not only local, but also global.
Nick Glinkowski: Again, we are a symbiotic partner and develop an ecosystem around data center. We want to meet the local heat sellers and buyers and offer plug and play resources.
This ecosystem discussion leads to question about local job creation. How you see the potential for local job opportunities?
Our symbiotic solution opens jobs for local market through local partners and ecosystem. E.g. vertical gardens need also maintenance and interconnects to local heating networks also need manpower. We do also see 24/7 shifts necessary to support our data centers and power plants that need several technically sound specialists for each large-scale site. Also, local food production is an opportunity for both the local market and to help reduce logistics carbon footprints. So we are looking at multiple levels of job creation. This is not only a building project, this is a community development project, says Hobbie.
Will there be a new colocation company or are you more like an investment partner enabling services, cloud providers and co-location operators to work in your data center premises or is this dedicated for certain customer?
Glinkowski: Technical Response: Our standard business model is the “Owner Operator” model, not the investor model. Under our HE-OTG™ program, we can engage our customers under either single tenant, or collocated multi-tenant agreements. Occupancy is always client driven and we openly accept that fact, accepting and embracing hybridization and diversity as two of our most powerful market making features. Enabling our program is our engagement of only the most competent and experienced mission critical providers to drive and manage client-side operations, while we drive and manage our state-of-the-art facilities.
Hobbie: If a client wants to bring in a million racks, we will give that opportunity, if they want to bring in twenty, we will give that also. 40% is normally lost in cooling/power distribution in floor space – with our technology programs we are more efficient in the same foot-print and for example a 18.500m2 size hyper scale data center has 40% more space for client racking and network equipment with our state-of-the-art model.
So you aim at high efficiency both in floor space and energy. What is then the planned rack power density?
Glinkowski: Normally general data center cooling solutions are not very stable in high density setups. We can perform stable cooling in 25kw per rack power level.
Is this more like a roadmap to build up to 6*250MW or how do you see what are the steps in this project regarding capacity?
Hobbie: To be clear, our program is not to “build up to” any preset capacity limits, our program is to “begin with” six (6) facilities having a minimal baseload capacity of 250MW each. Because we control our own power production destiny and only rely upon “grid power” as perhaps a third level redundant source, we are not shackled by capacity constraints and view energy and capacity as being readily available to us as the need arises.
Hobbie: We have no intention to “build up to” and stop at six (6) facilities, this is only a starting point within our corporate Master Plan.
Hobbie: We have a plan to multiply power. Plan is to enhance thermal energy production in the region, so we would release power resources from the grid. We have a 1GW power-hub model but normally there is no “single” need for thermal energy at that capacity. So Finland fits into this picture very well because we can distribute the thermal energy to a wider group. 1GW is close to heating power needs of Helsinki – and we have also looked at Oslo, Norway very closely as well – city with similar situation. But I would like to add that we are not taking over local companies – we are teaming up with local energy players that already know the industry. Which goes back to our mission: being symbiotic.
The volume is huge so I have to ask is there an anchor customer already?
Hobbie: We have been talking to entities that need the type of facilities that we are going to build. We are not concerned about being able to occupy the facilities at this time.
You mention off-grid data center solutions. Finland and Norway have the most stable grid in the world so it makes me wonder what is the motivation for being off-grid. Is energy neutrality the target in your project?
Glinkowski: Energy neutrality, or even energy negativity, are most certainly our goals. Regarding stability of the grid, that is a great concept and promotional feature a transmission system for energy and capacity. On a global basis though, the world of tomorrow is not the same as the world of yesterday or even today. Command, control and protection of operational assets is one of the most critical issues facing business and governments worldwide. Having seen firsthand the impact that unauthorized access to primary and ancillary systems can have on multiple levels of industry, finance, government and even private sector operations, we have spent many sleepless nights and engaged the highest levels of resources to develop the command and control features that are standard within our HE-OTG™ program. As Owner/Operators we owe it to our clients to ensure that they have unlimited access to their information and that no one else has the ability to interfere with that access, including the prevention of even one single incident of power interruption.
Hobbie: Energy neutrality, or even energy negativity, are most certainly our goals. The motivation for being OTG is the non-reliance on others to control or limit your required power availability or capacity at any time, as well as the opportunity to reuse or redistribute your own “waste” thermal energy created within the mission critical heating and cooling systems.
How would you describe Silent Partner Group of Companies and their partners?
Hobbie: Our group came together almost by accident after discussing hybrid power. After the hack of the local grid in the USA we put engineering in how to correct that problem. We saw challenge of resource availability and over use of the grid. We had several late nights and very long days putting all this together over the past two years. We also started to talk to local authorities that deliver district heat as well. In many places the grid capacity is not fantastic – so we sought out Energi Danmark and they became our highly-qualified partners on the energy side of our projects. Then we came to the question on where would be a great place for our DC. Where is fibre available or soon available. Why not consider places that have natural gas available as well – by land or sea.
Nick was involved with project of United States Department of Defense for the development and testing of modern modular data center technologies and new baseline PUE ratios that are the best in the marketplace, because of this he is the technical master mind on our team.
Although The Silent Partner Group of Companies™ is based within the United States, we maintain top tier operational offices within the Regions in which we choose to conduct business, noting that we have based both of our European subsidiary companies, Power Systems Group Norway AS (Energy) and Asgard Development Group AS (Mission Critical), in Fredrikstad, Norway, one of the fastest growing and most developing markets in the Nordic region. With this in mind, our partners and our own US/European Team of Teams consists of some of the most highly focused, diverse and market making and sector disruptive personnel in the world today, globally driving both the Mission Critical and the Energy segments in the direction they should have been headed years ago.
How did you team up?
Hobbie: If I was to say it was planned, it would be a lie. If I was to say it was pre-destined, that would be an incredible understatement. We came together over the past three (3) years through non-coincidental discussions surrounding building a more energy efficient and secure data center model.
What is now your detailed plan for locations of the data centers?
Hobbie: Shortly: Hamina, Sotkamo, Tornio have been now selected as locations and Sotkamo will have 2 data centers so it makes 4 in Finland.
And generally, yes, site selection is the first step in our contracting machine, we approach that element both tactically and strategically, integrating our facilities within markets with both high demands for energy and readily available, or a known potential for high-capacity fiber connectivity.
How do you see Finland as an option for data center location?
The Nordic region as a whole, including Finland, are already market leaders in new and cutting edge technologies, therefore it only makes sense for a highly-disruptive mission critical group to support those initiatives, while simultaneously embracing two (2) of the major components that help drive our HE-OTG™ model, an ideal yearly climate and a Region that is not afraid to take on and resolve global technological and environmental challenges directly.
What are your preferred selection criteria for a data center site?
We truly do not limit ourselves to a long list of specific site criteria, as too many limitations only seem to breed complacency and a lack of diversification. We pride ourselves on our disruptive nature and thought processes, noting that proximity to an existing electric transmission grid and fiber connectivity are really our only prime selection criteria.
What message would you like to send to all vendors that are now waiting to make an offer for technical solutions and design? You must get a lot of contacts from vendors now.
Glinkowski: Because we are very sincere about job creation, we are open to discuss our opportunities with local and regional vendors, suppliers and contractors. However, our proprietary HE-OTG™ program is a pre-engineered and “turn-key” delivery model, requiring very specific pre-selected participants, most of which we bring to the table ourselves within our Team of Teams. Even though this is the case, there will of course be a need for localized contracting which will be coordinated within our group to ensure that we engage with best members for our project team.
Hobbie: We were silent for 2 years while master planning our program under the hood. We do not need to be silent anymore. We are very happy with the publicity that we have gained now, not for ourselves, but for the regions and communities which will now be touched by the increased efficiencies and job creation provided by the most advanced technologies available in the data center and energy sectors today.
What about timetable – 2020 was mentioned in the Finnish media?
To be precise, our current timetable is 22 months from receipt of approved permits to complete delivery and commissioning and commercial operations. We do not know yet about possible delays caused by 3rd parties so we look to our developing local partnerships in both Finland and Norway that can help us shrink the timetable and not extend it.
Was your plan possibly then to come here to reach Russian IT market remotely from Finland?” Finland is the closest western country to the large consumer market of Russia.
“No, our intent of coming to Finland was not to pursue any known Russian opportunity. However, we obviously do not limit ourselves by borders and should a viable opportunity present itself, we would not simply overlook it without first reviewing it thoroughly.”, says Hobbie.
The Arctic Sea Cable project has been proposed to connect Europe to Asia through the Arctic Sea: is there a plan to prepare for this new “fat pipe” connectivity?
Glinkowski: Should the opportunity become a reality or present itself to us to participate or be a part of this incredible plan, we would most definitely take it under advisement.
750MW is equal to one nuclear reactor power. What kind of energy mix have you planned to deliver that energy. If LNG is used, we estimated quickly that it might be 10 trucks driving daily from LNG terminal to the data center to deliver the energy needed. Have you planned a hybrid energy mix or some specific solution?
Glinkowski: We are not in a position to openly discuss the energy solution yet or the logistics surrounding the fuel needed by it. But logically, 10 more jobs would be created just by the logistics program, but naturally it is better not rely on trucks.
Do you already have a team in Finland or is it building up? Energia myynti Suomi was mentioned in media as your partner company here.
Hobbie: Yes, they are our key energy partners in Finland, as is Energi Salg Norge in Norway and are proactive in helping us make the best local choices to meet our mutual requirements. We continue building those localized teams currently.
There is strong doubt about this project reality and reality of the numbers presented. What message would you tell to those in doubt?
Hobbie: “This is a daily subject for us and just like all pioneers within their industries, we openly welcome the doubters and the skeptics. In fact, we have been dealing with them almost every day for more than two years now, some of us even longer. One of the most powerful statements we could deliver to every single person who doubts what we are doing is, “We hear you, we read what you say, we completely understand and embrace your statements and doubt!! Every hurdle and stumbling block along our path has been addressed head on and they have only served to empower us even more, driving us forward even harder. If these doubters and skeptics only remember only these three things we will be happy:
If Jeff Bezos and his Amazon.com teams had listened to the skeptics, none of us would be able to easily order millions upon millions of products from your Smartphones and have them delivered to your doorsteps, most of the them with 2-day free shipping for Prime members.
If Steve Jobs and his Apple teams had listened to the skeptics, none of us would have that Smartphone to help Jeff Bezos and his teams’ success touch almost all of us every day.
And finally, if Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau, along with their World Wide Web teams had listened to the skeptics, none of us would even be able to read this on our Smartphones, our tablets or our computers right now.
New technology and advancements in industry constantly face skeptics and roadblocks. It’s how we, as the pioneers, the visionaries, “The Disruptors” embrace those negative thought processes and convert them into the most powerful and driving positive energy that truly defines who we are.”
“Thank you, gentlemen, for this valuable information package. On behalf of the Finnish Data Center Forum I am more than happy to welcome you to Finland. I hope to see that your project will turn the IT sector into energy positive in long run. I am sure that this kind of thinking in energy utilization will sparkle new ideas and business models into energy sector. I hope that the mystery turns into reality soon.”, says Pekka Järveläinen, chairman, FDCF.
About FDCF and this interview
FDCF is an independent not-for-profit association representing the data center cluster in Finland. FDCF is not party to Silent Group of Companies business ventures.
This interview is an open interview to allow the possibility to present new innovations in data center and cloud market and to give open information about data center projects taking place in Finland. The interview was done on in video conference between Finland and USA.
For more information, media contacts:
Media contact regarding SPG:
Silent Partner Group Media Representative:
Kaden Haig, Media Relations
Main +1-888-202-4614 x805
Media contacts regarding FDCF:
FDCF – Finnish Data Center Forum ry:
Pekka Järveläinen, chairman, FDCF, [email protected], p. +359-400-839411, for general questions regarding interview and data center market in Finland.
Antti Laine, member of the board, FDCF, [email protected] , p +358-40-3560548,
for questions regarding energy taxation and energy solutions in Finland.