A blog of ice: could Iceland be the ideal home for the world’s ICT?

Europe's largest networking conference —€” which took place at the end of May —€” proved to be an excellent showcase of the natural beauty and bountiful energy resources of its host country, Iceland.

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The island nation sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, straddling both the North American and Eurasian plates.

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My wife, Elaine, stands on her "home plate" of North America, while I stand on the plate of my birth '€” Scotland, "Eurasia"

As the two plates continue to shift, the country is literally being torn apart. You can actually see this division happening within the landscape:

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Its unique location on the globe gives Iceland fascinating and unearthly qualities: frequent volcano and geyser eruptions, earthquakes, ash-strewn beaches, and turbulent ocean shores.

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These in turn supply an abundant source of hydro and geothermal energy, which can fulfill 100% of Iceland's power needs.

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It may not be beautiful, but this geothermal power plant has a carbon footprint of zero.

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What does this have to do with networking? The Icelandic National Research and Education Network is currently involved with the development of the Nordic network, NORDUnet, and also houses one of the test servers of the green IT project, the GreenStar Network. (If you can't make it to Reykjavik, there's a Cybera-operated GreenStar node powered by solar panels here in Calgary.)

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Jim Roche, CANARIE's President and CEO, kneels to my left in the GreenStar server room in Reykjavik 

Iceland's networkers are saying that most, if not all, of the world's computer servers could, and maybe should, be housed in their country. And their case is compelling; information and communication technology is becoming one of the biggest energy-consuming industries on the planet. Iceland's vast store of green energy could easily run these servers. And its location just under the Arctic Circle provides perfect constant cooling temperatures for computing equipment.

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So what is holding the industry back from re-locating the heart of the world's data to this natural wonderland? Well, there are the constant earthquakes to consider, and the ever-present risk of mass evacuation. And then there is this:

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Mount Snæfellsjökull, a beautiful but dangerous volcano within sight of Reykjavik. Not much further away is Mount Katla, a volcano that is the much bigger neighbor to Eyjafjallajokul, whose explosion in 2010 shut down air travel over much of Europe for weeks. Katla is currently expected to go off at any moment… (And yes, after a week in Iceland I did learn how to say Eyjafjallajokul).

There are many things to consider before making any final decisions. But it is fascinating to know that this kind of natural resource exists in the world, and I look forward to seeing the growth of Iceland as a networking —€” and not just energy — powerhouse.

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