Telia Finland Oyj: Building the country's largest data center

Catherine Sturman
|May 1|magazine14 min read

Data centres have become an essential part of business growth, with the rise of cloud technologies and IoT, changing the way in which markets operate and communicate with their audiences. At present, there are two to three large-scale data centres in Finland, including one owned by Google, but these centres have been built to focus solely on in-house business. Consequently, the new data centre by Telia Finland, named Telia Helsinki Datacenter will be unique through catering towards a multitude of different businesses. Juha Ekman, Director of the new data centre building project and Head of large production premises in Telia Finland explains: “In addition to in-house data centre and colocation functionality, this data centre will enable all kinds of different cloud services”. The new site will become Finland’s largest open data centre.

Delivering a broad spectrum of telecommunications and other services, Telia is a leading mobile phone operator in Finland and offers also various platform and IT services for corporate businesses. All these services will benefit from the new data centre and its capabilities and efficiency.

With a building engineer background, Ekman plays a pivotal role in the company’s largest construction projects. He explains that preliminary construction work for the data centre has proved challenging with regards to timescale as a result of excavation work, which is time-consuming in Finland as a result of being the home of the toughest bedrock in the world. The first phase incorporated 100,000 cubic metres of blasting work which took approximately six months. The next phase is currently underway through the winter season, which will impact on essential concrete work. “Casting concrete would be fine if you can do it in summer,” Ekman explains. “In our case, we have a long winter season and we are casting concrete in mid-winter.” However, he adds: “This is nothing new when you are building in Finland, but it stretches the schedule a bit.”

The company had no prior benchmark to follow in Finland - nor in Europe, as such a hybrid data centre had not been built before - but knew it must allow for the longest life cycle possible, be fully flexible and energy efficient. Ekman explains that previous data centres in Finland had been built mainly by international companies, with Finnish companies solely providing supporting roles. However, in the construction company’s new data centre, Ekman states, “we wanted to make sure that we have sufficient international and local skills, in addition to the competence to design this mechanical and electrical (MEP) project”. To this effect, the company has selected Royal HaskoningDVH from Netherlands and Granlund Oy from Finland, the biggest Finnish MEP designer in the country. “They are providing the MEP design together and it is good choice, because it combines both perspectives,” Ekman adds.

Although massive amounts of details have been accounted for, the majority of work is being designed and constructed at the same time due to time constraints, with the support of BIM technology to ensure minimal revisions and overlaps. Ekman explains: “The new data centre will be 33,500 square metres in total, with white space taking up 15,000 square metres. The maximum number of racks will be 5,000 and it can house up to 200,000 servers”. The total IT power for the data centre will be 24 megawatts of power input, of which 6MW will be online in 2018. The capacity will be increased further by expanding the data centre modularly, based on business needs and growth. Ekman stresses that such developments will help the company expand its business further in the most cost efficient way: “This data centre will be an enabler for our growing businesses and the future services that we will provide. We are helping to bring business to digital era but also provide new services to consumer customers.”

 

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The new data centre will be 33,500 square metres in total, with white space taking up 15,000 square metres. The maximum amount of racks will be 5,000 and it can take 200,000 servers

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Sustainable and secure

Encompassing four storeys, sustainability is at the heart of current construction work. It’s reflected in the project’s design, with an underlying focus on client values. Aiming to achieve the LEED certification, Sonera is abiding by LEED guidelines, taking care to document and “do everything right from the beginning of the project to end”. The new data centre will be able to warm around 20,000 flats through generating 200,000MWh of heat energy per year. This heat will be recovered and reused.  Ekman explains: “It’s not only a question of improving technology. This is the first time in Finland, in Europe and in the Nordics that we are actually providing our heat to energy companies at this scale.” This Energy Reuse Efficiency (ERE), and long-term partnership between the heat provider and energy companies is significant. The site will use renewable energy, and its water chillers will have exceptionally high efficiencies. Ekman explains: “We are increasing the water temperature with heat pumps to recycle the waste heat through the local district heating grid. Additionally, we will implement rainwater harvester and solar power features, highlighting a pledge to implement renewable energy sources and provide long-term sustainability.”

Security, energy efficiency and sustainability have all become areas valued by the company’s clients both locally and internationally. Designs for the data centre will conform to both national and international demands and requirements. Ekman acknowledges that the company “has to be ready for international customer security demands and requirements”. The company has therefore also undergone significant risk analysis and overhaul of current systems to ensure the centre will be fully secure against any potential risks.

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With completion date in early 2018, construction of the data centre is on schedule, yet Ekman stresses that this would not be the case without the right people on board, believing this to be the most important tool in current building work and continued focus on sustainable initiatives. He explains: “There must be enough of the right people, such as the project management team, data centre professionals and specialists”, noting that this year will be challenging due to the company’s aim to increase the number of construction workers from 100 to 300. The project management is provided by the experts of international consulting company Ramboll. However, Ekman is confident the data centre will provide long-term advantages to the region and drive increased business to the area, delivering regional long-term benefits.

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